Football

Real Madrid stars pay tribute to former chief, who died of Covid-19

Ex-Los Blancos president Sanz dies from coronavirus, Maldini, Dybala and Fellaini test positive

Real Madrid stars past and present paid tribute to former club president Lorenzo Sanz, who died last Saturday at the age of 76, his son announced.

Predrag Mijatovic, who famously scored the goal that won Real their first European Cup in 32 years and their first of the Champions League era in 1998, said Sanz was like a father to him.

Real's former director of football told Marca: "It's one of the saddest nights of my life.

"The sadness at not being able to go to visit him because of the contagiousness that is always there is very cruel...

"I still can't believe it. I considered him as a father. I had so much love for him."

Former Spain fullback Michel Salgado was Sanz's actual son-in-law, having married his daughter Malula.

The former Real player posted on Instagram: "From the moment my parents died, Maria Luz and you were like second parents to me and I will always be grateful... No Madridista will forget you."

Current Real captain Sergio Ramos, who like his teammates is in quarantine after one of the club's basketball players tested positive for the virus, hailed Sanz for returning European glory to Real in 1998 and 2000.

Europe holds a special place in the hearts of Real fans as they are by far the most successful team in Champions League history.

Alluding to Real's long-awaited seventh European crown in 1998, Ramos tweeted: "Very sad day for Real Madrid. Lorenzo Sanz connected yesterday and today with two numbers for history - 7 and 8.

"His death saddens us even more in these difficult days in which we find ourselves."

Sanz was in charge of the Spanish giants from 1995-2000, overseeing two Champions League titles.

With Jupp Heynckes as coach and star players such as Davor Suker, Roberto Carlos, Clarence Seedorf, Fernando Hierro and Raul Gonzalez, Real beat Juventus 1-0 in the 1998 Champions League final.

Two years later, in Paris, Real claimed their eighth crown by beating Valencia in the final.

NEW ERA

However, that same year, Sanz was ousted as president by Florentino Perez, who began a new era at the club, adding five more Champions League titles in two decades.

"My father has just passed away. He did not deserve this ending and in this way," tweeted his son, Lorenzo Sanz Junior, a former professional basketball player.

The news comes just three days after the younger Sanz revealed that his father had been admitted to a Madrid hospital after suffering the symptoms of the coronavirus, which has killed more than 1,700 people in Spain.

In the only European country more stricken by the virus than Spain, more high profile Italian football figures have tested positive for the virus.

Juventus' Argentina star Paulo Dybala said on Saturday that he has become the third Juventus player to test positive, while former AC Milan defender Paolo Maldini revealed that he and his son have also been infected.

Juventus' Daniele Rugani and Blaise Matuidi had earlier tested positive.

After tweeting that he and his girlfriend Oriana Sabatini had tested positive, Dybala reassured his fans, saying: "Fortunately, we are perfectly fine. Thank you for your messages."

On the same day, Milan said club legend Maldini, now their technical director, and his 18-year-old son Daniel, a youth team player, were also battling the disease.

Meanwhile, in China, ex-Manchester United midfielder Marouane Fellaini became the first Chinese Super League player to test positive for the virus that originated from the Chinese city of Wuhan.

Football