That's if reports that Calum Chambers cost Arsenal £16m are to be believed. The English premium shows no signs of disappearing. Plus, worrying about poor Southampton...
Some supporters sound oh so confident on Louis Van Gaal's excellence. Plus thoughts on shirt sales, best signings, football sevens and a good deal more besides...
If you have anything to say on any subject, mail us at email@example.com
All Football Activity?
'Banned from any football-related activity for four months' - Does this mean Suarez can't play FIFA 14 on Xbox Live, then?
John Earl, Cheshunt, Herts
...Can Suarez play football in his back garden?
How That Liverpool-Barca Conversation Will Go
Mr Barcelona: "Hello, is that Liverpool? What's that? 50m+ Sanchez? No. Let's start the bidding at a pair of socks once worn by Maradona and a handful of magic beans."
Sean F, London
Well Done FIFA
I am by no means FIFA's biggest fan, but I felt like they warranted a bit of recognition for the way that the Suarez matter has been dealt with.
They moved swiftly and decisively and have reached what I hope most people will conclude is a reasonable decision. Admittedly the fine is a bit of a nonsense, but then all football-related fines are, but otherwise I say the FA could probably learn a thing or two given the protracted and frustrating way they have gone about disciplinary matters in the past.
Also, I have a bit of sympathy for Liverpool if he ends up missing the start of their season (but not for any club who buys him in the meantime. They know what they are paying for), but it had to be a world-wide punishment. Like one commentor neatly summed up, if I get caught drink-driving, I don't just get banned from driving in that town.
Chris CAFC (Now can we all just get back to enjoying this wonderful World Cup) London
Harsh On Liverpool
I'm sure there'll be little sympathy for LFC. Do any none-Liverpool fans agree that the Suarez's punishment is a heavy price for the club to pay?
Tom (Not looking forward to the lengthy appeal process), LFC, Manchester
...Seems harsh on Liverpool to have their player banned for something they weren't involved in. He was representing Uruguay so surely the ban should relate to them?
Also, can't they force him to do some form of community sports activities or something? Giving him a holiday seems almost like a reward. And, finally, do Liverpool have to continue paying him through this? That would be harsh too. Obviously they can afford it, but that's besides the point isn't it?
I understand the need to punish him, but surely making him donate money to the favelas in Brazil might be a better idea. Then ban him from International games. Then make him do sports coaching or street cleaning(!) or something?
If I was John Henry I'd be fuming right about now. It would be interesting to see if Liverpool incorporated some form of stipulation in his contract about bad behaviour when he signed it last summer.
Nick P, Burnley FC
FIFA Should Have Consulted Liverpool!
I don't condone anything that Suarez has done, but to be banned from club football for something he did playing for Uruguay is a bit harsh. Is there a precedent for this?
Liverpool will either have to go without him for a few months or sell him at a reduced cost.
Liverpool's lawyers will be on the first plane to Brazil as FIFA have taken decision without even consulting them.
Uruguay's lawyers were at the hearing but not Liverpool's. Regardless of what he's done, it doesn't really feel like justice.
Neil, USA (Yes LFC)
Before Liverpool fans get too up in arms about how they are being punished when the act was committed with Uruguay - you helped to fuel his perception that he could do no wrong. By defending the indefensible and refusing to hear any criticisms of his consistent tw*ttery, Liverpool FC and their fans have helped Suarez to truly come to believe that what he does is not wrong and he will not face the consequences.
Jack (I agree with the overall argument that this was hysterical rather than anything more though) Manchester
There's No Precedent
The only issue I have with the punishment Suarez has been given is that it is unprecedented. Players have been repeat offenders of headbutts, deliberate elbows and deliberately dirty tackles, and not received any additional sanction or ban. Zidane's headbutt was his last act in football, but does anyone really believe he would have received a lengthy ban, had he kept playing?
So as long as any players who act violently on multiple occasions are banned, that's fine. I just hope that FIFA stick to the precedent they have set - not that I'm holding my breath. A good place to start would be Antonio Valencia - violently grabs Raheem Sterling against England, violently stamps on a French player last night. Pepe is another obvious, clearly deserving example of a lengthy ban. Will he get one, though?
