How are Liverpool in Champions League final without Messi?

Date published: Tuesday 14th May 2019 11:18

BARCELONA, SPAIN - MAY 01: Virgil van Dijk of Liverpool looks on as Lionel Messi of Barcelona controls the ball during the UEFA Champions League Semi Final first leg match between Barcelona and Liverpool at the Nou Camp on May 01, 2019 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

Messi business
Mediawatch could delve into Stan Collymore’s insistence that he does not ‘accept for one moment the widely-held view that this has been the greatest Premier League title race we’ve ever seen’. He offers no alternative that has been better – even though he claims this one was ‘not even close’ to the best – but it’s a subjective view and the man is entitled to his opinion. However ridiculous.

His theory, by the way, is that only two teams were really any good, so it cannot have been a great title race.

‘For City to lose just four games and Liverpool, in second, only one is ridiculously good from those two teams but what does it say about the rest of the division?

‘Chelsea, meanwhile, lost eight games, Arsenal and Manchester United lost 10, and Tottenham a whopping 12.’

(It’s 13 but who’s counting? Well, apart from the Premier League…)

‘Or, put another way for Spurs, about a third of their games.

‘In a truly great season, those four teams would only be losing four or five times and pushing City and Liverpool far harder than they did.’

What Stan is describing is a Premier League title race that has literally never happened. Only once in 26 years have even four teams lost five or fewer games, never mind the six he demands for a ‘truly great season’. He is comparing this season with an entirely mythical season snatched from his own imagination.

So we delved a little. Forgive us.

But really, we want to talk about Collymore’s insistence that Manchester City need to ‘bring in two or three stars with Champions League-winning experience’ in order to, well, win the Champions League.

He suggests Lionel Messi, Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci. But can anybody spot the slight flaw in this argument given the make-up of the teams that could actually, you know, win the Champions League this season?

Five points if you have spotted that City have been knocked out of the Champions League by a team containing exactly zero Champions League winners.

And another five points if you have spotted that they will now face another in the final who boast the grand total of two Champions League winners, neither of whom actually played in their finals and neither of whom are likely to play in this one.

Mediawatch suspects that City, who only possible weakness is that three key players are over 30, will be just fine without signing a collection of 30-plus players who have already fallen to the ‘losers’ of Liverpool and Tottenham.


Say I’m your number one
‘Manchester United have made Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly their No1 transfer target this summer’ – John Cross, Daily Mirror.

‘United’s top transfer target this summer remains Borussia Dortmund’s £100m-rated England forward Jado (sic) Sancho, who left Manchester City last summer’ – David McDonnell, Daily Mirror.

Perhaps the pair of them could have had a chat before they collaborated on the Daily Mirror’s back page.


Money, money, money
That Daily Mirror back page is a wonderful flyer based on two completely different transfer stories written by two writers, with a bit of careless mathematics thrown in. Is it the summer already?

Cross writes that Kalidou Koulibaly ‘will cost more than the £75m Liverpool splashed out on Virgil van Dijk’ while McDonnell says that United ‘are weighing up a £45million move for Lille striker Nicolas Pepe this summer’.

And what does ‘more than £75m’ and £45m make? ‘OLE’S £125M UNITED REBUILD’ that’s what. Hmmm, we’re really not sure that two players constitutes a ‘rebuild’. Or that Carlo Ancelotti – who recently valued Koulibaly at £130m – could really be tempted by a rather vague bid of ‘more than £75m’ just because all defender transfer fees must now be measured in Van Dijks.


Ask Ole
Manchester United are not very good; Neil Ashton of The Sun has spotted this. So does he think Ole Gunnar Solskjaer should be sacked? Well, kind of; what he is actually advocating is that Manchester United ask Ole Gunnar Solskjaer if he should be sacked. It would be innovative at least.

‘IF Ed Woodward had anything about him he would pull Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in today and ask his Manchester United manager if they made a mistake appointing him.

‘Depending on the reflex reaction, United’s exec vice-chairman would be entitled to make an immediate decision on his future.’

Hie reflex reaction would probably be to say ‘that question basically makes no sense’. Then what would Woodward do?


