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Transfer balls: Zidane to Real Madrid, but Spurs boss on shortlist

The big football news on the BBC’s website is that Zinedine Zidane “is set to return as Real Madrid manager just 10 months after leaving the Spanish giants”. Wowzer! That fact amplified by the Beeb is “according to European football expert Guillem Balague”. That would be the same Balague who has also told us: 

“Real have shortlisted the Spurs boss to take over at the Bernabeu, according to Guillem Balague” – – Sky

Alvaro Morata was signing for Arsenal. He joined Chelsea and now plays in Madrid.

Santi Cazorla was on his way to join Atletico Madrid. He joined Villarreal.

Juan Mata was joining Liverpool. Mata remains at Manchester United.

Cristiano Ronaldo was returning to Manchester United. He left Real Madrid for Juventus.

He also told us: “Real have shortlisted the Spurs boss to take over at the Bernabeu.”

I read it on the BBC

Undaunted by circumspection, the BBC continues: “The Frenchman will replace Santiago Solari, who was in charge for less than five months.”

He will? Maybe…

PS: Why is the BBC treating guesswork as fact? Guillem Balague hosts BBC Radio 5 Live’s Football Daily podcast Euro edition.

Posted: 11th, March 2019 | In: Back pages, Sports, Spurs | Comment


Spurs balls: Son on marriage and a childhood of marathon keepy-uppy sessions

No running a pub in the New Forest or stints sat on the Sky Sports sofas for Tottenham and South Korea forward Son Heung-min, 26, after he hangs up his playing boots. When Son retires he plans only to marry.

The Tottenham forward’s father, Son Woong-jung, a former professional footballer, has issued a decree for his son to marry only after his playing days are over. Son agrees. He dare not. “He gave us four hours of keepy-uppies,” Son tells the Guardian of training in his youth. “After about three hours, I was seeing three balls. The floor was red [through bloodshot eyes]. I was so tired. And he was so angry. I think this was the best story and we still talk about it when we are all together. Four hours keeping the ball up and you don’t drop it. That’s difficult, no?”

The 10-year-old Son kept the ball from touching the ground for fours hours straight? Well, so he says. He describes his dad as strict and “scary”. So when dad said not to let the ball touch the ground, Son did his best to comply.

But the marriage thing? Given Son’s high level of fitness and that footballers continue playing into their late 30s, might the lad end up being an old first-time husband and father? And what of Sir Alex Ferguson’s dictum that “marriage helps footballers. It helps them settle down. You know where are they are too! It’s good for the stability of a footballer”?

One fat: any future Mrs Son has been warned – your father-in-law knows best.

Posted: 9th, March 2019 | In: Sports, Spurs | Comment


Spurs and Liverpool fans: Klopp, Pochettino and Mourinho ‘almost 100%’ certain to get Real Madrid job

Mourinho madrid

The BBC says former Chelsea and Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho is “almost 100% certain” to rejoin Real Madrid this summer. In 2013, Mourinho left Real to return to Chelsea. The Daily Telegraph agrees that the Portugueses is heading to Spain. But neither broadcaster nor newspaper can cite a source for their story. The roots of the story are unnamed “sources”.

Mourinho is currently taking time out from coaching to work on his insults having been sacked by United and replaced by Ole Gunnar Solskjær. He’s looking for work. And his agent could use a few quid. Maybe the ‘sources’ are pretty close to the subject?

Mourinho Klopp Madrid
Klopp liverpool madrid

And then talkSport pops up to say “Jurgen Klopp is reportedly Real Madrid’s No.1 target”. Reported by whom? talkSport links to the Independent. It declares: “Next Real Madrid manager: Liverpool’s Jurgen Klopp made No 1 target in wake of Champions League exit.” The website cites not a single source for its news, only that:

Jose Mourinho has not been completely ruled out, and still has a good relationship with president Florentino Perez and director general Jose Angel Sanchez, but there is a view at the top level of the club that the Portuguese is “finished”.

The Sun

Whatever the facts, Klopp or Mourinho to Real is good news for Spurs fans because back in June, Mauricio Pochettino suggested that “when Real Madrid call you, you have to listen”. He later responded to interest from Spain: “It is like you are with your wife and you are holding hands, walking down the street,” he told the Guardian. But because you are so handsome, another woman is looking at you. But your wife is so proud and, rather than worrying, she is so happy to be with you and falls more in love with you.”

The Argentine earns £8.2m a year at Spurs. He’d earn a lot more at Madrid and maybe even win something. “Jorge Griffa [his former coach] told me once that I have to let football take me wherever,” Poch opined “to not get bogged down in trying to change my own destiny.”

Clear as mud, then. And the media hasn’t a clue. So they’re guessing. Which can men only one thing: Unai Emery to Madrid.

Posted: 7th, March 2019 | In: Back pages, Liverpool, Sports, Spurs | Comment


Spurs v Arsenal balls: Gunners cheated; Spurs score both goals in North London Derby

How did the two clubs’ respective websites see the Spurs v Arsenal match? The game ended 1-1. Arsenal scored a terrific breakaway goal. Spurs scored a penalty which replays showed should not have been given.

