While the FA Cup semi-finals provided no end of fine football entertainment over the weekend, as usual it was The Fiver’s castanet-clacking, guitar-plucking, siesta-taking Spanish cousin Juan de la Juan de la Juan de la Juan Straw Donkey Acoustic Guitar Olé Olé Olé Eldorado Sun Sea Sand Dust Fiver who had the last laugh. “Ha de la ha de la ha de la ha de la ha ha ha!” he cackled down the phone at full-time of Sunday night’s clásico, before shouting something lispy about “Premier League putas”, hanging up the phone and heading off for a celebratory feast of sausage and rioja at the traditional Spanish dinner-time of 11.30pm.
His triumphalism was unsurprising, for just when it looked as if the Premier League might actually be the best in the world, albeit with its teams not actually playing in the Premier League, up popped Barcelona and Real Madrid with the mother of all slap-downs in the form of another thriller. On a night of notable personal milestones – Lionel Messi’s 500th career goal and Sergio Ramos’ 5,000th career sending-off – Barcelona nicked all three points at the death to inch ahead of Real Madrid in the title chase, albeit having played one match more. In scenes that would have brought salty tears of laughter to the eyes of His bronze bust that looks like Niall Quinn, the actual Him threw a monumental strop after his side conceded an injury-time Messi winner, stamping his feet and getting the massive funk on at Marcelo for not preventing the goal by fouling Sergi Roberto in the build-up. Rather than cuff his team-mate round the lugs and tell him to wind his neck in, the Brazilian went on to take the blame for the goal, saying “I assume the fault for not stopping Sergi Roberto in the play that caused the Barcelona goal, an error I’ll learn from”.
He could learn a thing or two from Ramos, who has never had second thoughts about putting an illegal stop to the gallop of opposing players trying to run past him, earning his marching orders here with a wild touchline lunge on Messi that sent the Argentinian arcing through the air before landing with a thud almost rendered inaudible by the roars of approval from the stands. “The red card was excessive – I was not going to harm anyone,” said Ramos, who gestured towards the referee and could receive an even lengthier ban for the ridiculous charge of “applauding sarcastically” on a football pitch.
“I wasn’t recriminating the referee for anything, no,” harrumphed Ramos afterwards. “I was talking to [Gerard] Piqué, not to the referee. Sometimes referees get things right, other times they don’t. It was a key moment. But my reaction was to Piqué, not the referee.” Ramos feels that his Spanish team-mate’s constant sniping on social media helps influence referees to favour Barcelona and claimed he was telling him as much as he left the field. If the Spanish FA doesn’t buy it and rules him out for up to four games, let’s hope that, like Marcelo, he learns from his error and abstains from any use of contemptuous ironic mockery when he’s shown red card No23.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“We have been met with a wall of silence. We are now on the 24th day of the month and are yet to receive a payment of wages for March, with April due in only four days’ time. We are extremely concerned about the ongoing situation given the effect of non-payment of mortgages and rent are already resulting in staff having to relocate” – fresh off relegation from the Football League, Leyton Orient’s staff still haven’t had their wages paid, and they’ve asked the FA and the Football League to step in. Let’s not hold our breath about that one. Speaking of which …
STELLING POWER-PLAY OF THE DAY
22 April: “This isn’t personal to Dave Jones but for the good of the club, walk now. Pam Duxbury, chairman Gary Coxall, if it means sacking him, do so” – Soccer Saturday anchor Jeff Stelling uses his platform to urge Hartlepool to get rid, having slumped into the League Two relegation zone with two games remaining.
24 April: “Hartlepool United can confirm that Dave Jones has left his position as first-team manager by mutual consent” – consider one done. “He’s no right to say it,” sniffed Jones. “I never criticise him when he makes a mistake or whatever. He’s such a big hero, but I’ll go up against him.”
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“Re: the north (Fiver letters passim). I’m not sure this is strictly relevant to football (and will therefore fit in nicely as a space filler), but I once had the experience of spending 18 days at sea with a crew of four on an Atlantic crossing. After several days, conversation was slackening when someone opened up the subject of ‘where does the north begin’? Come to that, where are the geographical boundaries of the Midlands? Once the fighting had died down we moved on to less contentious subjects such as: if you had to be the driver of a London Underground train, which route would you choose and why, and (this is for those who appreciate the vagaries of sailing) given that we wanted to celebrate when we were halfway, when would we know when that was? Astonishingly, no one died” – Gerald Kreinczes.
