Spurs vs. Man Metropolis doesn’t suggest a lot but, Barcelona win with out Messi, RIP Gerd Muller


What a weekend in European soccer! Three of the highest 5 leagues (English Premier League, German Bundesliga, Spanish LaLiga) kicked off their 2021-22 campaigns, and the video games did not disappoint. Manchester Metropolis‘s title protection obtained off to a rocky (however predictable) begin towards Tottenham, Barcelona started their post-Lionel Messi period with a giant win, and there have been spectacular outcomes / classes discovered from Liverpool, Man United, Actual Madrid, Chelsea and Borussia Dortmund profitable their season openers.

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It is Monday, and Gab Marcotti reacts to the most important moments on this planet of soccer from the previous weekend in Europe.

Bounce to: Spurs’ assertion win? | Barcelona’s focus | RIP, Gerd Muller | PSG’s new stars | Benzema, Actual romp | Greenwood, Pogba shine | Questions on Liverpool | Haaland hungry for Dortmund | Chelsea’s spectacular depth

Deja vu for Man Metropolis at Tottenham… however does it matter?

Harry Kane was reportedly current on Sunday when Tottenham Hotspur confronted Manchester Metropolis, although he was clearly not within the matchday squad and no person, so far as we all know, caught him on digital camera. Not that it mattered. Even when he’d been residence watching his potential previous and future duke it out, his aura would nonetheless have been throughout this sport, at the very least earlier than kickoff.

As soon as issues obtained underway although, it wasn’t about Kane as a lot because it was a few script we have seen earlier than: Man Metropolis with loads of the ball, however doing little with it after an preliminary flurry, Spurs defending stoutly and trying to hit on the break. And it ended with Pep Guardiola’s fourth straight defeat away to Tottenham.

Takeaways? At the beginning, let’s remind ourselves that this was the primary week of the season, it is mid-August and the switch window continues to be open for an additional two weeks. It is one of many quirks of league soccer that week one — with lacking gamers, gamers who aren’t but signed, gamers who’re unfit and gamers who’ve zero chemistry as a result of they’ve hardly skilled collectively — counts as a lot as week 10 or week 30, when groups really develop into, you already know, groups.

Is it nonetheless Man Metropolis with out Kevin De Bruyne, Rodri, Kyle Walker and John Stones within the beginning lineup? Is continues to be Spurs with out Kane (for now), Cristian Romero, Serge Aurier and Moussa Sissoko? In some methods, sure, however in different methods, there is a hazard in studying an excessive amount of into it as a result of, odds are, these groups will look mighty totally different in a month or so.

– Olley: Kane shadow looms over Spurs, Man Metropolis

That mentioned, there are some apparent factors to make. Jack Grealish has but to search out his pure place, Metropolis are way more incisive with De Bruyne on the pitch and Benjamin Mendy hasn’t out of the blue improved. On the opposite finish, Nuno Espirito Santo has maintained a stable defensive framework, Dele Alli may very well be a value-add this season (after being a passenger for the previous few years) and Son Heung-Min generally is a distinction maker when it comes to workmate and ending. (By the way in which, I am not a giant fan of giving gamers long-term offers nicely into their 30s, however the contract by means of 2025 that Son signed is a big enhance for the membership. He could not be capable to fill Kane’s footwear if he leaves, however a match and rested Son by means of the center provides Spurs a greater possibility at center-forward than all however a handful of Premier League golf equipment.

On to Kane. The Sunday Occasions reported that Spurs are holding quick and that Metropolis, so far, have made only one bid, for £100m. As I’ve written earlier than, Kane has little or no leverage, until he needs to show himself into some form of super-villain and go on strike. And, from Metropolis’s perspective, going nicely previous £100m makes little sense as a result of at these numbers, you might have a sensible shot at Kylian Mbappe or Erling Haaland, who’re quite a bit youthful than Kane at 28. That is why I wrote that I did not assume he was shifting, although that was earlier than I spotted simply how far out Metropolis seem like keen to push the boat.

There’s clearly a value at which it is sensible for Spurs to promote, supplied they’ve a substitute lined up. I believe we have already gone previous that value (however what Daniel Levy thinks issues extra, and he could be considering extra like £150m), so that you marvel if it is principally a query of Spurs securing a successor.

What will likely be fascinating is whether or not Metropolis will really feel they want one other striker if they do not land Kane. From the place I sit, given how far they obtained with Aguero contributing just about nothing final season, I am tempted to recommend that, between them, Gabriel Jesus, Grealish, Ferran Torres and De Bruyne can finally carry the load.