Spurs on Aaron Ramsey’s goals for Arsenal:

But it was Arsenal who found the breakthrough on 16 minutes, although it was a goal all of our own making.

Arsenal on the goal:

Aaron Ramsey gave us the lead in his final north London derby with the coolest of finishes. The Wales midfielder – scorer of two FA Cup final winners on this ground – ran through from inside his own half and feinted to shoot before nipping around Lloris and slotting the ball into the net.

Spurs on the penalty:

To be fair, chances were at a premium but we were given the opportunity to level on 74 minutes when Mustafi pushed Kane in the area at a free-kick and referee Anthony Taylor pointed to the spot. Our England striker made no mistake, drilling into the corner to the delight of most inside Wembley.

Arsenal on the penalty:

We expected a Spurs onslaught after the break but it never materialised as we kept our shape and kept them at arm’s length. That just made the home side’s equaliser all the more galling. Kane was again in an offside position when a free-kick was floated into the box, but he was awarded a penalty after a nudge from Shkodran Mustafi..

Such are the facts.

Posted: 2nd, March 2019 | In: Arsenal, Sports, Spurs | Comment


Spurs Balls: FA sing ‘Harry Kane is one of our own’; England captain escapes ban for Chelsea headbutt

The FA will not ban England captain Harry Kane for sticking his head into the face of Chelsea skipper César Azpilicueta during Tottenham’s 2-0 defeat at Stamford Bridge. They won’t because Harry Kane is one of their own. The FA never was going to sully their clean-cut star. Anyone else would have been banned for one match.

Here’s another honest England footballer keeping his head. Jamie Vardy went down hard. Samir Nasri was red-carded. Azpilicueta did not sink to the floor clutching his face. Would Harry Kane have?

Posted: 28th, February 2019 | In: Chelsea, Sports, Spurs | Comment


Spurs Balls: Harry Kane’s Chelsea headbutt; banned for Arsenal match; it’s England captain Alan Shearer all over again

Kane headbutt Chelsea
His hair never moved an inch

Did Spurs and England captain Harry Kane attempt to headbutt Chelsea skipper Cesar Azpilicueta and miss in last night’s Premier League match? There’s a think layer of hair lacquer on Kane’s bonce making it near impossible for his head to get within an inch of anyone’s without causing an acute hair fracture. Kane played on unaffected. Injury averted.

Of course, Kane should have been sent off. But Azpilicueta did not make a meal of it, helping the match officials to ignore the England’s man’s blatant offence. But the FA should now take retrospective action against Kane and ban him for three matches. That would mean him missing the North London derby with Arsenal.

If the FA don’t act, well, it’ll be like Alan Shearar all over again. In 1998, England and Newcastle United skipper Alan Shearer appeared to kick Leicester City’s Neil Lennon in the face. “I have now seen the television pictures of the incident and I am amazed how bad it looks by comparison to what actually happened,” said Shearer. “I was brought down by Neil Lennon over by the touchline and we both fell clumsily. As I tried to get to my feet I had to really tug my left foot free and the momentum of doing this looked on television liked a kick. It certainly wasn’t and the fact that Neil is virtually unmarked confirms this. If I did accidentally catch him, I certainly did not mean to. I would never try and deliberately hurt a fellow professional.”

The FA agreed. The England captain had no case to answer. Shearer was free to play on – and play in the FA Cup final against Arsenal. Here’s that moment when Lennon headbutted Shearer’s boot:

Harry Kane is a saint. And England players never dive.

Posted: 28th, February 2019 | In: Chelsea, Key Posts, Sports, Spurs | Comment


Manchester City balls: Spurs win by losing but Pep’s pots count for nought

Stan Collymore’s Daily Mirror column continues to demand that we light the torches and march on Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City. Trouble is that the glare from those burning fires has blinded Collymore to facts and the tiniest muon of circumspection and reason. Compare and contrast what the former Liverpool striker said about Mauricio Pochettino and then about Guardiola.

Collymore on Pochettino’s desperate statement that finishing in the Premier League’s top four is better than winning any cup:

One of the greatest managers in recent history who we’ve given a lot of stick to was Jose Mourinho. At Chelsea, what did he target? The League Cup. Coming so early in the season it is a trophy that can get you off and running…

Managers, said Collymore, should be chasing “every single trophy”. Because they all matter. Unless you’re Pep Guardiola.

Here’s Collymore on Pep being unsuccessful by, er, winning a cup:

The one thing the Premier League will do is test every single thing about you. If you don’t believe me, look at Pep Guardiola. Recognised as one of the top three or four managers in the world over the last decade, he could go into this fourth season at Manchester City having won one English title and no Champions Leagues. And that’s with the biggest budget in English football.

Guardiola joined Manchester City at the start of the 2016-2017 season. He’s in his third full season at the club. Guardiola finished his first season at City with no trophies – the only time he’s finished a season without a trophy. The next season – 2017-18 – City beat Arsenal 0–3 to win the Carabao Cup. They won the Premier League with a record-breaking 100 points. Right now City are top of the PL table, still in the Champions League and FA Cup, and will contest the Carabao Cup final with Chelsea. And they play some fabulous football.