The point I'm making is that this whole 'he keeps doing it' argument sounds like a valid excuse to throw the book at Suarez, until you realize how many other players have repeatedly acted violently with no further punishment beyond a red card.
Oliver Dziggel, Geneva, Switzerland
Losing Suarez A Disaster For English Football
Let me explain why.
Football and footballers flourish in the presence of a genius. Much of England's optimism at this World Cup and for the next few tournaments stems from the exciting band of young, promising footballers emerging. Most of these are from Liverpool: Sterling, Henderson, Sturridge and Flanagan have emerged in just two years with many more waiting in the wings eg Ibe, Wisdom etc. How did this come about?
It is my hypothesis that three elements are needed.
1. An excellent under-age system.
2. A manager who gives young players opportunities and encouragement
3. A genius footballer in their midst
The genius footballer is the secret ingredient in the mix. These players are the opportunity that occurs once in a generation. When Ferguson signed Cantona at United he said he was the last piece of the puzzle. At the time United were on the cusp if a golden generation of young players: Giggs, Scholes, Beckham, the Nevilles. Adding Cantona to the mix sent the whole thing stratospheric. What does the genius in the midst do to young players? Obviously they learn from him how to play football at the highest level. Having leant all they can learn up to that point what better role model then to aspire to? Secondly he makes them fearless like him, for in the audacious things he tries they learn the value of "nothing ventured nothing gained" being the road to greatness. And thirdly, he shelters them. When they have an off day he will often shine, taking the spotlight away from them, the corrosive glare of the fans and media that can destroy a young footballer's confidence.
In Cantona's presence the core of England's last golden generation grew. Yes he was was a bit mad, yes he fly kicked a fan in the chest, but Fergie knew his worth and defended him at all costs. Remember the team who sold him who at the time had quite a promising set of under-age players? Sell your genius and your young players perish. For Leeds United see Spurs post-Bale and conceivably Liverpool post-Suarez. Genius cannot be replaced and when lost the promise that lives in its shade perishes.
Yes Suarez is the most reprehensible footballer on the planet, yes he commits the indefensible but losing him would be a disaster for Liverpool and England's latest generation of talent.
A Betting Tip
Soooo just the four months. Rickie Lambert for the Golden Boot it is then.
Martin (Every cloud eh) LFC
I was thinking this only this morning, and now in reply to Minty's letter; the reason British media, both printed and online, obsess with Suarez is the Liverpool fans' insatiable appetite for everything about their club.
You only have to read this website everyday. They comment on everything, go mad if anyone dares criticise them, and regularly send long, rambling letters about all things scouse side to the mailbox.
These media sites are businesses and talking about Suarez ensures more hits and readers than a report on the Swiss beating Honduras.
You reap what you sow, soft lads.
F365: You've Changed
Call me nostalgic but I recall the days when F365 was decent. Seems like since Pete Gill departed there's been an alarming and marked depreciation in quality. It's one thing that hilariously your hacks rely on Twatter to substanatiate their flimsy output/outlandish opinions but quite another when your lead story references the YourSay boards. Tragic ladies, just tragic.
It comes to something that you're being called out by me, I'll admit. But your output is increasingly tabloid. Admittely your paymasters must be thinking twice about shutting you down now your page impressions and unique users must be spiking (I'm noticing fewer and fewer house ads so well done 'editorial') but the question of quality is paramount.
Hilariously relying on the Twatterati as a voice of authority is one thing but using the comments on the YourSay boards to yet again demonise Liverpool fans is simply beyond the pale. I know Matthew is still reeling from being outed as clueless again after his Suarez assertions and Nicholas' stuff is as poor as ever but with the likes of Nicholson's and Tyers' recent output it shows there's hope for you lot yet. More of the latter, less of the former and certainly a sharp uplift in quality and, you know, 'intelligent journalism' that displays one iota of football nous would be good. In fact it'd be bloody welcome after what you've been serving up of late.