Barcelona keep centered as strain rises across the membership



Frank Leboeuf breaks down Barcelona’s 4-2 win vs. Actual Sociedad of their first match with out Lionel Messi.

Common readers will know I do not regard Ronald Koeman as some sort of “God’s Present” to ways. However one factor he does nicely — as he confirmed each final season and Sunday night time towards Actual Sociedad — is put together his gamers mentally. Gerard Pique led his teammates out for a difficult fixture, surrounded by banners lambasting membership president Joan Laporta and with the burden of Lionel Messi‘s traumatic exit on their shoulders, and obtained the job executed.

– Report: Barcelona off to profitable begin post-Messi
– Barca scores: Braithwaite, De Jong prepared the ground
– Hunter: Pique’s presidential poise makes him Barca’s chief

Not solely that, however for greater than an hour they performed very nicely. Pedri confirmed that he’s the Energizer bunny — he performed 73 video games in 2020-21, together with the Euros and Olympics for SpainMemphis Depay distributed tips, the again line was stable and Martin Braithwaite was in the proper place on the proper time. They have been unfazed and centered, and simply what Barca followers wanted presently.

The truth that Depay performed by means of the center recommend that that is the place Koeman sees him: on the center of a fluid entrance three that includes Ansu Fati (when he returns) and Antoine Griezmann. These “fluid entrance threes” look nice once they work, however they develop into an unorganised mess that gives no strain off the ball and places a pressure on the midfield once they do not, so that you won’t belief Koeman to make it work. However irrespective of. He has an concept and it is not — for the primary time in a very long time — a Messi-dependent one.

Pique, who (like different teammates) took a pay lower to assist register the likes of Depay and Garcia, mentioned it was the least he might do given what the membership had given him over time. Anticipate his determine to develop in significance over the subsequent 12 months.

Whilst Laporta was rattling off extra horror-show numbers (salaries at 103 % of income, a detrimental internet value of almost half a billion {dollars}), Barcelona followers proceed to demand solutions. It isn’t nearly a bunch of fan boys being upset at Messi’s departure, both. There are critical inquiries to be requested about monetary oversight — sure, Laporta took over an financial dumpster fireplace from his predecessor Jose Maria Bartomeu, however equally it issues what he knew and when he knew it — in addition to his plan to get Barcelona out of his mess and the way this ties into the SuperLeague and CVC discussions. (One banner at Sunday’s sport described him as Florentino Perez’s lapdog, one of many worst insults you may hurl at a “Cule.”)

The excellent news for Barca followers is that the reality will come to gentle someday; the membership’s constructions just about assure this. The query is how quickly that will likely be. However what’s encouraging is that it is not nearly Laporta. There are figures intrinsically tied to this membership who, one hopes, will maintain Laporta to account, beginning with guys like Pique.

RIP “Der Bomber”



Gab Marcotti displays on the profession of Gerd Muller who has died on the age of 75.

I solely met Gerd Muller as soon as, years in the past, on a go to to Bayern’s HQ within the Sabenerstrasse. It wasn’t a lot of a dialog: he was going, I used to be coming, the man I used to be with launched us in passing, he nodded, smiled briefly and slipped away. He was sporting a leather-based jacket and denims, in that barely awkward manner males of a sure age — he would have been in his 60s — do when dressed like that.

Bayern Munich, Germany legend Muller, 75, dies
Tributes pour in for Muller, an iconic goalscorer

I point out this as a result of real-life, civilian-clad Muller seemed unremarkable, very similar to he did on the pitch. Till, that’s, the ball got here wherever close to him. He was nicely earlier than my time — presumably yours, too — so it’s a must to depend on numbers and YouTube (like this clip, from the 1974 European Cup remaining) to color an image. The latter provides you a way of his acceleration, his capacity to search out area, his contact and, in fact, his ending. The previous merely feels unreal.

Muller scored 68 targets in 62 appearances for Germany, with whom he gained each the 1972 Euros and the 1974 World Cup: previously 60 years, no person else has managed greater than a purpose a sport at worldwide stage whereas scoring at the very least 50 targets. He notched 365 Bundesliga targets (plus one other 289 in numerous different competitions, together with the outdated NASL), placing him 76 targets forward of Robert Lewandowski. In 1972, he scored a surprising 85 targets in a calendar 12 months, a document that stood till Lionel Messi broke it a decade in the past.