Collymore thinks the Carabao Cup doesn’t matter when Guadiola wins it and matters greatly when Pochettino doesn’t? Can the Mirror get this man a sub-editor?

Posted: 7th, February 2019 | In: Back pages, Manchester City, Sports, Spurs, Tabloids | Comment


Talking Balls: Spurs title win would better Leicester City’s 2016 effort

Line of the day comes from former Liverpool and Leicester City player Stan Collymore now working as a Daily Mirror columnist. The job of a columnist is to foment debate. So (MAGA) hats off to Collymore for this hot take on Mauricio Pochettino’s Spurs:

In fact, if Pochettino this season wins the Premier League or Champions League either of them will be the singular biggest achievement of an English club manager since Brian Clough won back-to-back European Cups with Nottingham Forest. I’d consider it better than Leicester as their title win a few years ago was a true one-off while Spurs are expected to compete.’

Previously in the Tele:

Daily Telegraph – September 27 2000

As the Spurs fans sing, ‘If you know your history…’

Posted: 29th, January 2019 | In: Back pages, Sports, Spurs, Tabloids | Comment


Spurs boss Pochettino: winning is only good for players’ ego

Pochettino Spurs

“It’s true, this season has been tough,” said Spurs manger Mauricio Pochettino after defeat to the mighty Crystal Palace knocked them out of the FA Cup, their second cup exit in days (67 hours to be sure). “You feel disappointed. You can’t feel anything different.

“We are still in two competitions, in a good position in the Premier League and the Champions League is a massive motivation for the whole club. We have to be strong. People wish we could win some trophies. But being realistic, we are doing so well. To win a title here in England like the FA Cup or Carabao Cup is about being lucky, not only about quality in your squad.”

After defeat to Chelsea on penalties Pochettino saw them exit the Carabao Cup, he opined: “I’d prefer to lose on penalties.”

The manager bemoans his luck. He has a preference in how he likes Spurs to lose. And what of the damaging effect of victory? He adds: “We are going to create a debate that to win a trophy is going to help the club. I don’t agree with that. That only builds your ego. In reality, the most important thing is being consistently in the top four and playing Champions League. That is going to help the club to achieve the last step.”

How Spurs fans and the players could use an ego boost. Top four isn’t a Cup. If it were, Arsenal would need a new trophy cabinet. And with the diary less busty, Poch has plenty of time to think about what it is to win. But take care. A recent academic paper says people’s egos get bigger after meditation. Don’t over think it.

Posted: 28th, January 2019 | In: Back pages, Sports, Spurs | Comment


Transfer Balls: Liverpool £61m for Felix; Martial stays at Manchester United; Everton in for Chelsea striker; Higuain jets in for Spurs

Arsenal Emery newspapers

A round-up of today’s transfer rumours and other fluff and nonsense in the Press. Let’s kick off with Liverpool, who’ve bid £61m bid for Portugal Under-21 attacking midfielder Joao Felix, 19. Correio da Manha says Benfica, his current club, think the teenager is worth more. Someone arguably worth less is Philippe Coutinho. The Liverpool Echo in a no-news special says Liverpool won’t be resigning the Brazil midfielder, 26, they flogged to Barcelona for a whopping £142m just 12 months ago. Many other clubs also won’t be buying Coutinho.

One player who could be finally on his way to the Premier League is Juventus and Argentina striker Gonzalo Higuain. Chelsea want to sign the 31-year-old before week’s Carabao Cup semi-final second leg against Tottenham, says the Sun. That’s the same paper that told us Higuain played for Arsenal. That story remains live on the paper’s website. Chelsea fans shouldn’t buy those Higuain replica shirts just yet.

higuain-arsenal the sun transfer
qhen

In the sunny uplands of Manchester United, Anthony Martial, 23, is all set to agreeing a new five-year contract, says Sky Sports. And Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (aka Fergie Mark 2) wants to leave his rooms at the Lowry Hotel in Salford and find a permanent address in Manchester.

Everton have £40m for Chelsea and Belgium forward Michy Batshuayi. Everton are determined to catch the so-called Big 6. That means gaining ground on Arsenal, a club seemingly determined to return to a state of mid-80s torpor. News is that James Rodriguez, 27, will remain at Bayern Munich for the rest of season. The Express says Arsenal have as much chance of signing him as they have of keeping a clean sheet.

And finally Barcelona have had enough fo Malcom, 21. ESPN says that any club offering the £35.2m they paid Bordeaux for the player last July can have him. Spurs are interested.

Posted: 19th, January 2019 | In: Arsenal, Back pages, Chelsea, Liverpool, manchester united, Sports, Spurs | Comment


Spurs balls: Levy tells Manchester United his price for Pochettino

How much is Mauricio Pochettino worth to Spurs? The BBC says Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy will not let manager Pochettino join Manchester United, even if the Old Trafford club offer £50m for the Argentine. To put it another way: offer Spurs over £50m and see what happens.