Just saying... you should heed the advice.
Gregory Whitehead, LFC
A Free-Flowing Attacking Mailbox
I don't want to ruffle any feathers here but where has the whole swashbuckling attacking football myth come from? It's absolute rubbish, the only thing I saw different was an England player actually running at the opposition and trying to go past someone. For many years England have been regarded as a strong defensive team who play down the wings, have a conveyer belt of good box-to-box midfielders and usually have a striker that can punish you. England are largely respected in my native Italy as having a similar if not quite as good style.
Why isn't it as good? Because you don't play to your strengths. You p*** around trying to copy Spain or clamoring for something new instead of perfecting and polishing what you've already got! Going into this World Cup many Italians thought England would win the group and be the only team we dropped points to (that turned out well). When you have a solid defense with guys like Baines, Sterling, Oxlade Chamberlain, Lallana, Shaw etc controlling the wings then strong box-to-box midfielders like Gerrard, Henderson, Barkley and Wilshere you should be dropping back and countering with force and pace and giving it to your incredible finishers (more Sturridge than Rooney at the moment admittedly). What do you do instead? Dip your toe into Tiki Taka, High Pressing and whatever else is in vogue in the football world instead of concentrating on what you're truly good at.
Anyway my point is, just because your midfield offered your defence no protection it doesn't mean you had attacking flair. Also lay off Sturridge we'd happily swap him with Balotelli because when he has an off day we always lose.
Luca James Sparks
Bring In Hoddle
In response to Guy S what about going back to Glenn Hoddle?
Not only is he not afraid to step on toes (hopefully he wont be so controversial when doing it this time around) but he is also the biggest advocate of England playing with style and flair. Something England haven't had under Roy or Capello!
Replacing Hodgson now is the only real option coming into Euro 2016. It is a fairly easy group and even Hodgson should see the side through easily. The easy group should allow the new manager ample time to implement how he wants the side playing in not just friendlies but also competitive games. People will talk about him being without a managerial job for some time but international management is different. Often being a pundit for years can help prepare for international management where competitions come around once every two years.
Europe Doing Okay, Thanks
In response to Rob Y (Stockholm)...
It was convenient of you to leave out the results of the teams that qualified from the other qualifying regions. Here is some information for you;
Seven teams from South America qualified for the World Cup, five have qualified from the group stages. No South American teams are involved in the groups yet to conclude.
13 teams from Europe qualified for the World Cup, four teams have qualified from the group stages and two teams currently sit in qualification positions.
Three teams qualified from the Americas, two have advanced from the groups and one currently sits in a qualification position.
Five teams qualified from Africa, one has qualified from the group stages and one sits in a qualification position.
Finally, four teams qualified from Asia yet none have passed the group stage and the final team to play sits bottom of their group.
In fact in the groups were Asian teams have been involved they have finished last. Conceding 19 goals and scoring six. On your basis on Asian teams should be allowed to compete as in all probability Asian teams will finish bottom of 50% of the groups.
Should we also include more teams from the central Americas, as they look like they will get 100% qualification?
It is likely that just under 50% of European teams will qualify for the knock-out stages, 70% of South American teams, 100% of Americas teams, 20% of African teams and 0% of Asian. The European teams have done well considering the fact that in four of the eight groups European teams came up against each other. There is more chance that they will knock each other out. In only one other group did teams from the same continent have to face each other.
So don't start crying over the qualification process just because England are crap.
...Interesting email from Rob Y calling for a reduction in the number of European teams at the World Cup. If we work on the basis that at the end of the group stage, assuming the allocations are done correctly, then each confederation should have half the teams that entered remaining, and the last sixteen should consist of the following:
Europe - 6.5
S. America - 3
Africa - 2.5
Asia - 2
N. America - 2
At the time of writing, the following is confirmed:
Europe - 5
S. America - 5
Africa - 1
Asia - 0
N. America - 2
There are three remaining places and it's isn't a huge stretch of the imagination to see Germany and Russia filling two of those places, which would take Europe to seven, thus playing pretty much to the level expected of them (even if it ends up being six). If any confederation needs to have a serious word with itself, it's the AFC. The Asian teams have regressed since 2002 and there is a real case for reducing their allocation of 4.5.