C-c-c-c-called a u-turn
Of course, Neil Ashton has really gone to town on a manager who has been ‘overwhelmed’ by the job. Apparently he ‘looked lost’ on Sunday against Cardiff.

‘The badge on the breast pocket, with its history, its significance and its global recognition, means so much to him.

‘It can only get the manager so far.’

Really? If only Ashton had thought that less than two months ago when he wrote that ‘this is a Zinedine Zidane-style appointment, Solskjaer’s standing increasing the sense of belonging’.

So, to be clear, it’s a great appointment (‘United, the club where he won six Premier League titles, two FA Cups and, famously, the Champions League in 1999, is home again’) until the minute it seems like a terrible appointment (‘this appointment has already turned into a catastrophe’), at which point you can pretend you absolutely never thought it would work in the first place.


Rock of ages
Wow. The Daily Mirror‘s Mike ‘zany’ Walters would be proud of the job The Sun‘s Martin Blackburn has done with the snippet of information that City were gifted special rock in the dressing-room at Brighton on Sunday. He somehow ekes 27 paragraphs from that nugget, including…

* ‘The Manchester City dressing room was Rocking…’

* ‘Speaking of rock, Oasis legend and City fan Noel Gallagher turned up…’

* ‘And how fitting those celebrations were – as City have been solid as a rock…’

And last/very much least:

* ‘On Sunday evening on the flight back from Manchester, Guardiola was snapped next to the newly-retained trophy with his laptop out. No doubt he was plotting how to beat Rock-et man Elton John’s favourites Watford on Saturday.’

What a c-rock of shit.


Bare necessities
Elsewhere, Martin Blackburn is urging us not to ‘forget City have got by for much of this season without injury-hit star Kevin de Bruyne, while record £60million signing Mahrez has hardly played’.

He has ‘hardly played’ to the tune of 2,496 minutes of football this season, less than just 11 other City players and rather more than Nicolas Otamendi, Gabriel Jesus and Vincent Kompany. He must be feeling sprightly.


The story is a-changin’

Three days later…

Mediawatch hopes that the Daily Mirror’s ‘northern football and boxing writer’ is a little better at spotting punches.


The BAME game
Chris Hughton was sacked on Monday. He was sacked because his Brighton side picked up just 11 points from 18 Premier League games in 2019. He was sacked because Brighton spent over £70m on new signings this season and yet only one of them – Martin Montoya – started over half their Premier League games. He was sacked because teams who finish 17th one season tend to struggle against relegation the next. He was sacked because the underlying figures of their season suggest that they had actually over-performed by finishing 17th.

He was not sacked because he is black.

Dave Kidd of The Sun acknowledges this, writing that ‘nobody is suggesting that those who sacked Hughton or Moore were racially motivated’. But then why write that ‘we know that, far too often, the managers whose sackings genuinely shock you tend to be the black ones’? Why even mention Hughton’s colour if you claim that his colour was absolutely not an issue? Why group Hughton’s sacking with that of Darren Moore, ousted by West Brom in March?

You can argue (wrongly, we believe) that ‘Hughton’s record has earned the right to lead a summer rebuild’ even though his club has spent £10m-plus on five players over the last two years, only one of which – Davy Propper – has established himself in Brighton’s first team. You can also argue (wrongly, we believe, again) that Brighton should care little for ‘poor entertainment’ and ‘negative’ football because they have survived.

But what you should not argue – or even suggest – is that this has anything at all to do with the colour of Hughton’s skin.

Oh and writing that Moore should have been spared because ‘results on the road were excellent’ looks a little ridiculous when his final away game as West Brom boss was a 4-0 thwacking at Leeds. Moore had picked up 11 points in his last eight games as manager; that they picked up 16 in the following eight to secure a play-off spot has been lost in the notion that ‘brutal’ only happens to black managers. Try telling that to Claude Puel.


Hyperbole of the day
‘Cowardly Brighton throw a good man onto the street’ – The Times.

He’ll probably just get a job in the Championship instead.


Recommended reading of the day
Daniel Storey on why Brighton were right to sack Chris Hughton

David Squires on that title race

Miguel Delaney on what Liverpool can learn from ‘beautiful failure’


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