The Sun has more. “DANIEL LEVY will not let Mauricio Pochettino join Manchester United — even for £50million,” chimes the paper. “The Tottenham chairman has made it clear to his board he plans to reject any Old Trafford approach at the end of the season.” He also made it clear what kind of transfer fee he puts on Pochettino’s head.

We then get more about the figure:

Poch has four years left on a deal worth £34m. And United are tempted to pay it in full, plus an additional £16m for the world’s most wanted football coach. But Levy, who convinced Poch to sign a new contract last May, fully expects his manager to honour his agreement. And he is even prepared to give Poch the last word on all transfers.


You can unpack that. What United are prepared to pay is known how? No quotes are offered. And Poch might have the last word on transfers if there are any. Spurs didn’t sign a single player over the summer. Had they have done would they now be in better shape to challenge for the title? And what of hanging on to the players they already have? Many of the club’s best performers know they can earn more at other clubs.

Take Christian Eriksen, the Spurs player whose contract expires in 2020. Eriksen earns about £70,000- a-week at Tottenham. He wants an improved deal. Chances are that he’d get a far bigger wage packet at Real Madrid, who are keen on the Dane. Factor in the bill for a £1bn new stadium and Spurs are unlikely to be buying at the top of the market. Poch has done well at Spurs. And if they do win something this season, Levy will hope United and Real both want him. If players can be transferred why not mangers? Let a bidding war begin…

Posted: 12th, January 2019 | In: Back pages, Sports, Spurs | Comment


Transfer Balls: Spurs are ready to sell Eriksen

Real Madrid like the look of Christian Eriksen, the Spurs player whose contract expires in 2020. Eriksen earns about £70,000- a-week at Tottenham. He wants an improved deal. Chances are that he’d get a bigger wage packet at Real. But Spurs stand in his path, asking – get this – £220m for the player they signed from Ajax for £11 million. If he’s worth that much to Spurs, why not pay him £300,000-a-week? Answer: because Spurs are a selling club.

The fee asked is huge and nuts, of course, but the fact Daniel Levy, the Spurs chairman, put a number to the question ‘What’s he worth’ shows that he’s ready to sell an asset. Eriksen would be mad not to leave Spurs for Real. Levy knows that. The player realises his value and wants to play for one of Europe’s best sides. The bigger question is if Eriksen is part of a deal that will also take the club’s manager back to Spain? Reports in Spain say Real are prepared to offer £80m for Eriksen. Pick a number around £100m and they’ll get their man.

Which only makes you wonder what Harry Kane is worth – and what price Levy would place on his had?

Posted: 9th, January 2019 | In: Back pages, Sports, Spurs | Comment


Transfer Balls: Dembele quits Spurs and shames Arsenal

Arsenal fans watching their club get no transfer fee for Aaron Ramey will be doubtless pleased to note that Tottenham midfielder Mousa Dembele is costing Chinese Super League club Beijing Guoan £11m. Like Ramsey, Demeble is in the final throes of his current deal, which expires in the summer.

Unlike Ramsey, 28, Dembele, 31, will earn his club a few quid this month. The money sugars the pill for Spurs, who are losing one of their best players – a better player than the overrated Ramsey. As for the Gunners, well, according to the Sun, Ramsey has signed a contract with Juventus and will leave for free this summer. According to other new sources, he’s signed nothing.

But wait a moment. One source says Arsenal are looking to get £20m for the Welshman and get shot of him this January. Gazzetta.it says the Gunners have told Juventus that they can sign Ramsey this month for £20million. It’s all very confusing. We’d ask the player’s agent what’s occurring, but they’re still mowing the grass.

Posted: 8th, January 2019 | In: Arsenal, Back pages, Sports, Spurs | Comment


Spurs Balls: Pochettino gets ready to quit Invincible Spurs in 2034

Mauricio Pochettino has “cast doubt on his future” at Tottenham Hotspur, says the Times. Or as the BBC puts it: “Mauricio Pochettino says he hopes to be Tottenham boss for 20 years and perhaps finish his career with the club.” Two twist on the same interview. 

The Argentine is wanted by Manchester United and Real Madrid. He knows his value. “Daniel Levy [the Tottenham chairman] is creating a legacy that is going to be amazing for the club,” he said. “I can see in the future Tottenham winning trophies.” When will future Tottenham be ready?

“I don’t know if that will be with us, without us; in one year, in five years. But all the foundations are down for one day to start to win titles and be like other successful clubs.” One day…

Maybe Spurs can be like Arsenal. Pochettino wonders if he can be the next Arsene Wenger – not the one who won things; the one who stagnated.  “All that Arsène Wenger gave to Arsenal, to finish in the way it finished was a little bit unfair,” Pochettino said. “He deserves amazing recognition about his work.” He gets it. Not a week goes by without Wenger collecting some gong. Late last year he scored the Humane Order of African Redemption with the rank of Knight Grand Commander. He was pictured with a baby named after him – his namesake wrapped in a replica Arsenal shirt.  Pochettino has Chelsea in the semi-final of the Carabao Cup. He needs to win. To date, the affable manager has won nothing with Espanyol, Southampton and Tottenham in 2014. Not that any of those clubs have ever won all that much – Spurs haven’t lifted a pot since Juande Ramos’s team beat Chelsea in the League Cup final 11 years ago.

