It’s a great day for dubbing at the Daily Express as Liverpool find a New Sterling while Manchester United have uncovered an unlikely pair who are in fact the heirs to Ronaldo and Rooney. Meanwhile, everyone wants to write about Jude Bellingham, and which former Premier League star took a dump in Saddam Hussein’s gold toilet?
We’re broadly willing to cut everyone some slack during international break. Lord knows it’s hard to keep those clicks rolling in when you suddenly lose both the transfer window AND the Premier League. But there are limits to our benevolence, Daily Express.
‘Liverpool may have their next Raheem Sterling in star who has blown Jurgen Klopp away’
It’s one way of describing Ben Doak, we suppose. We’re not pretending he isn’t a player to get excited about, because any 17-year-old getting any Premier League minutes for a club like Liverpool will grab the attention and have people dreaming of greatness. But what has Doak done since his 13 minutes at the end of a 1-1 draw against Chelsea last month to merit this treatment now? Because apparently Jurgen Klopp is ‘set to be given a selection headache’.
Well this definitely isn’t a slice of interlull filler and shame on you for thinking it might be. Doak played 77 minutes for Scotland Under-21s in a 1-0 defeat to Spain, which will definitely have given Klopp pause for thought about a player he already rates highly enough to have picked in every matchday squad this season.
But why is he the ‘next Raheem Sterling’ specifically? Because he arrived at the club at a young age from another club. QPR and Celtic are basically the same thing, aren’t they? In that they are both football clubs that are not Liverpool?
Joe Krishnan has more:
‘While he probably expected to develop for a few years in the academy, the Glaswegian has made a huge impression. In that sense, he has quickly morphed into Liverpool’s next Sterling, given how he arrived from QPR and it soon became clear he was good enough for the senior team.’
Bit of a reach. Still, not the first time Krishnan has mined this rich, rich seam. For who else could it have been back in July with this headline about the same 17-year-old?
‘Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp may have found his own Jack Grealish in pre-season’
Doak on this occasion had scored in a pre-season friendly against Leicester, which screams Jack Grealish to us, don’t know about you. But what was it about his header against Leicester that had Krishnan reaching for the Grealish dubbing stamp?
‘There wasn’t much of Grealish to spot in his goal against Leicester.’
Oh. Still, though. The next Sterling and the next Grealish. No pressure.
There’s nothing new about dubbing. There have been New Maradonas for very nearly as long as there has been Maradona. But it’s clearly a tactic the Express have decided to dust off, because elsewhere on their website today is this.
‘Man Utd have new Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney as Erik ten Hag hits the jackpot’
Now what’s great about this one is that in one way it’s nowhere near as big a reach as these things usually are but that also in another way makes it even more absurd.
Let us explain. If you’re familiar with this particular flavour of clickbait headline, you’re probably expecting the story beneath it to be about a couple of teenagers who show plenty of promise, might have made it as far as the first-team bench a time or two, or appeared in some pre-season games, who may or may not make it at Manchester United, but almost certainly wouldn’t be as good in any case as two of Manchester United’s best and most decorated players ever.
But it isn’t even that. It’s somehow better/worse than that. Because the ‘new Ronaldo and Rooney’ here are none other than Bruno Fernandes and Rasmus Hojlund.
Bruno Fernandes we can just about allow as something approaching a new Ronaldo for United. In dubbing terms anyway, if not in actual newness given how long he’s been there. But that is an absurd claim about poor Rasmus Hojlund, a 20-year-old who has scored precisely 18 league goals in his career to date – nine of those in the Austrian Bundesliga – and who appears doomed to be set targets so high that he is almost doomed to failure. Hojlund turns 21 in February. For comparison, Rooney scored 30 Premier League goals before turning 21 as well as taking a starring role at Euro 2004 for England. Hojlund has enough on his plate with the Haaland comparisons, let’s not add Rooney to the conversation.
‘If the duo click this season, Ten Hag will have his own Ronaldo and Rooney.’
Rarely have we seen an ‘if’ doing more heavy lifting than here.
‘Nothing can be guaranteed in football, but United may soon learn they have struck gold.’
