PEP, POPS AND POSSIBLE POIGNANT RETURNS
Watching Manchester City spank their 21st goal in five top-flight games past Newcastle on Sunday afternoon, The Fiver couldn’t shake off the nagging feeling that what the table-toppers are really crying out for is a top-class centre forward. Snark aside, they were certainly crying out for one across both legs of their shambolic Big Cup showing against Real Madrid, when Karim Benzema showed them exactly what they are missing in their ongoing, as-yet-unsuccessful quest for European glory.
To the relief of people tasked with writing daily doses of tedious, often incorrect transfer speculation in The Fiver’s gossiping, early-morning and part-time half-sibling The Rumour Mill, it was revealed that City’s bid to bring Erling Haaland to the Etihad is nearing completion and “should be confirmed this week”. With personal terms reported to have already been agreed with Dortmund’s 21-year-old striker, City are expected to pony up the bargain €75m (£64m) required to trigger his release clause in the coming days. Should the deal go through, it will mark a poignant return to the north-west for a young man whose father Alfie famously made his name with City during the club’s church-mouse years, on the back of some extremely ill-advised goading of Roy Keane.
Back in those days, Shaun Goater was banging them in and, assuming Haaland keeps knack-free and maintains his phenomenal strike-rate, there’s every chance he could eclipse the Goat in fans’ affections en route to becoming the Ballon d’Or-winning GOAT he seems destined to be. For now, however, City have more pressing personnel concerns in defence, having lost Kyle Walker, John Stones and Ruben Dias to assorted-knack for their three remaining games this season. With Nathan Aké also sidelined for Wednesday’s visit to Wolves, Pep Guardiola is down to the bare bones in central defence and may have to play Rodri, Fernandinho or one of the many talented young defenders from the club’s lavishly funded academy. “In this situation it’s not a problem,” he tooted. “Rodri can play there. We have the academy. Everyone has to do extra. We have problems and that’s all.”
Pep was in spiky form on Sunday, taking potshots at pundits such as Dimitar Berbatov and Clarence Seedorf for remarks they made in the wake of City’s Big Cup exit. He also took a pop at the global population at large for wanting Liverpool rather than his side to win shiny pots, in a slightly paranoid fit of pique that will have come as a surprise to the many Liverpool fans out there who firmly believe it is, in fact, their club that is universally unpopular. “The people want Liverpool to win more than us – it’s not an issue,” he cooed, making it an issue. “It’s normal. Maybe they have more supporters all around the world and in England maybe more support Liverpool than us.” While that may be technically true, given Liverpool’s storied history, the fact of the matter is that most fans don’t give a hoot which pots either club wins, not least when there’s far more pressing League One playoff semi-final action to fret over.
LIVE ON BIG WEBSITE!
Join Rob Smyth from 7.45pm BST for hot League One playoff semi-final, second-leg MBM coverage of Sheffield Wednesday 2-0 Sunderland (agg 2-1).
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“I couldn’t give a monkey’s hoot if we go up or not – I honestly couldn’t. But now we’re in this position … you have to have a go, don’t you?” – Arbroath boss Dick Campbell gets his thoroughly entertaining chat on with Niall McVeigh about the part-timers’ incredible rise to the verge of the Scottish Premiership.
Get your ears around the latest Football Weekly. And while we’re at it, Max, Barry and the pod squad are going back out on tour. Tickets to live shows in June and July are available here – there’s even a new date added in Dublin – so get buying.
A New Formation: how Black British footballers shaped the modern game. Tickets are now available for the live event, featuring Jonathan Liew, Andrew Cole and Hope Powell.
“Re: Janus Chemnitz Kleist (Friday’s Fiver letters). I’m surprised to see so much linen on Gareth Bale’s Madrid shelf, as I was convinced that he had thrown the towel in around 2019” – Jim Hearson.
“Sure, Elis James boots a ball at a child, everyone laughs. David Moyes does it, and he’s a villain. Where’s the consistency?” – Matt Dony.
“Imagine a mid-level coach in a mid-level European league turning down the chance to join Manchester United. The situation at Old Trafford is beyond Rutten” – Mark McFadden.
“Barney Weston’s article on football doing more to tackle the climate crisis (Friday’s Still Want More?) failed to mention what the FA and EFL could do. For a start, they should regionalise knockout competitions until at least the quarter-finals. This season’s FA Cup first round saw Barrow travel to Banbury, Carlisle host Horsham and Guiseley at AFC Wimbledon. The carbon footprint – and cost to clubs and fans – could be reduced by a switch to localised fixtures which may in turn generate greater interest” – Deryck Hall.
Send your letters to email@example.com. And you can always tweet The Fiver via @guardian_sport. Today’s winner of our prizeless letter o’ the day is … Matt Dony.
NEWS, BITS AND BOBS
Emma Hayes has praised Sam Kerr after a couple of flamin’ wondrous volleys secured back-to-back WSL titles for Chelsea. “She’s the best for a reason,” declared Hayes. “She stepped up once again for this football club. I always said: ‘Come play for this football club, you’ll win trophies here.’ I can sit here confident knowing we both made the right decision.”
A body representing football writers in Scotland has apologised after a speaker’s sexist and misogynistic jokes prompted attendees to walk out of its annual awards dinner, with one, Gabriella Bennett, saying she was “sickened” by the offensive remarks.
The Tottenham Hotspur Supporters’ Trust has told fans who chanted “sign on” at Anfield that “poverty and joblessness are not fair game”.
Northampton plan to lodge a formal complaint with the EFL because they believe Firewall FC’s team selection – seven teenagers played in the 7-0 loss – at Bristol Rovers compromised the integrity of the final day in League Two. The Pirates pipped them to promotion … on goals scored.
And Aston Villa boss $tevie Mbe will put his Liverpool scarf away when Jürgen Klopp’s boys arrive at Villa Park. “My job is to win games for Aston Villa,” he barked. “I want to win, fiercely, and that is no different tomorrow.”
STILL WANT MORE?
The psychological scars run deep but we will not abandon FC Mariupol, writes the club’s vice president Andriy Sanin.
It’s another Monday, it’s another 10 talking points from the weekend’s Premier League action, while the key takeaways from the the final-day in the WSL are right here.
Courage, confidence, conviction: how Chelsea won a third straight WSL title. By Suzanne Wrack.
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