IS SACKING KOEMAN REALLY A GOOD IDEA?
Let’s break this down. The cash-strapped giants may be seven points behind league leaders Atletico Madrid with two games left of the La Liga season to play, but they have also undergone one of the most turbulent seasons – if not the most turbulent season – in their history.
Lionel Messi’s threats to leave, a chaotic protracted presidential election and the doomed plot to become part of a European Super League are all frankly wild stories that have dominated Barca’s season amid a condensed schedule.
Yet despite the madness Koeman – with essentially no money – can be credited with restoring at least part of the club’s identity, handing valuable minutes to impressive youngsters Pedri, Oscar Mingueza, Sergino Dest, Riqui Puig, Ilaix Moriba and Francisco Trincao while also getting his team to play their most attractive football in years.
The results have not been sparkling this campaign under the Dutchman – although he did win a Copa del Rey let’s not forget – and Xavi is a club legend, but it is highly questionable to suggest leading Al Sadd to a domestic double in Qatar merits you experienced or credible enough to be placed in charge of one of the most supported clubs in the world. If this season should have taught us anything, it’s that hiring a legend because he is a legend does not guarantee any form of success.
Perhaps newly-appointed president Joan Laporta should stop flexing his political muscles and quit the PR move of a pointless managerial switch to prevent risking further disharmony. Whatever the outcome, it is set to be another heady summer in sunny Barcelona.
PSG ready to pounce for Lewandowski this summer – Euro Papers
THE HARRY KANE SAGA: IT BEGINS
Tottenham released a statement in response to the reports saying: “Our focus is on finishing the season as strongly as possible. That’s what everyone should be focused on.” So it sounds like he probably is going to leave them this summer.
At the peak of his powers and with a European Championship to put himself in the shop window once again, Kane should have plenty of high-profile suitors in the upcoming transfer window. But with all of the world’s top clubs’ finances heavily impacted in the last year and Daniel Levy’s unrelenting love for being stingy means any such deal will likely be drawn out and complicated. Perhaps more complicated than it will ever need to be.
Chelsea, Manchester United and Manchester City look to be the clubs who could do with a traditional number nine the most, but this will very likely – as with most things – come down to which high-profile outfit offers Kane the most money. Having Kane in your side should result in a trophy or two for whichever big club gets the deal done.
Tottenham Hotspur striker Harry Kane
Image credit: Getty Images
THE PLAY-OFFS ARE UNDERWAY!
The Championship play-off semi-finals got off to typically cagey starts on Monday night as Bournemouth, Brentford, Barnsley and Swansea battled it out in the first legs as they bid to reach the proverbial “promised land” that is the Premier League.
There was a sprinkling of entertaining moments, but little biblical about Bournemouth’s Arnaut Danjuma slotting the ball away to hand the Cherries a narrow 1-0 advantage over ‘moneyball’ Brentford or journeyman/talisman Andre Ayew curling one into the bottom corner to put Swansea 1-0 up against the Championship’s second ‘moneyball’ club Barnsley.
Neither was a classic, but we should be set for some exciting second leg action and it was wonderful to see just over 2,000 supporters at the Vitality Stadium and around 4,500 in attendance at Oakwell respectively.
Brentford’s Bryan Mbeumo missed an absolute sitter as he failed to make it Bournemouth 1-1 Brentford in the earlier game, but that’s fair enough as the Frenchman had already spoilt us neutrals with a real gamechanger over the weekend ICYMI…
IN OTHER NEWS
Mattjijs de Ligt has not quite reached the heights that were expected from the Netherlands international when he joined Juventus from Ajax for €75m in July 2019, but it turns out it is his clothing not his football that has been a talking point amongst his Juve teammates.
“I am Matthijs, I am myself and you will not see me going to training in a tailored suit, it’s just that simple. My profession is football player. I want to be a star on the field.
Sometimes I get laughed at at the club for what I wear, but I don’t care. As long as I feel good with my behaviour and how I dress, I am satisfied. The most important thing is to perform well on the field, then people respect you much more than when you’re wearing certain clothes.
Let’s hope teammate Cristiano Ronaldo has not been giving him any stick. Who can forget when the five-time Ballon d’Or winner rocked up to an El Clasico Copa del Rey final wearing a suit and baseball cap combo back in 2014… not The Warm-Up that’s for sure.
Image credit: Getty Images
IN THE CHANNELS
When you see most women’s football posts on social media the inexcusable reply is “no one cares”.
The women’s game is regularly subjected to hideous abuse across the UK. Here is further evidence that it clearly is a big deal and that should be recognised.
With the play-offs in full swing there is a lovely piece in the Wall Street Journal explaining how Barnsley have been transformed from a club normally stuck in the bottom half of the Championship table into serious promotion contenders.
Unlike the huge soccer multinationals led by Manchester City and Red Bull, who believe their rivals are Disney and Amazon rather than other soccer teams, PMG [Barnsley’s owners] focuses on much more modest outfits. Those clubs are in Esbjerg in Denmark, Nancy in France, Oostende in Belgium, and Thun in Switzerland. Barnsley—population 240,000—is twice as big as any of them.
The Premier League show rolls on as Manchester United take on Fulham, Southampton play Leeds, Brighton face Manchester City and Chelsea do battle with newly-crowned FA Cup champions Leicester once again all on Tuesday night. You can follow it all on the Eurosport website and app.
The Warm-Up will be brought to you tomorrow by Marcus Foley, who has mastered balancing legendary status with glowing credentials.