 “If you have money, like the other top six clubs, and you need [something], you buy it,” said Pochettino. “If we need, we build and we need time to build. There is Chelsea, Arsenal, City, Liverpool, United – and us. When people put us in the same level with expectations and everything, it’s unfair.”

Will he get the money? And will it be enough to out-spend Spurs’ more successful rivals? And lastly: if Pochettino is not the kind of manager who demands more money for big-name signings, when the new stadium is ready, should Spurs upgrade the coach and hire one who is? 

Posted: 8th, January 2019 | In: Back pages, Sports, Spurs | Comment


Arsenal fans support Spurs Yid Army

 

We’re back talking about the ‘Yid Army’ and Spurs fans right to sing what they want to. This week something called The World Jewish Congress – I’ve not been invited to attend – and the Board of Deputies of British Jews – not been invited to that shindig, either – politely requested that Tottenham Hotspur Football Club have a word with their fans. They must tell them to stop freely referring to themselves as ‘Yids’. And that goes for the club’s Jewish fans, too.

Robert Singer, the CEO of the World Jewish Congress, stood in the pulpit and opined: “[The use of the word ‘yid’] by fans in the stands, either as a self-designated nickname or as a slogan against rivals must not be tolerated in any way. We would also ask Tottenham Hotspur to take a stand against the use of ‘Yid Army’, ‘Yid’ and ‘Yiddos’ by their fans. Such a long overdue action is important to kick antisemitism off the pitch and create a welcoming environment for all.” To which the reply from this Arsenal fan is: “We’ll sing what we want to.” 

If Spurs fans want to self-identify as Yids, let them. It’s self-determination. The Yid Army is not the least bit anti-Semitic. What is bigoted and censorious is telling people what they can and cannot say about themselves. Singer and his ilk should spend more time calling out genuine acts of anti-Semitism than disabusing ‘Yids’ of their language. Most anti-Semites I’ve encountered are more subtle than to give full throat to the Yids. They speak of those “clever Jews”, those “rich Jews”, and those Jews who are loyal only to one another and don’t get “English irony”. 

Posted: 7th, January 2019 | In: Key Posts, News, Sports, Spurs | Comment


Transfer balls: Toby Alderweireld halts new Spurs deal – yours for £25m

What to do with a player who think he’s made for better – and better paid – things? Arsenal showed Aaron Ramsey the door when he asked for a huge weekly wage. Tottenham have a similar issue with Toby Alderweireld. His contract was due to expire at the season’s end. But Spurs took up an option to extend his contract by a year until 2020. The downside is that the extension clause means he’s available for £25 million. That’s a whole lot better than seeing arguably their best defender leave for free in the summer, and £25m is good money for a player who cost the club £11.5m in July 2015. But it’s a matter of look what you could have got. Spurs have a new stadium to pay for, and selling players looks a likely source of income. Rumours of Alderweireld going for around £60m were high in the summer. But no approaches were made.

Surely now they will be? Arsenal need a defender. And Manchester United were looking. The Daily Star jumped the gun with some shameless clickbait:

 

Alderweireld

 

Such are the facts.

Posted: 5th, January 2019 | In: Sports, Spurs, Tabloids | Comment


Spurs balls: Pochettinho to Real Madrid or Manchester United

Spurs are in a “panic”. Tottenham are fretting over the future of their manger, Mauricio Pochettino. The Star says Poch is wanted by Manchester United and Real Madrid. Having taken a side that hasn’t won the league title for nearly 60 years close to the top, Pochettino will surely relish the chance to leave London to coach a moribund Manchester United or a club that demands total victory every season on pain of instant dismissal. Last night Real Madrid lost 3-0 at home to the mighty CSKA Moscow. Manchester Untied lost 2-1to Valencia, Spain’s 15th best team. 

The Sun hails Poch as the “Nou Messiah”. A 1-1- drawn in Barcelona shows us “why United and Real want Poch”. How the once mighty have fallen. United are excited by a manager whose side can score a goal, get a point away from home and have on nothing. Eat yer heat out, Jose Mourinho. 

But at least United and Real have a home ground. The Sun also notes that Tottenham’s new municipal stadium still isn’t ready. The Mail says it’ll be completed in February. Maybe. So Real it is. And Poch is good enough, says Spurs defender Danny Rose. He says Poch is “amazing”. You wonder at the superlatives should he actually win something. 

