FOOL (IF YOU THINK IT’S OVER)
Considering how much fodder the €uropean $uper £eague has provided your rapacious content-hungry Fiver with over the past week, we’re coming around to Barcelona and Real Madrid’s way of thinking. Like a Japanese soldier who refuses to accept the war is over, the two cash-strapped Spanish giants continue to believe this lucrative route to financial salvation is merely “on standby”. This, despite nine of the original Dirty Dozen having tied white hankies to their bayonets and waved them in surrender after a mass fan outcry they insist they couldn’t possibly have foreseen … unless of course they’d consulted the supporters about whom they claim to care so much.
Of course, such ambitious wheezes don’t come cheap and this one required plenty of funding. It was to USA! USA!! USA!!!-based counting house JP Morgan Chase that the club owners turned for the €3.25bn (£2.8bn) funding package they required. On Friday it was their turn to don the bespoke pin-striped sackcloth and prostrate themselves before an angry public, claiming they couldn’t possibly have been expected to know how much of a fuss a trillion-dollar financial institution helping to rip the still-beating heart out of the Premier League would cause either. “We clearly misjudged how this deal would be viewed by the wider football community,” simpered a spokesman for the fat cats, reading from his Big Book of Corporate PR Gobbledegook. “We will learn from this,” he added, using the kind of complex financial doublespeak that suggests they will not learn from this.
As miffed as they claim to be by the proposed-but-now-doomed breakaway of Europe’s elite clubs, The Fiver can’t help but feel Uefa is delighted that the whole palaver was perfectly timed to help it avoid criticism of the new format for Big Cup rolled out on Monday. Already bloated to within an inch of its life, its organisers managed to further inflate it, to the point that anyone who wins it from 2025 on will have to play a minimum of 1,057 matches just to get through the initial group stages.
Uefa had clearly hoped the panic over the €$£ would act as a smokescreen for its own avarice and might have got away with it if it hadn’t been for a pesky Manchester City midfielder. “With all the $uper £eague stuff going on … can we please also speak about the new [Big Cup] format?” demanded a defiant Ilkay Gundogan. “More and more and more games, is no one thinking about us players? The new [Big Cup] format is just the lesser of the two evils in comparison to the $uper £eague …” The man makes an excellent point which we’ll no doubt get to in due course, but for now indulge us as we keep riffing on the insincere shame of those who employ the put-upon players.
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QUOTE OF THE DAY
“Turin’s not a touristy place like Rome or Milan and I soon realised no one in the airport spoke English. The full extent of my Italian ran to ‘ciao’ so nothing was straightforward. For the first week I thought: ‘Wow, what have I done?’ Nobody in the shops understood me and doing the basics was very difficult” – Manchester United captain Katie Zelem gets her chat on with Louise Taylor and reveals how she recovered from getting that Ian Rush feeling following her move to Juventus.
“As a fan of the senior club at the western end of the East Lancs Road (Everton, for those who may be a little challenged on the geography of north-west England), I have been quietly amused by the events of the past week or so involving the self-proclaimed Big Six and their Euro confederates. I wonder whether Señor Pérez’s reference to ‘the one from Manchester’ (yesterday’s Fiver) might be a nod to the insistence on the part of City fans that United are in fact from Stretford? If so, my respect for his grasp of the arcane tribal loyalties of English fans has gone up a notch” – Tony Killen.
“Before we get too carried away on the demise of €$£ and the euphoria of the victory of sporting ideals, can I remind your other reader that the Premier League is about to be won for the third time in four seasons by the most expensively assembled team, funded by a petro-state. On the weekend they are odds on to win their sixth Carling Cup in the last eight. I can’t think of anyone better placed than The Fiver to advise me if I should laugh or cry” – Adam Uncamus [you won’t find many laughs here – Fiver Ed].
“Re: anthems for the €$£ (Fiver letters passim). Surely Money by Pink Floyd has to be in with a shout? ‘Grab that cash with both hands and make a stash, New car, caviar, four-star daydream, Think I’ll buy me a football team’” – Joe Birch (and others).
NEWS, BITS AND BOBS
Seville and St Petersburg will now host Euro Not 2020 matches that were pulled from Dublin and Bilbao due to those cities being unwilling to risk allowing 25% attendance at games. And Wembley’s been given an extra last-16 tie to boot.
Pep Guardiola reckons a revamped Big Cup will not only be rubbish, but lead to a pile-up of knacked players. “Every season is the same,” he roared. “Uefa knows it, of course, but do they care? Absolutely not.”
Newcastle boss Bernard Cribbins knows what it’s like to get it in the neck from angry supporters so is delighted that someone else has been getting pelters instead. “Thankfully the ‘big six’ have taken a slapping haven’t they?” he whooped.
Brendan Rodgers has been left astounded by Wesley Fofana’s Leicester performances during Ramadan. “It’s remarkable,” he tooted after their 3-0 defeat of West Brom. “He’s not eaten all day or drank and he can still perform to that level.”
STILL WANT MORE?
Premier League and Milk Cup final: 10 things to look out for this weekend.
Proper Journalist David Conn on how to fix football after the €$£ fiasco.
Voices from the football community on a tumultuous week.
Florentino Pérez: the emperor who wanted more but lost for once. This is the good stuff, by Sid Lowe.
Sid’s also found the time to report on an end to the miracles in Eibar.
West Ham’s push for top four is what football is all about, writes Hammers fan Chris Scull, whose picture lower down with Boiler Man is also what the game is all about.
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