‘Paul Pogba will seal a world-record move from Juventus to Manchester United’ – Antony Kastrinakis’ Sun back page.
‘Paul Pogba’s world record move to Manchester United is set to be hijacked by Real Madrid’ – Jeremy Cross’ Daily Star back page.
What’s £109.8m between friends?
The Sun are crunching the ever-increasing numbers on Thursday. ‘SHOCK MARKET’ reads the headline to a double-page spread on the ‘crazy’ figures in the sport. And they are only predicted to go one way from here.
‘Premier League clubs could be paying their biggest stars a stunning £500,000 a week within five years,’ begins a short piece on wages. ‘Wayne Rooney already picks up £260,000 a week at Manchester United while Sergio Aguero and Yaya Toure earn £240,000 each at rivals City.
‘Yet those salaries are predicted to be smashed as the world’s most watched league just gets richer and richer.
‘This summer alone England’s Prem club have forked out over £600million on players.’
Roughly two inches above and slightly to the left of that fourth paragraph lies an infographic. ‘Premier spending in summer 2016… so far!’ is the title, with every club ranked for expenditure. At the bottom is a handy combined total of the 20 sides:
What a waste of money
Not content with breaking the ‘world exclusive’ of Paul Pogba’s Manchester United move on their back page, The Sun return with more breaking news from Old Trafford: Anthony Martial has won the Ballon d’Or.
In the aforementioned infographic on transfer window spending is the following subject: ‘All-time biggest Prem summer signings.’
Angel di Maria is top, with United purchasing him for £59.7m in 2014. So far, so good.
Now, you would assume Kevin De Bruyne is second. Mainly because he ranks second in a list of the most expensive signings ever made by a Premier League club at £55m. Instead, he is third.
Who is second? Why, it’s Anthony Martial. All £57.6m of him.
Of course, Manchester United have not paid £57.6m for Martial. They might do at some stage in his career, but certainly not yet. They paid an initial £36.7m, with the remaining £20m consisting of add-on fees. If he scores 25 goals or more within his first four seasons, United pay an extra fee. If he makes 25 appearances or more for France within his first four seasons, United pay an extra fee. And if he wins the Ballon d’Or, United pay an extra fee. But for now, United have paid £36.7m, not £56.7m.
Either The Sun are exaggerating for effect (surely not), or Martial has been crowned the world’s best player five months early. Felicitations, Anthony.
The Oxford Dictionary defines the word ‘whisper’ thus: ‘Speak very softly using one’s breath rather than one’s throat, especially for the sake of secrecy.’
Apropos of nothing, let’s take a look at the top ten transfer rumours from Football Whispers, in conjunction with Sky Sports.
Number 10 is a little boring: Lucas Moura to Liverpool.
Number nine is the water-cooler transfer, the one everyone is talking about: Liam Bridcutt to Leeds.
Numbers eight to five include Wojciech Szczesny, Mauro Icardi, Ross McCormack and Alex McCarthy.
At number four is Samuel Bastien. Obviously.
But the top three is where the dictionary definition of ‘secrecy’ is truly matched. In third is Kalidou Koulibaly to Chelsea, the club his agent has confirmed as holding an interest in the defender.
In second is Alexandre Lacazette to Arsenal. Did the Gunners lodge their official bid for the striker by way of a whisper?
In first is Paul Pogba to Manchester United. Whisper. Shh. Don’t tell anyone; not even your mother.
The Daily Telegraph have a treat in online debate for us on Thursday: ‘Premier League players back from injury who will feel like new signings.’
Luke Shaw? Fair enough, he will be a starting left-back for Manchester United.
Santi Cazorla? Arsenal certainly missed him during his absence last season.
Wait, are we actually suggesting Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain ‘will feel like a new signing’ for Arsenal when he returns from injury? The same Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain with seven goals in 100 Premier League appearances? The same Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is currently sixth or seventh-choice attacking midfielder?
Callum Wilson is also listed as a player who ‘will feel like a new signing’, despite making his return to the first team in early April.
But the inclusion of Arouna Kone is particularly fun. Everton fans: You might think you have only signed Maarten Stekelenburg this summer, but don’t forget that 32-year-old striker whose last club goal came eight months ago, and who was overlooked by his own manager Ronald Koeman when the Dutchman discussed possible replacements for Romelu Lukaku.
Manchester City could win the Premier League title this coming season. They are the favourites with most bookmakers to reclaim the crown they last won in 2014. They have added a world-class coach in Pep Guardiola, and still boast some of the finest talents in world football.
