It was quite uncomfortable viewing at the time, David Jones shuffling in his seat and moving the conversation on quickly with a sharp intake of breath. But seven months later, the only awkward sensation is just how prescient Graeme Souness’s words were.
After discussing the “slight alarm bells” set off by Juventus letting Moise Kean join Everton, the mysterious “other issues” behind the sale and an inference that “off-the-field activities are not the best” came the most problematic part: a comparison with Emmanuel Adebayor.
And there is no doubt he realised the implications. There was a point during his monologue that Souness started a sentence – “It’s a bit like…there’s…” – before piercing it with a deep sigh and losing his trail of thought. It was as if he saw the backlash, the memes, the connotations, and decided against it in that moment.
He returned to the topic about 15 seconds later, ploughing ahead with the Adebayor equivalence and finishing with, “right away, you’re thinking he’s not selling him because he’s not a very good football player, it’s because there’s something not quite right with him.”
The response was one of outrage, confusion and anger, annoyance that a public platform had been used for such baseless claims.
Only a fool would argue against it now.
Jack Grealish taught us two things roughly one month ago: many footballers have been cossetted and closeted from the outside world for too long to be trusted when left to their own devices; and they are experts in publicly preparing their own rope.
In March, Kean appeared in a video posted on Mino Raiola’s Instagram page imploring people to “team up”, “win this game”, “respect the rules”, “follow the instructions” and “be close to each other while staying at a distance”. The Everton forward joined a number of other players in donating equipment to hospitals in Italy, the country most impacted by the global pandemic.
Stories of his altruism extended locally, with Kean phoning an Everton season-ticket holder in remission from cancer treatment on Mother’s Day as part of the club’s Blue Family campaign.
It is their excellent work – and that of other clubs helping their communities as best they can – that is most undermined, of course, by revelations of the 20-year-old hosting a ‘quarantine clean’ gathering at his apartment. An idiotic act, no doubt, trumped only by his own posting of it on social media.
And it really is little wonder that Everton are so “appalled” that they will impose upon him the strongest punishment possible.
Not that a fine of two weeks’ salary will have much of an impact. Carlo Ancelotti’s pleas to show the NHS “respect by doing everything we can to protect them” has had no effect on the player, nor have the 20,000 deaths in the United Kingdom alone. The importance of the situation is lost on many, regardless of age or wage, who resent being told what to do, no matter that it is in their best interests.
This is just an extreme example of insolence at a time when sacrifice is required. No-one is thriving in the circumstances, enjoying themselves and revelling in the restrictions. But most are adhering to guidelines for the betterment of society.
When footballers refuse to, they feed into their own stereotypes. They give rise to those negative perceptions and provide foundation for lazy cliché to become more matter of fact. They think only of themselves and offer justification for the likes of Matt Hancock to target them.
The selfishness of the few – Kean, Grealish, Kyle Walker, Serge Aurier – come to overshadow the selflessness of the many, of Jordan Henderson, Harry Maguire and those others donating time and money to the cause.
And in the case of Kean, it makes what was once a harsh and bizarre character assassination seem perfectly measured and vindicated. An apology is needed – both from him and to Souness. You were absolutely right. Sorry.