Mediawatch special: ‘Football man’ Souness right on Kean

Matt Stead

Graeme crackers
As a man who once described John Terry’s use of the words “f***ing black c***” in reference to Anton Ferdinand as ‘utterly meaningless’ because it was an exchange between two people, Martin Samuel certainly is the go-to man for any and every thought on matters concerning race issues in football.

‘The words may be offensive but they do not go anywhere,’ he said of the Terry incident, which is not a defence the Daily Mail chief sports writer can use with regards to Graeme Souness’s words on Moise Kean. He said them on Sky Sports, for crying out loud.

‘Isn’t it a pity when bad things happen to perfectly confected Twitter storms?’ begins old man shouting at cloud.

‘Take Graeme Souness’s comments about Moise Kean. He expressed shock that Juventus had been prepared to sell such a fine young player, at 19, to Everton. He is not alone in that.’

He actually expressed his thoughts that “slight alarm bells are going off in my head”, his belief that “there’ll be other issues there”, his insistence that Juventus “are happy to see him out the door”, his inference that Kean’s “off-the-field activities are not the best”, his suggestion that “there’s something not quite right with him” and his comparison with fellow…striker…Emmanuel Adebayor.

‘Shock’ doesn’t quite cover all that.

‘There was widespread surprise that one of the best young talents in Europe was allowed to leave.’

Absolutely. There was. But that ‘widespread surprise’ was directed at the selling club, not in questioning the player with no basis whatsoever.

‘Kean had rejected a new contract with a year left on his current deal but even so, Juventus had 12 months to work on him and it wasn’t as if Everton’s money was a game changer. Tottenham might feel resentful at missing out on £80million for Christian Eriksen but Kean cost roughly £26m. Juventus could surely have gambled on their powers of persuasion with those margins.’

Juventus are currently struggling to find opportunities to play Paulo Dybala, a considerably more experienced and, at this stage, better forward than Kean. Mario Mandzukic has not played a single minute. It turns out that Cristiano Ronaldo is quite the obstacle to first-team chances in Turin. So why keep someone because they are young if you can get £26m for him now and ease the financial pressure posed by a gargantuan wage bill?

Juve had the chance to sell a non-starter with 12 months left on his contract – one that he did not intend to renew – for £26m to a team in another country, and therefore not a direct rival. That does not translate to ‘oh, he must be a problem in the dressing room, then’. It was a sound business decision, albeit one based on the present instead of the future.

‘Souness’s mistake was to speculate that there was a motivating issue around Kean, off-field.’

Souness’s mistake was to speculate at all. It is his job to do the research, to know precisely what he is talking about. In this instance, it was incredibly dangerous and damaging not to.

Except Souey knew exactly what he was talking about. Or at least had an idea. Apparently.

‘Souness might have been doing Kean a disservice, of course. He didn’t seem to have off-field issues at Juventus. Yet Souness is a football man and football men hear things.’

The ‘football man’ defence! Praise be!

‘They mix in insider circles. Maybe Souness was putting two and two together and getting five, maybe he was just repeating knowledge gleaned.’

Maybe he went off on a tangent on something he knew absolutely sod all about. Mediawatch is sh*t at maths but putting two and two together does not tend to equal “there’s something not quite right with him”.

‘The reaction, however, did not entertain for one second that a man who had played and managed across Europe might be better informed than the average keyboard warrior.’

Finally. It took a while but it’s time to shift the blame onto ‘the average keyboard warrior’. Fight the good fight, Martin. None of them are ‘football men’, right? Nerds.

‘Souness, the man who brought Mark Walters to Rangers, was racist. Souness made presumptions about Kean because he was black.’

‘I can’t be racist because I was a black man’s boss’ is a spectacular defence. And Mediawatch is not for one second saying that Souness is racist whatsoever, just that he shouldn’t employ Martin Samuel as his legal counsel.