You’ll be able to decide him towards the backdrop of his personal period (the Nineteen Seventies), and he dominates each individually and with Bayern and Germany. Or you may decide him over the course of historical past and, nonetheless, he will likely be up there with the very biggest.

That is why he is remembered as “Bomber der Nation” or, extra merely, “Der Bomber.” He is the benchmark towards which center-forwards are judged.

PSG unveil their stars and win, however Mbappe will get booed



Lionel Messi was greeted with big celebration as he was unveiled to PSG followers forward of their match vs. Strasbourg.

The Parc des Princes reopened to supporters for the primary time in 18 months, and people current noticed Mauricio Pochettino’s facet down Strasbourg, 4-2. Additionally they obtained the razzmatazz of seeing the brand new signings unveiled. Achraf Hakimi and Georginio Wijnaldum have been really on the pitch, whereas Lionel Messi and Gianluigi Donnarumma have been hanging out within the stands with Neymar and Angel Di Maria.

PSG had far an excessive amount of early on and raced to a 3-0 lead, earlier than — as occurs a bit too typically with this facet — they let Strasbourg again in, finally grabbing a 4-2 victory. By that time, Mbappe was getting cheers, however it’s a thorny problem that will not go away. The contract provide from the membership continues to sit down there, unsigned, and he turns into a free agent in June.

Inside story of Messi’s remaining days at Barca, PSG transfer
Messi’s tearful farewell on Barcelona’s day like no different
The definitive timeline of Messi’s Barcelona profession

Supporters can rage at him all they like, however he holds all of the playing cards and understandably, he is in no rush. He will get a 12 months of taking part in with Lionel Messi and, whichever manner issues work out, he could have the choice of going wherever he likes, unencumbered by a switch payment. That will be the nightmare situation for PSG, particularly inside the context of the Messi deal.

If Mbappe does depart, come subsequent June they’ll have a 35-year-old Messi, a 36-year-old Sergio Ramos and a 35-year-old Keylor Navas on their books. In the meantime, Neymar, Pablo Sarabia, Wijnaldum, Ander Herrera and Idrissa Gueye will all be 30 or older.

Membership supremo Nasser Al-Khelaifi insists they’ll adjust to the brand new Monetary Truthful Play guidelines (and since, given his twin position on the UEFA Govt Committee and the European Membership Affiliation, he’ll have a hand in writing them, you think about he is aware of what they’re going to be). However now greater than ever, it feels as if PSG are taking an enormous gamble in pushing all their chips to the center of the desk. And in the event that they lose an asset like Mbappe for nothing, it should be a really costly rebuild.

Actual Madrid romp as “Galactico Whisperer” Ancelotti does his factor



Craig Burley shares his ideas on Actual Madrid’s 4-1 win over Alaves of their opening sport of the season.

Carlo Ancelotti’s second debut in LaLiga noticed him set Actual Madrid up the way in which you’d anticipate for the journey to Alaves. David Alaba returned to his outdated stomping floor at left-back in Ferland Mendy‘s absence, Nacho partnered Eder Militao within the center, Fede Valverde slotted into midfield in Toni Kroos‘ absence and Eden Hazard and Gareth Bale joined Karim Benzema up entrance.

– Actual Madrid scores: Benzema very good in huge win

It took some time to interrupt down Alaves, however they romped to a 4-1 win and, maybe extra importantly, Bale and Hazard turned up with sturdy performances of the kind we hadn’t seen in a very long time in a Madrid shirt. There is no hiding the truth that Florentino’s perception that he can rehabilitate Hazard and get one thing out of Bale (since he will not depart) is a giant a part of the rationale why he is again. However there was additionally area for Vinicius after the break (and he even scored) and Valverde was again to pre-injury ranges, which can be essential given how skinny the midfield seemed final 12 months.

Alaves, in fact, is not a lot of a check (although they did win away to Madrid final 12 months), however it was essential to hit the bottom working. And equally essential was getting manufacturing from the veterans who’ve been by means of the media meat grinder.

Man United’s Greenwood and Pogba shine. Are they the longer term and soon-to-be-past of this membership?



Shaka Hislop says Erling Haaland is taking part in on the stage of a ahead nicely past his years.