“The idea that Big Vase is a silly competition (which is true) that can also have a meaningful impact (which, in Manchester United’s case, is also probably true) involves the kind of duality that a viewer of any critically acclaimed long-running television drama (Sopranos, Mad Men, Breaking Bad, take your pick) is expected to easily comprehend, yet seems entirely beyond the grasp of The Fiver. Presumably you stopped paying your television licence around 15 years ago. Explains a lot” – Christopher Smith.
“Can I be one of 1,057 sartorial pedants to point out that the picture of moody-looking Mamadou Sakho (Friday’s Still Want More?) shows him wearing a polo neck, rather than a ‘polar neck’. Although frankly if he’s looking at me like that, he can call it whatever he likes. Is a polar neck something to be found near a cold shoulder?” – Tim Clarke (and 1,056 other sartorial pedants).
“Is there some kind of not-so-secret ploy to incarcerate Jonathan Wilson at Fiver Towers? The past two emails have progressively changed their description of him from ‘floating football brain in a jar’ to ‘floating brain in a jar’ and then to ‘floating head in a jar’. I worry he’ll find his whole body in a jar by next week” – Yash Anand.
“We wouldn’t dream of suggesting that the relationship between The Fiver’s Recommended Listening section and Football Weekly is incestuous or anything. But just on the off-chance that you do like a bit of in-house loving-up, you might be interested to know that your colleagues have selected a football podcast (ours, curiously) as one of their recommendations this week. We mention this not in the interests of our own self-promotion, of course. We just want you to find your own kind of happiness” – Olly Wicken.
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NEWS, BITS AND BOBS
Czech Republic international Frantisek Rajtoral, 31, has been found dead at his home, with the president of his club Gaziantepspor confirming that he took his own life.
Interceptionista N’Golo Kanté scooped the PFA’s Player of the Year gong for his Chelsea exploits, Spurs’ Dele Alli won the bauble for best young scamp for a second year in a row, while Birmingham’s Lucy Bronze was named the best women’s player of the year at Sunday night’s sw@nky London bash.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic has treated his potentially career-threatening knee-knack with the usual lofty disdain he has for things that get in his way. “I decide when it’s time to stop and nothing else. Giving up is not an option,” he warned his knee, while having a sauna, obviously.
Yaya Touré’s gums flapped faster than his legs have moved in quite some time after Manchester City’s FA Cup semi-final defeat by Arsenal. “I think the referees have to stop this. I am very disappointed,” he fumed about a ball that may or may not have gone out of play. “Maybe on Thursday we are going to have a better referee or maybe play without a referee – I’d prefer that. If [we] talk about the referee the FA is going to come in for the punishment … I think I need to sleep and rest and forget this game.”
After their 4-2 defeat to Chelsea, Harry Kane says Spurs didn’t fancy the FA Cup anyway, and it’s the Premier League that they really want. Or something like that.
Mamadou Sakho, technically still a Liverpool employee, has caused a number of people who must have more pressing concerns to get a bit tetchy, saying he didn’t mean no disrespect when he and Christian Benteke did their own special handshake during Palace’s 2-1 win at Anfield. “There was nothing behind it, nothing else to imply by it,” he tooted. “Just two friends who are playing for the same team.”
And Olympiakos have been crowned Greek champions for a 44th time after walloping Giannina 5-0. Ah, but Olympiakos may be uncrowned Greek champions if suits punish the club with a six-point deduction that could hand said title to PAOK. “It has been a strange season,” sighed coach Takis Lemonis.
STILL WANT MORE?
Of course, you could always read Sid Lowe on El Clásico.
There was arguably too much football this weekend, but because we love you, we’ve condensed it all into 10 handy talking points to pass off as your own, making you sound intelligent, well-informed and almost certainly marriage material.
Milan, once home to Ronaldo and Shevchenko, is now basically part city, part clown car, with the square wheels falling off and the gear stick actually a squirty flower. Paolo Bandini explains how Inter and Milan have plumbed new depths of calamity.
Max Kruse, the footballer born for the pun-happy, is ripping it up at Werder Bremen. Step forward Andy Brassell to tell you all about that one.
Christophe Galtier has been at St Etienne since 2009, but like a bit of bread that’s been left out for three days, he’s gone stale. So says not only Adam White but also Eric Devin.
What now for Leyton Orient? Having been firmly run into the ground and non-league by Francesco Becchetti, Martin Belam has some suggestions about what could happen next.
The battle of Britton. By Jake Bacon.
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