‘Then Roberto Mancini revealed that Kean and team-mate Nicolo Zaniolo had been left out of Italy’s squad for the Euro 2020 qualifiers because they turned up late for a team meeting at the European Under 21 Championship in the summer. It’s not the crime of the century but maybe Souness had indeed heard some vague detail around that.’

So hearing ‘some vague detail’ about being omitted from a senior squad for turning up late to a youth-team meeting gives Souness the divine right to postulate about a player’s character, mentality and professionalism? Sure.

‘Given his background it is certainly possible he knows a few people in Italian football.’

Given his background he shouldn’t have been tricked into signing someone after being told he was George Weah’s cousin. His ‘background’ in a country where he last worked three years before Moise Kean was even born has little relevance to his criticism of Moise Kean.

‘More than the average Twitter user in all likelihood although, in our push-button world, we are conditioned to treat all opinions as equal these days.’

Because ‘the average Twitter user’ definitely has an ‘equal’ platform to someone on Sky Sports. @GylfiPleasure or @RicharliSonsCrying can tweet their thoughts out to 10,000 followers; Souness’s words reached hundreds of thousands on Sky Sports and stretched into the millions on social media and elsewhere. The imbalance is stark.

Graeme Souness might have known what he was talking about when he criticised Moise Kean. He might have heard something, he might have based his opinions on fact, and he might not have deserved all the subsequent flak he has received. He also might have issued an incredibly irresponsible character assassination of a player he has never and probably will never meet, making a series of damaging, speculative accusations and dressing it up as inside knowledge. The latter seems more likely.

Just stick with the ‘utterly meaningless’ defence next time you want to play devil’s advocate for ‘a football man’, Martin. It’s much easier.


Journey south
‘Gareth Southate has set his players the target of a perfect record in their Euro qualifiers’ – Daily Mirror.

‘Gareth Southgate set his England players a target of winning all EIGHT Euro 2020 qualifiers’ – The Sun.

The kicker? None of the stories contain any actual quotes.

England, World Cup and Nations League semi-finalists, were placed fourth in the latest FIFA rankings. Their Euro 2020 qualifying group contains Czech Republic (43), Montenegro (55), Bulgaria (60) and Kosovo (120). They have won their first two games 5-0 and 5-1.

Gareth Southgate would be stupid and naive not to set his England players a target of winning six more games against considerably inferior opposition.


Great Dane
The future of Christian Eriksen remains a mystery. Will he stay at Tottenham? Join Manchester United? Move to Juventus, Atletico Madrid or Barcelona? Retire to do everyone a favour and end the infernal speculation?

You might think that, with all relevant transfer windows shut and September well underway, there are no real updates to provide on the midfielder. But you would be a fool: this is an international week and transfer news is still the only worthwhile currency.

Over to you, Daily Mirror:

‘Christian Eriksen looks set to leave Spurs on a free transfer next summer – and that could rule out a move to Real Madrid.’

Oh, really. That sounds strange and intriguing. Why would him being available on a free transfer ‘rule out a move to Real Madrid’?

Do go on…

‘The Spanish giants rarely sign free transfers because they do not believe in the system and always look for spectacular signings.’

They ‘do not believe’ in the idea of free agency? Do they also think jet fuel doesn’t melt steel beams?

The idea that Real would only want Eriksen if he was an expensive ‘spectacular signing’, and are now put off because he would be a free agent next summer, is baffling.

‘They recruited Japanese teenager Takefusa Kubo, 18, on a free this summer and also got Hamit Altintop from Bayern Munich in 2011, as well as Christoph Metzelder, Jerzy Dudek and Javier Saviola in the past.’

And Champions League-winning Albert Celades, La Liga champion Luis Enrique and, rather controversially, Luis Milla from Barcelona. Don’t forget them.

‘But Eriksen was not near the top of Real’s wish list this summer and there is a belief that they will not pursue a free signing of the midfielder.’

So they were never actually that interested in him anyway; it has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that Real turn their nose up at free transfers that will ‘rule out’ him joining.

It really is the most ridiculous manufactured reason for not pursuing a transfer that Mediawatch has heard in some time. Have they never heard of Steve McManaman?