Alan Smith believes something else is just as crucial to their title hopes: Pizza. Or, rather, the lack thereof.
‘Lionel Messi and Luis Suárez have a taste for it and Cristiano Ronaldo often digs into a slice after games,’ Smith begins, in his article for The Guardian. ‘Claudio Ranieri used it as a motivation tool during Leicester City’s title win, bringing his squad to a local Italian restaurant following their first clean sheet of the season. But their success is not sufficient evidence for Pep Guardiola, because pizza will not pass the mouths of any Manchester City players this season.’
It’s nothing new. Certain foods have been banned by certain managers in the past. Rio Ferdinand almost attacked David Moyes for not allowing his Manchester United players to eat chips, for example, while many bosses ban ketchup. Nutrition is as important as ever in the world of football.
And who here will claim that pizza is of any discernible nutritional benefit? No-one. That does not stop Smith, of course.
‘A post-match delivery is often an act of convenience – especially at away games where access to a kitchen to prepare the ideal meal is unrealistic. Even then it is important to choose the right toppings – pepperoni and other processed meats are frowned on and the amount of cheese will also be monitored.
‘The ideal meal would be fresh fish high in Omega-3s, like organic salmon, with complex carbohydrates such as brown basmati rice and a selection of vegetables, or brown pasta with chicken, tomato sauce and salad.
‘While nutrition and sports science are relatively new, their importance is only going to grow. Players are becoming more aware and scepticism is wearing away. For Farrell it is important to find a way to motivate players and make them realise the healthier their diet the better their body is equipped come matchday. “At the beginning of every season I talk to the squad as a group and on an individual basis to try to motivate them. Every one of them has a strong personal goal and if they think food will help them – if you tap into what motivates them, once they know they’re eating right foods it can only be good for the team.”
‘It may taste good but is it better than the sweetness of three points at the weekend? Ultimately that is the point Guardiola is trying to drive home.’
Did we really need a 735-word explanation on why pizza might not be a great meal for professional athletes?
‘Jurgen Klopp’s pre-season plans are already being derailed by injury and fitness woes,’ writes David Maddock in the Daily Mirror. Oh no, what’s happened? Has someone broken down in training? Do they only have 13 available first-team players like Hull? Is Alberto Moreno comfort eating because Mamadou Sakho was sent home?
‘The Liverpool manager was forced to leave behind several frontline players as the squad flew into Pasadena last night for the first game on their United States tour.
‘Most notable was Daniel Sturridge, who remained at their training base in Palo Alto.
‘While the striker has no serious injury problems, physios decided he needs extra sessions so was not available for the showpiece friendly against Chelsea. Sturridge is expected to be fit to face AC Milan at the weekend, but the Reds will take no risks with the player.
‘Nathaniel Clyne also stayed behind with a minor hamstring problem, but he too should be fit to face Milan.’
So two players have slight knocks and did not play a pre-season friendly, instead opting to continue training? Consider your plans derailed, Jurgen. You’ll be lucky to finish in the top half.
Two quick questions
From The Sun:
‘He is the superagent who will collect a £24million pay-day when Paul Pogba’s transfer is completed.
‘But Mino Raiola hardly dresses like a multi-millionaire.
‘Former pizza maker Raiola, 38, wears T-shirts and tracksuits to work.’
a) How does one ‘collect a £24million pay-day’?
b) He wears tracksuits to work? What an absolute d*ck.
Sam’s grand slam
Writes the lovable Derek McGovern in his Daily Mirror betting tips:
‘West Ham are not used to playing competitive football in July. Under previous boss Sam Allardyce the same applied to August, September and October.’
McGovern has written considerably worse things previously, but forgive Mediawatch for the following pedantry. After all, it’s what we’re here for.
West Ham’s 2014/15 Premier League record in August, September and October under Allardyce: P9 W5 D1 L3. They were fourth on October 27, 2014.
Controversial description of the day
‘Jurgen Klopp is taking the softly, softly approach with Daniel Sturridge in a bid to get a full campaign from his crack striker’ – Phil Thomas, The Sun.
Ask a simple question…
‘Has Diego Costa just said goodbye to Chelsea after win over Liverpool?’ – Metro.
‘No’ – Football365.
A peace offering
The following is a headline on a news story from a website not a million miles away.
Despicable. Just despicable. Delete your account.
Recommended reading of the day
Jamie Fahey on the FA’s youth coaching game-changer.
James Horncastle on Gonzalo Higuain.
Jim Hart on the 1934 World Cup.