The one thing that might stop Messi joining Man City…

Date published: Friday 7th February 2020 9:09

Get yourself in the afternoon Mailbox:…

Messi to Man City?
One thing that makes me think Messi to Man City won’t ever happen is the language barrier. Obviously it wouldn’t be a problem with Pep and a few of his teammates, but I speak Spanish and have seen Messi do quite a few interviews over the years. The times where either English has come up or someone has prompted him to say something in English, he looks profoundly uncomfortable.

The most recent example was at the most recent Ballon d’Or (or one of the other big awards) where the presenter interviews Cristiano Ronaldo in (perfect, articulate) English across Messi’s lap (then translates to Messi under her breath). He looked like he wanted Smithers to come by and shoot a grappling hook into the ceiling and pull him up like he did for Mr Burns in the “Burns Casino” Simpsons’ classic.

It goes without saying that is armchair psychology of the worst, most uninformed kind, however, it is pretty noticeable the few times you see someone like Leo Messi look uncomfortable. But I do think that, in the back of his mind, he’d feel expected to pick up some of the language, especially living in the same city as Ronaldo once did. It’s much easier to pick up a foreign language as a kid in a football academy than it would be as an established superstar with dozens of commitments and a family, but I’d be surprised if someone as competitive as Messi would want to invite the comparison and then, to lean on an excuse like that.

Then again, if the Emirate of Abu Dhabi offered to make him the first footballer on £1,000,000 per week, he might decide to trade Spain for Manchester and use that money on a really good translator.
Ian, LFC Hartford, CT USA


Fabricated counterattacks
I’m happy to see an analysis of Liverpool’s “long ball” tactics in the mailbox since it’s something I’ve been thinking about for a while.

During the Man City game at Anfield in the fall, when Salah headed the ball in after two pinpoint long passes from Alexander-Arnold and Robertson, the commentator on NBCSN shouted “brilliant counterattacking football from Liverpool!”. This wasn’t quite right though, since Liverpool HAD the ball prior to this phase of play, save for one errant pass from Lovren that was intercepted but immediately returned to Liverpool’s possession.

It was an understandable mistake, and one that led me to realize that Liverpool have figured out a way to use their hyper-accurate diagonal cross-field passes to fabricate “counterattacks” during normal attacking play. Typical counterattacks are more reactive in nature, and often a product of serendipity and opportunism. The unpredictable nature of counterattacks is one reason they are so exciting for fans. Liverpool have completely upended this by forcing “counterattacks” on their opponents rather than waiting and reacting to counterattacking opportunities as teams usually do.

If teams decide to devote defensive resources to stop fabricated counterattacks via these cross-field diagonals, then it likely opens up the middle of the field and gives more space for Firmino to drop in, collect the ball, and have extra time to deliver defense-splitting passes to Mane and Salah. In other words, it allows Liverpool to use their guile instead to break down the opponent.

Liverpool certainly do have a lot of ways to hurt you.
Chris, Chicago, LFC


Dier straits
Following up on Sam’s conclusions after Spurs v Saints.

Eric Dier … boy, where to start. He has looked completely out of sorts ever since his appendix operation in late 2018. Constantly battling illness and never looking even remotely fit when he’s been available. He needs to take the time out to find out how to get well again, because he will never get back to the player he has shown he can be, a Spurs and England lynchpin, when his body keeps playing games with him.

Also, seeing Vertonghen looking distraught after being taken off reminded me of Gary Neville in his retirement season. It was as if he had a sudden realisation that his body couldn’t cope any more. He’s been our second best defender in the PL era (behind Ledley King, of course) and one of the finest players I’ve seen grace the shirt but sadly the time has come to say goodbye.
Martin (the rebuild has started but there’s a long way to go yet), THFC


Do England need three midfielders?
Thinking of Will Ford’s piece on England’s midfield, is it really necessary that England use 3 midfielders? It’s not the only way of using pace on the flanks. Given the lack of suitable midfielders, I’d go with this:

