No more Neymar
“Can’t believe I just read that” is a phrase that Mediawatch has uttered plenty of times before, but Wednesday morning brought one of the loudest renditions of the phrase. Congratulations, The Sun online.
‘Neymar’s alarming decline at Barcelona…is he the latest Brazilian superstar to burn out too young,’ is the headline on Andrew Richardson’s piece.
‘Like so many greats from his homeland, the party lifestyle is threatening to derail a hold him back from fulfilling his almost limitless potential.’
Neymar has failed to score in his last five Barcelona matches, granted. He has, however, scored 27 times this season and is fourth favourite for next year’s Ballon D’Or. Maybe a little early to write him off?
‘What marks Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo out as two of the game’s standouts is their consistency.’
Before Sunday, Messi had failed to score in four Barcelona games. Was he finished then, too?
‘It’s decision time for Neymar. Will he go the way of Messi and Ronaldo? Or will his time at the top be short-lived – like these five other Brazilians?’
Mediawatch apologises for raising its voice, but ONE OF THE BRAZILIANS PICKED IS RONALDO. Ronaldo’s career was so ‘short-lived’ that he only played more than 500 games over 18 years despite crippling knee injuries.
‘His hat-trick at Old Trafford in Real Madrid’s march to the Champions League semi-finals was one the highlights of a disappointing club career.’
Such a disappointing club career. Only 352 goals in 518 matches, three times named World Player of the Year, twice winner of the Ballon D’Or, picked in Real Madrid’s team of the century and Golden Boot winner in three different countries. What a sh*tter.
Sweat baby, sweat
The Sun’s Paul Jiggins has a back-page ‘exclusive’ on Wednesday, on the future of Mauricio Pochettino. ‘POCH PANIC’ is the headline.
‘Pochettino has Tottenham sweating over his delay in signing a bumper new contract,’ Jiggins begins. ‘Spurs have been waiting for weeks for their manager to put pen to paper on a five-year contract extension worth £5million a year plus bonuses.
‘Pochettino, who still has more than three years to run on the deal he signed in 2014, said this month he wants to stay. But he will only hold further talks in the summer because he does not want any interference in his bid to win Spurs their first title since 1961.
‘Club chiefs believe Pochettino, 44, is likely to sign his contract but the wait is making them edgy.’
Mediawatch is struggling to work out which bit of this is ‘exclusive’?
It can’t be that Pochettino hasn’t signed a new deal, because everybody knows that. It can’t be that Pochettino will sign a five-year contract extension worth £5million a year, because everybody reported that a fortnight ago. It can’t be that Pochettino wants to stay, because he said that himself last month. It can’t be that Spurs believe Pochettino will sign a new deal, because – again – Pochettino said that himself last month.
Which leaves Mediawatch with only one option: Jiggins’ exclusive is that Spurs are ‘sweating’.
As for the ‘panic’, we’ve just been told by Jiggins that Pochettino wants to stay and that Spurs think he will stay. Somebody sound the alarm.
Top, top target
‘Leicester star Riyad Mahrez is Arsene Wenger’s top summer target,’ reads the headline on Dan King’s The Sun exclusive on Wednesday. That rang an alarm bell somewhere in the back of Mediawatch’s raddled mind. Ah yes.
‘Arsene Wenger’s top transfer target ready to join Arsenal’ – Daily Express, April 14. That was Granit Xhaka.
‘Arsene Wenger makes Alvaro Morata top summer striker target at Arsenal’ – Daily Telegraph, April 7.
‘Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger ready to pay £10m for top target at West Ham’ – Daily Express, February 12. That was Reece Oxford.
‘Victor Wanyama is Arsenal’s top January transfer target’ – Metro, December 21, 2015.
‘Aleksandr Kokorin remains Arsene Wenger’s top target’ – Daily Mirror, October 8, 2015.
The top of that list is getting awful cluttered.
