Please care about the Champions League. Send your emails in to email@example.com…
Literally the only mail we received on the Champions League action last night
There is nothing which annoys me more than players wearing the wrong boots when they know it’s been raining.
More slipping than in a three stooges movie in the Spurs game
Jim Barnett, THFC
Jurgen Klopp inspires me to be better
His recent public appearance came after the Liverpool vs United game when he gave a brief post match summary and then a longer post match conference. He was brilliant in both. The reporters had prepared well; they pushed him with questions of his team’s weakness in the face of increased pressure, they prodded him with remarks on Liverpool’s increasing reliance on Lallana, but each time he made his now customary extended facial expression, smiled, and proceeded to educated everyone in the room on how to succeed.
Listen to the man; he never stops talking about mentality, even when he stops talking about it. Each time the question is brought up of Mourinho’s tactic to slow the game down with slow motion walks to pick up a ball for a throw-in or well timed fouls that teeter on the edge of a booking, Klopp acknowledges it as something out of his control, accepts it as part of the game and moves the subject along. He prefers to talk on what he can control, and on this he has a lot to say.
“There is always space,” he said with a smile when asked how United made things difficult for Liverpool by pressure and physical presence. “I can’t remember any niggling fouls, whatever niggling means,” he said when encouraged to attack United’s approach to discipline. “Maybe it is important for the rest of the world what you write about us being favourites for the game, but its not important to us in the dressing room” he said when asked if Liverpool succumbed to the pressures of being second favourites in the title race. In a huge contrast to Mourinho, who loves to place blame on incidents outside of his team in an attempt to divert attention and therefore pressure from his club, Klopp’s attention is always on his team and not the other. “We must turn their strength into a weakness,’ he said, “thats the information out of this game.”
It reminds me of a quote I once heard that is easy to understand but harder to follow: ‘You cannot control what happens to you, but you can control how you react to it.’
For me this is the perfect summary of Jurgen Klopp. In his methods, in his conduct, and in his messages, I find he is giving me a real world example of how to put this into practice.
Shock horror: Arsenal fan not impressed by Spurs
I’ll be interested to see how many Spurs fans are happy with a 0-0 this morning.
They are constantly touted as being a team on the up, rising above Arsenal, Liverpool etc and playing super awesome football. And yet… West Brom, Leverkusen..
If they want to play with the big boys, they need to have the attitude to match. You can’t always be plucky underdogs and over achievers and at the same time see yourselves as ‘bigger than Liverpool’. (MC – Anyone got a field to plonk that massive straw man into the middle of?)
Admittedly I’m jumping the gun here but I’m fully expecting a round of Spurs mails saying what a great result it was. (And I’m bored because my lot didn’t play.)
Alay, N15 Gooner
Everybody loves Ronaldo
I think the highest honour you can bestow on Ronaldo is that he would have played in any era. He was strong enough to deal with the bullying of the 70s, skillful enough for the 90s and prolific enough for modern football.
Not only that but he would have been picked for the Brazilian team in any era.
I grew up watching Ronaldo and there will never be a better finisher. In the box or from 25 yards it didnt matter.
Sadly everyone has a flaw and Ronaldo was made out of glass.
H, (let’s have some links in the comments pls)
…Every since I discovered this feature on your website I have been waiting for Ronaldo, the real one.
I had goose bumps whilst reading because so much of what you had written struck so many chords within my own thoughts. Watching Ronaldo in that world cup in 1998, bar the final, was unbelievably satisfying. It was before the days when access to foreign leagues was as easy as it is now, so most of what we’d heard about Ronaldo came from rumours.
This newer generation often only know of one Ronaldo, the chest beating, polished adonis of the modern game. To us, the Real Ronaldo gave us so much more. That Barcelona year was something special, but even after his dribbling abilities were washed away through injury, he became the striker that put three past Manchester United in the Champions League. A pure striker. There is nothing more satisfying than watching compilation videos of him taking apart defender after defender.
He will remain to a certain generation their favourite ever player because every single playground school child can relate to picking up the ball and dribbling past a host of defenders!
A El Nounu
…Thank you once again for another wonderful “Portrait…”
“Proper” Ronaldo was truly magnificent, in full flow, there’s been nothing like him before or since. The word tragedy is so overused now that it has lost its impact, but within the confines of football, his injuries were a tragedy.
There was redemption of sorts, but still the nagging sense of loss as what could have been a truly staggering career never fully materialised.
I remember watching his comeback after the knee injury at Inter (I remember watching the match he was injured in as well, that still brings a little lump to my throat), he went down with clutching the same knee and it seemed like the whole world was waiting to see if he was ok. The noise in the stadium when he got up and carried on was incredible, he was a player loved throughout football.