Sterling/Rashford Kane/Vardy Sancho/Sterling

Oxlade-Chamberlain Henderson

Chilwell Maguire Stones Gomez TAA

These are all “ball-playing” centre-backs so they can work with Henderson and Ox to retain and cycle possession, using the forward-bombing full-backs and wingers as the attacking impetus and Ox as a plan B attack from midfield. Maddison as a false 9 was an interesting idea I saw somewhere on F365 too, if Kane isn’t back and Vardy is truly retired from the international team. Of course given the previous mixed results of having an England team with 3 CBs, Mr. Ford might just be right about the certainty of Southgate’s 3 man-midfield…
Anser (only an England fan if Henderson is captain), Toronto


Copa load of this
For years I’ve avoided Spanish domestic football like the plague owing to the infuriating time wasting and play acting adopted by Real and Barca in the champions league. However, since the winter break has turned English top flight football into a dead zone and I have consequently read one too many articles about Adam Lallana’s “crazy” holiday in Miami, I decided to tune into the Copa del Rey quarterfinals to get my footy fix.

My god it was fun! Firstly Barca and Real M both lost, which is always amusing. Real Madrid even managed to ship four goals at home owing to some truly shambolic defending. However the tie of the round involved Mirandés (11th in the Segunda division) beat villarreal 4-2. Pro tip, go watch the highlights as it’s so heartwarming to see the Mirandés fans lose it at full time. As a bonus you’ll get to see Santi Carzola roll back the years.

Consequently, non of the big teams are left in the tournament and it will now be a four way tussle between Mirandés, Bilbao, Granada, and Sociedad. The last time any one of these teams won the tournament was 1984. Who said the magic of the cup is dead?
Oliver, London, LFC


What might’ve been
Oh my, as a Chelsea fan this is going to be a huge painful experience, but here is our strongest side if we hadn’t sold certain players

GK: Thibaut Courtois

LB: Filipe Luis
CB: Nathan Ake
CB: Antonio Rudiger
RB: Reece James

CDM: Ngolo Kante
CDM: Jorginho
CAM: Kevin De Bruyne

LW: Eden Hazard
RW: Mo Salah

ST: Romelu Lukaku

Subs: Bulka, Azpilicueta, Declan Rice, Mata, Kovacic and Abraham
Mikey, CFC (Tried to focus mainly on players we sold over current ones)


…Er, I’m not sure if Lee had been bitten (or not)… but surely Lee does not forget Luis Suarez for Liverpool? And Raheem £terling? Suarez did the work of 2 – despite missing 4-6 matches from yes, biting, he had 31 goals and 12 assists. And he didn’t even take penos – Stevie G did!

As for whether this LFC side is the greatest, I dunno – greatest always has a longevity component for me. Repeat champs at least. One season wonders don’t count. But I would submit that this LFC side are having maybe the greatest season. Just like Man City did 2 seasons ago and had everyone wondering who could even compete.

The greatest joy for me is seeing this LFC side, constructed of £80 mil net spend, wipe the floor with City, constructed of £480 mil net spend. Klopp is a god… and so’s Michael Edwards for the analytics scouting and FSG for the full-fledged support).

Compare that with their counterparts: Glazers (have taken way more money out than put in), Ed Woodward (brilliant business manager who knows as much about football as I know about taking a free kick), Ole (best manager ever …. for Liverpool fans lol. He’s even a closet LFC supporter growing up!).

And to Fergie again: you didn’t knock us off. We fell off ourselves – by appointing Souness, then Rick Parry, who sold us for 30 pieces of silver to the Yankee cowboys… just like you’ve now fallen off yourselves with the Glazers, Ed and Ole…

Good time to be an lfc fan.


five-aside teams who share a birthday 
March 21
Ronald Koeman – Sweeper Keeper.
Jordi Alba – Defense.
Lothar Matthaus – Midfield.
Antoine Griezmann & Ronaldinho – Attack
Can even have a bench of Ali Daei, Michu and …. ….. Lee Cattermole.
(haven’t read the mailbox in years) disGUSting

Baz did ask about Brexit, so I hope he’s ready for long answers that are a waffling way of saying “Don’t Know”.