Posted: 13th, December 2018 | In: Back pages, Sports, Spurs | Comment


Transfer balls: Frenkie de Jong dreams of Barcelona, signs for Manchester City and picks PSG over Spurs

Ajax midfielder Frenkie de Jong, 21, wants to play for PSG. He prefers the French champions elect over Manchester City. So he’ll head to France this summer sats the BBC. This is same BBC that told us Manchester City had agreed a £61m transfer, pipping Barcelona to his signature. The Sun says it’s his “dream” to play for Barcelona. Confusion reigns, then over the player who is talking about as being every bit as good as – get this –  Johan Cruyff, and in a single Guardian article: Franz Beckenbauer, Ruud Gullit and Frank Rijkaard. Yeah, he’s that good. 

And he’s off to play for Manchester City (if you read the BBC and the Mirror; the Sun  said the deal was done) and PSG (if you read the BBC and Dutch newspaper De Telegraph). The Dutch paper says PSG will pay 75m euros (£67m) to sign the Netherlands international. It’s almost a done deal. That tells us how much the great Cruyff would be worth in today’s transfer market. He’s a bargain.

 

Frenkie de Jon signs for Manchester City -

Frenkie de Jon signs for Manchester City – The Sun

 

So he’s off, then? No. “No official decision has been taken and while there is no transfer, my main focus is on Ajax,” says De Jong. “There are five games to go until the winter break, I only want to think about the game against PEC this weekend and the next Champions League match against Bayern Munich. I can’t be worried about saying ‘I’m going here or there’. That wouldn’t show any respect on my part for Ajax or my team-mates.”

In other news, the Mirror today says Spurs want him. No word on Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester United and Real Madrid wanting De Jong, but give it time…

Posted: 8th, December 2018 | In: Broadsheets, Manchester City, Sports, Spurs | Comment


The joy of cheating

cheating football

Cheats never prosper – but Maradona went on to win the World Cup after his ‘Hand of God’ moment

 

We love cheating, referee errors, good goals disallowed and bad goals that were. A Manchester United player was just offside for their first goal against Arsenal last week. The officials missed it. Arsenal’s first goal crossed the United goal line by the width of a cigarette paper. Again the referee missed it. But the robots didn’t. Goal given. Last night West Bromwich Albion cheated in their 2-2 draw with Aston Villa. “Jay Rodriguez just threw himself at the cross,” Baggies head coach Darren Moore told BBC Sport. “He admits that it did hit his arm but he didn’t know much about it. And you’ve got to admire his honesty.” 

How can you not admire the footballer who scores with his hand? Not the part about his being honest. That’s guff. Cheating is cheating. We should admire Rodriguez because he pushed the rules to the limit, found them wanting and in so doing created emotion and a story from a small moment in a distracting leisure activity. Isn’t football great.

Well, enjoy it while it lasts. VAR is an abomination. Football is fast. Mistakes happen. Fans and players feel feted or hard done by. The joy surges. The antagonism builds.

At another recent Arsenal match, this time against Spurs, the Tottenham striker Son dived to win a penalty. No VAR was used. Arsenal felt aggrieved. The home fans seethed. The visitors taunted. The stadium throbbed like Terry Waite’s bladder. It was great. What a show. This was the theatre of football. It’s not an insurance seminar on risk reduction. 

So congratulations to Rodriguez, Son and all the players and refs who keep the game human. Don’t let the robots in. They’ll kill it. 

PS:  If football is to become an extension of the classroom, will that stop cheating? Nope. James M. Lang argues that place and time can trigger cheating: 

[C]heating levels are fairly high, but they have always been so. The better question to ask is why. Duke University researcher Dan Ariely and his colleagues have conducted dozens of experiments designed to see what makes people willing to engage in acts of cheating and dishonesty in their everyday lives. Their findings have been remarkably consistent: most people, under the right circumstances, are willing to engage in small acts of dishonesty. This seems to be a part of our human nature.  With enough incentives in front of us, most of will cheat at least a little bit.

Cheating is natural. The temptation to cheat is human:

As it turns out, almost anyone will cheat when given even minor, consciously imperceptible behavioral cues. For instance, in a series of three experiments, a group of psychologists found that lighting could affect cheating. In one study, participants in a dimly-lit room cheated more often than those in a lighter one. While both groups performed equally well on a set of math problems, students in the darker room self-reported that they correctly solved, on average, four more problems than the other group—earning $1.85 more as a result, since they were being paid for each correct answer. The authors suggested that the darkness created an “illusory anonymity”: even though you aren’t actually more anonymous in the dark than in the light, you feel as though you are, making you more likely to engage in behaviors you otherwise wouldn’t. Similar effects have been observed with a variety of situational factors that don’t seem directly related to cheating. We cheat more, for instance, when we’re in a messy environment—one that has more signs of socially deviant behavior, like litter, graffiti, and other rubble.

And then – and then – you think of the spirit and what happens next. What reputation do you want? Matthew Syed cites a sporting great:

In the World Cup semi-final between Australia and Sri Lanka at St George’s Park in 2003, the Aussies were on 34 after five overs when Aravinda de Silva was brought on to bowl. On his second delivery, Adam Gilchrist stepped forward to sweep, edged the ball on to his front pad, and watched it sail into the hands of Kumar Sangakkara, the wicketkeeper. The Sri Lankans made a sustained appeal. Rudi Koertzen, the umpire, shook his head. “Not out,” he said.