Also, the only acceptable goal celebration – the Ronaldo aeroplane.
…Splendid Portrait of an Icon today. Have found the odd one of these a little tenuous but no argument here.
Not many opposing players get a standing ovation at Old Trafford.
‘He’s a herd’. Brilliant.
Joys of the season so far
– Joe Allen unleashed.
– Walter Mazzarri’s lived-in face and sonorous baritone. (Hollywood will come calling.)
– Bournemouth still being Bournemouth and still succeeding.
– Ander Herrera, finally.
– Leicester City winning in the Champions League. (OK, they got an easy draw, but still.)
– The new parlor game, “Think Along With Pep.”
– The indomitable Saints of Southampton.
– Idrissa Gueye/Gana with decent players around him.
– The false nine.
– Ben Gibson. He’ll be in the England squad soon.
– A wide-open title race, at least for now.
– F365, better than ever (and I’m not just sucking up, it really is).
– A player named Islam and a player named Christian in the same XI.
Peter G, Pennsylvania, USA
A long (and really very good) one on academy salary caps
Having read Jason Burt’s thoughts on wage caps via the Recommended Reading section of yesterday’s Mediawatch, I thought I would chip in with my own. I feel that while a wage cap might go some way to curing a lot that is wrong with the modern academy graduate, it fails to address other more important issues. Clubs like Liverpool and Southampton are fully within their rights to implement this pay structure and it is not my argument that a wrong is being perpetrated against the younger players.
At a time when economies are fragile and most people live from paycheck to paycheck it is perhaps pertinent to ask whether paying an 18-year-old Josh McEachran £2m a year is the best use of money. The truth, as we know, is that the market doesn’t pay you what you need but pays you what you are worth and if there is a club which values McEachran at £2m a year then that is what he is worth, however bizarre it may seem. In hindsight it seems a ridiculous sum for a player who never took off but if it had worked out people would have praised Chelsea’s financial commitment to keeping and developing elite youngsters (admittedly they never seem to bother with the latter).
It is important to remember that footballers have very narrow windows to make their money. The window seems to be narrowing constantly now as even the smaller clubs are capable of scouting and recruiting from elsewhere in Europe. This means that youngsters are making debuts later (as noted in Burt’s column) and often find themselves surplus to requirements much earlier in their careers. This narrow window and the fact that a career as a top level footballer and a quality education don’t go hand in hand means that there is a tendency to grab the money and run even if it isn’t “deserved”. If they’re smart they hire the right people to spread the money across various investments and live off the returns post-retirement. Only the smallest of violins will play them a melancholy tune but while the rest of of us qualify and re-qualify ourselves to join the workforce between the ages of 18 and 30, footballers spend their time kicking a ball around for our entertainment.
I’m not saying they are victims but in an industry which rewards you with £2m a year when you’re 18 and then takes you to Brentford via Watford, Wigan and Vitesse by the time you’re 22 I can’t blame footballers for taking the big payout when it comes along, even if no 18-year-old could possibly need that amount of money.
The public reception this policy has received does not sit comfortably with me either. A lot of it seems centered around a resentment against teenagers earning figures that people thrice their age will never see. Even if we were to ignore the resentful trolls we need to ask whether wage caps are really the solution to young players losing their heads once they move into the spotlight.
The thought process seems to be that if they don’t have the money they won’t covet fancy homes and fast cars and will thus lead the life of ascetics. However, it seems that a lot of the problems footballers face stem from being deified from a young age by the supporters and media. It is the classic story of building them up only to break them down.
When they first arrive on the scene we are enamoured by the mental images of a young star bursting out the gates at the last bell at school only to make his way to line up alongside Wayne Rooney for the Manchester derby. They are praised to the skies and hoisted on our shoulders as we celebrate on of our own (not really) rising to the top. However, once they are given their bumper contracts they cease to be one of us and become part of the other. Suddenly their lifestyle is scrutinised and their movements tracked.
Unless they spend the time they’re not training playing FIFA, they are accused of forgetting their roots and letting success get to their head. The major challenge for these youngsters therefore seems to be coping with their celebrity status and the fickleness and scrutiny that comes along with it.
I do not blame the clubs either for paying these youngsters the figures they do. The clubs make big money nowadays and that means they need to spend that money somewhere. As a fan, I would rather they spend that money on maintaining a solid first team and if there’s any left over, making sure the future of the squad is stable which means investing in the best young players. The fact of the matter is that the reason teenagers get multi-million pound contracts is that clubs have multiple millions to spend on said contracts.