Wright on time (but a day late)
You may remember Ian Wright’s comments on shirt-pulling from yesterday’s Mediawatch, which included the following lines:
‘When I was playing in the Premier League, being manhandled at corners just wasn’t an issue. Defenders would get touch tight but they wouldn’t have both arms round you, effectively caging you off and stopping you making a run. They wouldn’t have their hand around your neck or be holding your shirt to stop you trying to move into space.’
It’s not the defenders you have to watch, Wrighty…
Mediawatch largely agrees with Martin Samuel’s worries over the future of Marcus Rashford should Manchester United’s next manager buy a big-name striker this summer.
Yet we can’t quite get on board with the tidal wave of sympathy given to Adnan Januzaj, Samuel’s chilling warning in Wednesday’s Daily Mail:
‘So what then happened to Januzaj? Manchester United happened to Januzaj. The peculiar dynamics of the modern elite club happened to Januzaj.’
‘He was the collateral damage of the brand leader United think they should be. Who knows if he will ever find a way through at Old Trafford from here…the following summer, United signed Angel di Maria.’
The comparison does have some flaws. Firstly, Januzaj’s place was hardly simply taken by Di Maria. Januzaj started only two of the final 12 matches of Manchester United’s 2013/14 season, before Di Maria had even joined. There were concerns about his decline towards the end of that first breakthrough season.
More importantly, every single one of Januzaj’s league starts in 2014/15 came alongside Di Maria, not in his stead. How’s that for ‘peculiar dynamics’?
Finally, blaming Manchester United for Januzaj’s lack of progression would hold a little more weight had he not been criticised for his attitude both at United and when afforded an opportunity at Borussia Dortmund this season.
Maybe he was just ‘collateral damage’ in Germany too.
There’s a Star Man
These are the only four mentions of Aleksandar Kolarov in The Sun’s match report from Newcastle United vs Manchester City:
‘Aguero needed a huge stroke of luck to open the scoring as he was a couple of yards offside when Aleksandar Kolarov’s free-kick was curled in from the left.’
‘Sissoko then missed a similar chance for the hosts after picking up Kolarov’s careless pass on halfway and running 50 yards.’
‘The diminutive Dutchman stunned City, the crowd and probably even himself by controlling the pass, cutting inside Kolarov onto his left foot and bending the ball round Hart.’
‘Sub Wijnaldum, who had been dropped for the first time in his Toon career, wriggled free from Kolarov at the end.’
Kolarov was named as The Sun’s Star Man. By way of comparison, no player on the pitch rated worse in the Daily Mirror or Daily Mail.
We’ll ask the question again: Just what are they doing with that Opta data?
What’s the point?
“I felt that when he was fit, he would be at his best – that was my prediction. I hoped that he would stay fit so we would get the best out of him, that was just my simple idea. When he can, he can be the difference between 30-plus points, it is vital for the team” – Per Mertesacker on Mesut Ozil.
“He will save them 12 or 15 points a season. Petr was an unbelievable professional last year” – John Terry on Petr Cech.
So well done, the rest of you. You earned Arsenal 15 points between you.
Sport or Sporf?
— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) April 20, 2016
They’re referring to Soccer Aid…
The first three paragraphs of a MailOnline story:
‘He’ll definitely miss Leicester’s clash against Swansea but it was business as usual for Jamie Vardy during training on Tuesday.
‘The Leicester City striker was in a relaxed mood as he left Leicester City’s Belvoir Drive Training Ground after being put through his paces.
‘The 29-year-old gave a smile as he made his way from the East Midlands base, leaving in his Bentley Continental GT which was understood to have been bought for £168,000.’
God we’ve missed the ‘man goes to work’ scoops.
Ballsy shout of the day
‘United’s forward line is already overcrowded’ – Martin Samuel, Daily Mail.
Yeah, there’s Marcus Rashford, Wayne Rooney (who is playing as a No. 10), Anthony Martial (who plays on the left), erm…
Worst headline of the day
‘Anita to remember’ – The Sun.
Spectacularly fails the pronunciation test.
Recommended reading of the day
Michael Lewis on Alan Hinton
Michael Cox on Tottenham
Adam Bate, also on Tottenham