Interestingly, the number of European teams in the last 16 since the expansion to 32 teams has been (from 1998) 10, 9, 10, 6 and this year will be between five and eight, so if anything Europe should have been looking at increasing to 14 slots for South Africa, based on performance. However, five South American teams have made the second round for the second tournament running. They are currently allocated 5.5 places. Surely there is a good case for increasing this to 6 or 6.5.
Personally, I think the format, and the balance of teams from each confederation is about right. The World Cup is not about having the best 32 teams in the world duke it out, and to do so would be detrimental to the tournament. Incidentally, European teams currently account for 20 of the top 32 FIFA ranked teams. The current system means that we have a greater clash of styles and cultures and there is more scope for an underdog causing a shock. This year, some teams have been as awful as expected (Cameroon, Honduras), but some have exceeded expectation in the most heart-warming of manners (Chile, Costa Rica, even Iran). A classic case of 'if it ain't broke'.
...In response to Rob Y (Stockholm) in today's mailbox - talk about interpreting the stats to suit your argument.
With Switzerland now through and Germany very likely to qualify (although I admit, I may look stupid if this is printed tomorrow and they've been thumped by the USA), that would make six out of 13 European teams through to the second round. So that's roughly half - which is exactly what you'd expect if the allocations are fair.
And as for being 'the whipping boys' of the tournament, surely that honour goes to the three teams who finished with zero points and goal differences of -8, -7, -6 - Cameroon, Honduras (and the stats don't lie - these two really stank the place out) and Australia.
The only European teams who have been on the receiving ends of 'whippings' (let's say a three-goal difference or more) have been Greece, Switzerland, Spain and Portugal. Three of those defeats came against other European nations, while two of those teams have bounced back to qualify for the second round.
In short, the European teams are doing just as well as you'd expect - no better, no worse - and your argument is therefore nonsense.
Plus, surely we don't want to make it any harder for England to qualify, do we?
The Old 'Go Abroad' Argument
After reading through John Nicholson's latest article, it got me thinking. Is the actual reason our youth doesn't progress due to the fact they stay in the UK?
They only ever seem to progress to the top teams in England. Are they too loyal to England or is there just minimal interest from Europe for our young 'starlets'? Are they just technically not good enough to attract the interest from the giants of Europe?
Most of the top countries have at least half of their squad playing in another country, yet all ours come from The Premier League plus one from SPL.
We have great players in England, but we all know the very best foreign players prefer the sun of Spain. So would a move to a Spanish club with better players means you grow as a player.
I love the Premier League, but I believe that our best talent needs to play for a top, top foreign side for our England "starlets" to progress to world-class level and domination at international level.
Or maybe the English kids get too cocky too early and think they're better than they actually are, let it all go to their head and don't give as much effort all the time as they should and then retire at 29 after earning a shed load of money...
You Can Be Good And Nice
If I may, I would like to point out to all the people who seem to think that the only two choices in sport these days are to be either 1) a complete w*nker who's at the top of their game, or 2) a decent, respectful human being with average ability and not much to show for it, there is a third way. I know this may come as a shock to you but, it is possible to be a descent, respectful human being and be at the top of your game. Madness I know, but if you can be arsed looking, the world of sport is littered with them. And not just sport, life too. Amazing.
Maybe next time, when you feel the urge to support some bellend just because they happen to be good at what they do, or read about Fernando 'I want trophies, nor respect' Alonso, or even meet some jumped-up a*se in a shiny suit at work sneering 'I'm not here to make friends', kindly point out to them that with a little bit of thought and intelligence, it is possible to do both. Then treat them like the t*ats they are and ignore them.
All my love as always.
Entourage: Less Douchey
You were hoping in the Afternoon Gossip Column that 'Entourage' is less of a douchey word in French. Good news: it is. The verb 'entourer' means 'to surround', so the literal translation would be like calling your friends and family your "Surrounders", for example.