In True Colours, his wonderful autobiography, Gilchrist would later recall that he felt “strange” at that moment, perhaps a little confused. “So much discontent about umpiring, video decisions, and trust between players had been bubbling away,” he said. He then heard an emphatic voice in his head. “Go,” the voice said. “Walk”. As he made his way towards the pavilion, something odd happened. The Port Elizabeth crowd started cheering. They knew that he had made a gesture more important than mere winning and losing.

We love the cheats. And we love the heroes. The best bit is that in the rough and tumble of sport, in the complexity and contradiction of what it is to be human, you can be both. And there’s always the drugs…

Posted: 8th, December 2018 | In: Arsenal, manchester united, News, Sports, Spurs, Technology | Comment


Manchester United will pay £40m for Pochettinho

Having left Southampton for Spurs with barely a glance back over his shoulder and a toodle-oo, you wouldn’t bet against Mauricio Pochettino leaving his current club in the not too distant future. Real Madrid are favourites to recruit Pochettinho – a likelihood that will only increase should Spurs defeat Barcelona in their must-win Champions League match. But rumours from Manchester United say they want Poch and are prepared to pay £40m to get him.

In the Premier League era, Teddy Sherinham, Michael Carrick and Dimitar Berbatov have all swapped Spurs for Manchester United, moving north for more money and a lot more silverware. Poch is on £8m-a-season at Spurs, Jose Mourinho, Manchester United’s current boss, earns almost double that. And under his guidance, United are a turgid long-ball team. Spurs buzz. 

The question for Pochettinho is whether he will win the league at Spurs. No. He won’t. Not unless the London club matches Manchester United’s investment in talent. Which they won’t do. They can build the big new stadium, but Spurs will always be a smaller club than United. Surely he’ll go. and Sours, well, they just better hope their owners don’t agree to take Mourinho in a swap deal. Transferring football mangers makes sense. But under Mourinho, the only way is down…

Posted: 7th, December 2018 | In: Back pages, Sports, Spurs | Comment


Spurs balls: falling crowds should worry club

spurs debt

 

As Spurs continue to build their new municipal stadium, news is that the Premier League’s highest-placed London club’s victory over Southampton was watched by 33,012. Mauricio Pochettino, the Spurs manager, says: “We cannot ask more of our fans.” Not the ones that turn up, no. But surely the relatively small crowd in a cavernous Wembley Stadium is a worry for the Spurs moneymen. Last season, the same fixture on December 26 was witnessed by 57,297 fans.

Spurs’ average attendance in the 2016/17 PL was 31,639. They then moved into Wembley. Spurs’ lowest league attendance in the 2017/18 season is the 50,034 that watched them take on West Ham United on January 4, 2018. Tottenham’s lowest Wembley attendance in 2017/18 was the 23,826 who saw them beat Barnsley 1-0 in the League Cup on 19 September, 2017. 

They don’t just come to see Spurs. It’s pretty fair to say the fans come to see who Spurs are playing. This season, the Spurs v Liverpool match was watched by 80,188 fans. But around half that number – 43,268 – saw the Lillywhites play Cardiff. 

When it comes to the Champions’ League, the identity of the visiting club is vital. On 3 October 2018 82,137 saw Spurs take on Barcelona. That figure dipped to 57,132 fo their must-win match with Inter Milan. 

The club’s new ground has a capacity of 62,062. There should be plenty of tickets available.

 

Posted: 6th, December 2018 | In: Sports, Spurs | Comment


Media Bias: Son dives for Spurs but Arsenal prosper

son dive spurs arsenal

 

Arsenal beat Spurs 4-2 in the North London derby in which Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was sensational. Both sides scored from the penalty spots. But should the Spurs penalty for a foul on’ Heung-Min Son been given? Let’s look at the match reports for signs of bias.

Arsenal FC says “contact looked minimal”. The game turned on “Son’s elaborate fall for the penalty”. The penalty was “controversial” .The official Spurs website says “Son was clipped in the box by the sliding Rob Holding”.

Clipped? Really? No.

The neutral’s view comes to us via the Guardian:

There was controversy when Spurs went ahead. Son had sprinted through again and Rob Holding jumped into a risky tackle but, when Son checked back, there was no contact from the Arsenal defender on him.

The Indy:

If contact had been made, Son was guilty of at least jumping and appealing as if he’d been deeply injured from a graze. What was worse, TV replays showed that no strong contact had been made whatsoever. It appeared Holding had not even touched him.

The Sun gives us the tabloid view:

SON HEUNG-MIN was given a dressing down by Arsenal ace Sokratis Papastathopoulos at full-time over his disgraceful dive to win a penalty for Tottenham.

The Spurs ace was guilty of a shocking bit of simulation which tricked referee Mike Dean into pointing to the spot during the North London derby.

What about the red card awarded to Spurs defender Jan Vertonghen with the score at 4-2? Arsenal says he was sent off late on “for a lunge on Lacazette”. Spurs make it more benign:

Insult to injury followed five minutes from time as Vertonghen slid the ball out to substitute left-back Danny Rose but was involved in a collision with Lacazette as he did so, which resulted in the Belgian international picking up a second yellow card.