Fair to say that conclusion is more equivocal than the headline.
On the subject of Hojlund, the MEN show no signs of slowing down in their bizarre yet determined mission to declare the £72m signing (nine Serie A goals for Atalanta, one vaguely promising cameo in defeat for Manchester United) a startling coup.
We promise there’s no trickery on our part here; these sentences genuinely appear one after the other in a story that aims to prove Hojlund shouting ‘We are going to the f****** Euros! F****** come on’ into a megaphone on international duty means he represents money well spent.
‘Manchester United extensively scouted Rasmus Hojlund and found he possessed something money can’t buy: personality.
‘The club invested £72m to sign Hojlund…’
Spare a thought for Ian Ladyman, handed second pick of features by the Mail for last night’s England win over Scotland.
With Oliver Holt pulling rank and taking the obvious ‘Jude Bellingham is mint’ line, Ladyman had to make do with the lesser ‘Phil Foden is also good’ sidebar.
Didn’t let that stop him, though. Here are the first five paragraphs of a feature that is, remember, about excellent footballer Phil Foden.
‘At half-time of a game England had dominated with ridiculous ease, Jude Bellingham and Phil Foden walked off the field together.
‘First there was an arm round the shoulder from the taller man. Then there was one of those clasped handshakes that tennis players tend to give at the net. Brothers in arms for England. For the next ten years or more hopefully.
‘They are different players, these two, and Bellingham, the younger man, looks and feels further ahead in terms of his development at international level. He is only 20 and before this game had only scored a single goal for his country.
‘But such is his talent and the confidence given him by his move to Real Madrid, he already looks ready to own every single football field he ever walks on to.
‘At times here, he was far too skilful, purposeful and powerful for any of the players in blue who desperately bustled around him. By full-time, he had a goal, an assist and went to stand before the England supporters like a footballer more than aware of his own standing, his own majesty.’
We get it. We’d rather have had the Bellingham gig, too.
Holt drifts off topic too, though, taking time out from righteous praise of Bellingham for some defiant defence of Gareth Southgate. Absolutely fine. And it’s perfectly possible to launch a strong defence of Southgate’s England reign based on actual things that have happened. We’ve done so plenty of times, even if he has currently pissed us off a bit.
Holt, though, can’t help reaching for an unnecessary straw man to help him along.
‘Some England fans would rather have a high-profile manager and an unsuccessful team. It is a strange bargain they want to strike.’
Quite literally no England fans would rather have this. Not one England fan who finds Southgate’s tactics disappointingly conservative or cautious wants the team to be less successful instead. They want a higher-profile or at least more progressive manager because they think it would make England’s enormously exciting group of enormously exciting players even better than they are under Southgate.
Now you can very easily disagree with that in a ‘careful what you wish for’ way, but not with this bollocks about wanting the team to be less successful. It’s a ‘strange bargain’, Ollie, because it’s one absolutely nobody wants to ‘strike’. As you well know.
All sit down
‘Sit down, shut up, get back in your box, Bellingham seemed to be saying,’ reckons Dave Kidd in The Sun, quite literally putting words in Bellingham’s mouth.
We watched it back. All he actually said was ‘Vamos!’
‘Liverpool AXE senior star from their Europa League squad as wonderkid is named in Reds’ 23-man ‘List A’ squad’ parps the Daily Mail, breathlessly.
It’s third-choice goalkeeper Adrian.
Headline of the Day
‘LOVE AT FIRST SH*TE: Ex-Premier League star took dump in Saddam Hussein’s golden bog on visit to Iraq with Playboy model’
The Daily Star smash it out of the park. Neil Ruddock, if you’re wondering. Leah Newman, if you’re still wondering.
‘”We’d been told about this beforehand and as soon as we found it I asked Leah to leave the room,” he wrote in his autobiography, The World According to Razor. “‘Why?’ she asked. ‘Because I want to take a dump in Saddam Hussein’s bog’. She didn’t need asking twice.
‘”When I was halfway through I got lonely so I asked Leah if she’d come in and take a photo of me reading a newspaper on this bog and she very kindly obliged.”‘
Reader, she married him.