Couple of things to bear in mind is the FA is a member of UEFA and UEFA is a member of FIFA. Irrespective of national laws, we all play under FIFA and UEFA rules.

Bosnan ruling. Probably won’t be impacted as the decision was based on UEFA rules. Contracts and transfers are therefore set to UEFA standards and so FA (SFA) will have to comply with those if it is to stay a member of UEFA. For example, Israel is not part of the EU, but is a UEFA member and so has to follow UEFA and FIFA rules.
Visas. That is something outside of football and is a national requirement, so yes, they will and probably to the same current standards for non-EU players. However, remember that while gone from EU, UK is still in the transition period and is aligned to EU regulations and movement of people. So no immediate impact, and there could be a deal done that relaxes and has less stringent working requirements for EU nationals. It’s very likely that some form of deal will be done, probably much to the chagrin of the frothing Farages of this world, as too much industry depends on EU workers. Like with football, the employer usually bears the costs and administration of the visas, and UK (in all the pre-Brexit discussions and proposals) has made it clear it wants a deal on movement of labour.
However, FIFA can be the stick in the wheels here. There is an exemption for the EU based on its freedom of movement from FIFA with regards to certain things. FIFA has said that this will no longer apply to the UK as of the end of the transition period. It seems no matter what deal is done, that exemption will end for UK teams.

Don’t know the full impact, but it will definitely halt the ability to by under 18 players from outside UK. So City, Chelsea, et al signing every half talented EU 16 year old will have to stop. It seems the summer will be the very last window to do that. Some may see that as a positive (it could be), but it will affect the likes of Ireland whereby players and clubs depend on the movement of young Irish players to UK clubs. Even though UK and Ireland have a separate Common Travel Agreement that predates the EU, FIFA has said it won’t recognise any such arrangements.

Plenty of stuff to still come out in the wash on this. Some might be ok due to UEFA rules, but UK will be like Israel, stuck in that zone of UEFA members, but not beneficiaries of the EU movement of labour exemptions.


…Like Baz from Glasgow, I have a question about Fooxit… kind of. If we were to suddenly go back to old “Three Foreigners” Rule, where teams could only field three non-English (or non-assimilated) players in European (or – to take it a step further – domestic) competition, which three players would you want your team to keep, if it meant selling or benching the rest?

It’s interesting enough when you look at the Big Seven…

Liverpool: Allison, Van Dijk, Mane?
Manchester City: David Silva, Aguero, Jesus?
Leicester: Schmeichel, Soyuncu, Tielemans?
Chelsea: Recall all your loan players?
Spurs: Lloris, Bergwijn, Son?
Manchester United: Sell De Gea, Pogba and Martial and get Ed Woodward to put on his shinnies?
Arsenal: Prepare for Championship Football?

… but what about everybody else?

Mark, Ajax


Once upon a time
Was watching the Liam Gallagher Eric Cantona video “Once”. Maybe the rivalry is truly in its death throes as back in the day City fans hated anything to do with Man United.

It reminded me when I was a kid and a friend was decorating his bedroom. He had early Premiership jerseys of Bergkamp, Zola, and Ginola. I asked him where’s Cantona and he said he can’t stomach United.

He did eventually find a compromise. He got a Cantona away shirt from 95/96. That famously cursed grey jersey that United never won wearing!!
Steve (Norwich)


Friends with benefits
One of my all time favourite retorts from rival fans was from a few years ago when Wigan were still a Premier League club.

I’ve never liked the chant so didn’t join in but some Arsenal fans chose to sing ‘We pay your benefits at the Wigan fans’.

To this, the Wigan fans replied with ‘You pay our benefits’ – and to be fair, were greeted with a round of applause from the Arsenal faithful.
Graham Simons, Gooner, Norf London


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