One team’s lunge is another’s collision. As for the dive, well here it is:

 

Posted: 2nd, December 2018 | In: Arsenal, Back pages, Sports, Spurs | Comment


Media bias: Chelsea denied clear penalty, Hazard tumbles and lucky Spurs

Spurs tonked Chelsea 3-1 in the Premier League. At 1-0 to Spurs, Chelsea’s Eden Hazard was felled in the Tottenham box. Penalty! No. None given. But should one have been? Let’s look for any signs of bias in the media: 

BBC: “Chelsea will be furious at a soft free-kick for Spurs’ first goal and a failure from Martin Atkinson to give them a penalty when it was only 1-0 when Juan Foyth appeared to foul Eden Hazard in the 18-yard box.”

Chelsea website: “We had our moments in the first half, with Eden Hazard denied what looked like two clear penalties”

And again:

Chelsea website: “The Blues had what looked like a legitimate penalty appeal turned away when Hazard was bundled over in the box by Juan Foyth”

Former referee Peter Walton was in the studio for BT Sport: “…when you re-run it there’s a knee-on-knee and the foul comes when Foyth’s knee touches Hazard and that’s enough to put him over. For me that was a penalty.”

Guardian: ” Eden Hazard ought to have had a penalty on 14 minutes when Juan Foyth went into him from behind ”

Chelsea blog We Aint Got No History: “An early goal from a dubious foul, then a clear penalty uncalled on Hazard, then an unlucky second goal.”

And on the Spurs website? Only this: “13 mins – Hazard over in the box, appeals waved away.” No word on how he went over. 

Such are the facts.

Posted: 24th, November 2018 | In: Back pages, Chelsea, Spurs | Comment


Spurs balls: Eriksen contract countdown and stadium move in January

The inability to finish a stadium on time is costing Spurs money and stress. The new White Hart Lane won’t be completed until “January or February”, says Spurs manger Mauricio Pochettino. For £1bn, you’d expect a firm answer on a moving in date. Wasn’t Daniel Levy, the Spurs chairman, supposed to be a master negotiator, the smartest man in the room?

Just in cast the ground’s not ready, Spurs have taken out an option to play at Wembley until the end of the season. “We are so disappointed because we expected to play in 2018 at the new stadium and it should have been ready to play before the end of the year but that is not going to be possible and we need to wish and hope that in January or February we can move there,” says Pochettino.

“Yesterday afternoon we were there, checking the facilities, the changing rooms, everything, and we are so excited, we cannot wait to move there. We understand that it is a fantastic project for the future of the club that will be for ever. To wait maybe one or two months more – we need to have patience.”

Spurs play Chelsea at Wembley this weekend. They’ve lost their last three home fixture to Top 6 rivals – it’s four matches if the FA Cup semi-final defeat to Manchester United is included. Are they going to win the title? No. 

And will the players stay at a club that isn’t winning cups? Christian Eriksen is out of contract in June 2020. “When Christian signed, he was a prospect, a very good player but still young and Tottenham provided a very good platform to develop his quality,” says Pochettino. “Eriksen and Tottenham, and Tottenham and Eriksen, was a very good mix. Good for Tottenham and good for Christian Eriksen. That’s why I hope Christian continues to develop his career with Tottenham.” Eriksen is 26. He’s one big transfer left in his career. Spurs need to start winning. 

 

Posted: 22nd, November 2018 | In: Sports, Spurs | Comment


Transfer Balls: Real Madrid in for Harry Kane at Spurs and Liverpool want Demirbay

Transfer Balls: undaunted by their apparent failure to recruit Aaron Ramsey from Arenal – he’s on his way to Bayern Munich, reportedly – AC Milan have begun talks with another player with ‘Arsenal captain’ on his CV, this time former Gooner and Spain midfielder Cesc Fabregas. The 31-year-old has had enough of warming the bench at Chelsea and Italy beckons. 

Manchester United are ready to offer Roma’s 22-year-old Italy midfielder Lorenzo Pellegrini twice his weekly wage. We’ve no idea what that amount to but estimates put it shy of Alexis Sanchez’s £500,000-a-week but north of what Marcus Rashford pockets by way of a monthly goal bonus. We are told, however, that Pellegrini will cost United £26m in transfer fees.

You can expect to hear lots about Harry Kane or Eden Hazard heading to Real Madrid because the Spaniards are desperate for a goalscorer, having worked out that Cristiano’s Ronaldo’s 50 goals a season were hard to replace. Gareth Bale, 29, and France’s Karim Benzema, 30, are not quite up the task. so Kane it is. A huge money offer will surely tempt Daniel Levy, the Spurs chairman. 

Finally, Hoffenheim central midfielder Kerem Demirbay is wanted by Liverpool. Another centre back for the Reds? Why not? 

Posted: 19th, November 2018 | In: Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, manchester united, Sports, Spurs | Comment