Maybe the solution to that problem is that we ask Sky and BT to stop breaking records every time broadcasting rights go to a bid. Perhaps ask XYZ Noodles and ABC Toilet Paper to stop jostling for endorsements as official Manchester United merchandise. We could also ask the likes of Adidas, Nike and Puma to stop throwing stupid money to simply have a 2 sq. in. logo emblazoned on gaudy kits. Interestingly, 18-year-old Marcus Rashford finds himself in the top 10 players whose shirts have sold so far this season as I am sure Adnan Januzaj was when he was flavour of the month. Do you want to tell him he doesn’t deserve a big contract when his name is so obviously raking in huge amounts of money for Adidas and therefore the club?
Perhaps the real solution is that we, as fans, stop buying club merchandise that is constantly made obsolete after a year in circulation. Maybe forfeit over-priced season tickets? Boycott the ridiculously priced concessions at the stadium? Surely the most reasonable solution for easing the unbearable heartache caused by watching these young players destroy themselves is to stop giving a shit. Unfollow them on social media. Stop buying their branded underwear. Stop taking home a salary for writing newspaper columns about their oversized headphones and reprehensible dancing (God, that Gary Chappell seems like a massive…).
Even if one believes young footballers are stupid there is no denying that they are also very hardworking. They earn their money by competing not only with opponents but also with their team mates as they struggle up the ladder, rung by rung. While some of these youngsters defeat themselves, most of the time they become victims of circumstance.
For instance, it can be argued that the primary fault of McEachran and the rest of the Chelsea loan brigade was simply to belong to a club which did not have stable management which meant that managers preferred to buy rather than play a teenager and make a fool out of both themselves and the player. Philippe Auclair’s brilliant biography of Thierry Henry and that documentary about Hatem Ben Arfa’s time at the Clairefontaine Academy have made me better appreciate how intense the pressure on young players is and how much their lives and careers are shaped by what others think of them from coaches to scouts to parents.
It is no doubt quite cathartic to lament the lavishly paid elite especially when they happen to so conveniently appear on our screens every weekend for us to take aim. It is also very unpleasant and unfair as was illustrated by the media outrage at Raheem Sterling’s sin of sharing a video of his mother’s new home. Wage caps might seem like justice to us commoners but rather than point the finger at clubs and players for dealing in huge sums of money perhaps we should start looking at how we behave and the impact our intense and sometimes unreasonable scrutiny has on young players who are trying to figure it out as they go along, just like the rest of us.
If the primary objective is to prevent young players from going off the rails then perhaps it is time to examine the toxic fan culture that surrounds the game.
Park, Park, wherever you may be. Studying at De Montfort university.
As if Ji Sung Park wasn’t enough of a legend anyway, I’ve just found out that he is studying Sports Management at De Montfort University and has moved his whole family into Student Accommodation there. Not only that, but he also recently turned out for a De Montfort Students XI in a friendly.
Meanwhile, less successful ex-footballers are living in country mansions and moaning that they can’t get a job…
I miss Three Lungs.
It’s our man in Japan
Sorry to drag the Mailbox back to the international break just when everyone had put it behind them, but Japan emerged from two important games against Iraq and Australia with four points to maintain a realistic chance of automatic qualification.
There was talk in the Japanese press that Vahid Halilhodzic would lose his job if they didn’t beat Iraq, and it looked like that would be the case until Hotaru (“Firefly”) Yamaguchi of J2 team Cerezo Osaka popped up in the 95th minute to score the winner. The reason for all the stoppage time? The fact that the Iraqis spent the last twenty minutes timewasting, mainly through the goalie’s habit of catching the ball, running several paces, then diving.
Japan’s first goal was scored by Genki Haraguchi, who won the ball on the edge of his own area, then sprinted most of the length of the pitch to meet Kiyotake’s cross with a backheel through the keeper’s legs. Haraguchi was Japan’s most impressive player in both games, and scored against Australia too. Unfortunately he also conceded a second half penalty which Mile Jedinak converted for the equaliser.
Andrew McKirdy, writing in the Japan Times, unearthed an interesting statistic: between them, five of Japan’s European-based players had only played a combined 611 minutes for their clubs leading up to the Iraq match. This particularly affected those who are most important to Japan’s attack, such as Keisuke Honda. At times it really showed.
On an unrelated note, the second half of the Australia game was blighted somewhat by a large number of seagulls on the pitch. It was a bit like the moths at the Euro 2016 final, except none of the seagulls landed on any of the players’ faces.
James T, Kanazawa, Japan
Another surprising performer worth a mention
In addition to your surprise teams can we mention Zulte Wagerem from Belgium? It’s a newish club formed in 2001 from two now-defunct teams, currently sits in second place and last week was top of a league that is typically won by Anderlecht and Club Brugge. Before this year their last two league positions were sixth and 12th.
Sounds like a hipster’s dream