Bruno Fernandes could have notched a hat-trick, however as I noticed it, Manchester United‘s two excellent performers within the 5-1 hammering of Leeds United have been Mason Greenwood and Paul Pogba. The previous is a mannequin of poise, approach and intelligence who — if he continues to develop — might characterize the membership’s long-term future up entrance. He does not flip 20 till October and whereas many proceed to agitate for Erling Haaland, if he continues on his present trajectory, he is not at all a foul Plan B.

– Dawson: Man United off to excellent begin

As for Pogba, he is out of contract on the finish of June and there are some huge choices forward. It does look as if he has discovered his place in that hybrid-left place and on condition that the connection with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer appears stable, extending his deal looks like an apparent transfer.

In fact, with solely months left on his deal, Pogba (and his agent, Mino Raiola) could nicely produce other plans, which implies the danger of shedding him without cost may be very actual. Evidently, United have painted themselves right into a nook right here, and never for the primary time both…

Van Dijk is again and Liverpool win, however questions stay



Shaka Hislop heaps reward on the Liverpool striker after his one purpose, two help day.

Liverpool welcomed again Virgil Van Dijk and rolled over Norwich Metropolis, 3-0. A stable consequence, and a stable efficiency: Van Dijk confirmed little rust on the again and the entrance three, with Jota becoming a member of Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane (Roberto Firmino would come off the bench and rating), seemed sharp too.

The query — and it is not one which’s going to be answered towards newly promoted Norwich — stays in midfield. Wijnaldum, who appeared in all 38 Premier League video games final season, is gone and has not been changed. Jurgen Klopp began with James Milner (who’s 35), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (who made simply two league begins in 2020-21) and Naby Keita (who has blown sizzling and, principally, chilly in his three seasons on the membership). On paper, that is not a trio that challenges for a title.

– Liverpool scores: Salah, Van Dijk very good vs. Norwich

Van Dijk’s return means Fabinho can slot into midfield (he performed considerably extra on the again than in the midst of the park final 12 months because of the many accidents). Then there’s Jordan Henderson and Thiago Alcantara, however each are actually of their 30s, with Henderson coming off an damage and Thiago having been restricted to simply 20 league begins in every of the previous two years.

Klopp wants anyone else to emerge as a dependable member of the midfield rotation, able to absorbing Wijnaldum’s lacking minutes. Whether or not it is one of many trio who began Saturday or Curtis Jones (nonetheless simply 20), with out it, it should be that a lot harder to get the place he needs to be.

Haaland, Dortmund look hungry in season opener



Shaka Hislop thinks Christian Pulisic has an important position to play in Chelsea’s squad this season, regardless of their squad depth.

Perhaps it was the truth that for the previous three months, Erling Haaland had little to play for — Norway wasn’t on the Euros, and his season just about ended within the week Borussia Dortmund gained the German Cup and clinched their place within the Champions League — however Erling Haaland got here out of the gates rapidly, scoring twice and serving up two assists in Borussia Dortmund’s 5-2 thrashing of Eintracht Frankfurt.

Dortmund performed with the sort of depth coaches crave — not simply Haaland, however Marco Reus and Gio Reyna too — and perhaps it was a need to impress new boss Marco Rose. He nonetheless has his work lower out for him, as they displayed the standard defensive frailties (and never simply because Axel Witsel needed to fill in at center-back for Mats Hummels).

However should you have been searching for an announcement off the bat towards an excellent crew — at the very least on paper — nicely, you bought it.

Chelsea discover much more depth as lengthy season begins

Chelsea‘s 3-0 opening day win towards Crystal Palace confirmed two issues. One is that Palace are very a lot in rebuilding mode; the opposite is that the flexibility to supply gamers in-house, due to top-of-the-line academies in Europe, is a big power. So if Kurt Zouma or Thiago Silva are a bit behind on their health, Thomas Tuchel has no qualms about chucking in Trevoh Chalobah, who not solely turned in a glowing efficiency on Saturday, however scored a peach of a purpose as nicely.

Chelsea’s penchant for sending children out on mortgage will get criticized, however Chalobah, at 22, had been a starter in every of the previous three seasons, working his manner up the meals chain. First, he had a foul Championship membership (Ipswich), then an excellent Championship membership (Huddersfield) and final 12 months, a Ligue 1 membership (Lorient). He could go on mortgage once more, who is aware of? However he is an asset who can both be monetised or who, if the supervisor trusts him, will be thrown into the fray.

It is one strategy to do enterprise and it really works for them, though it means Chelsea’s web site lists no fewer than 38 first-team gamers. A few of these are blasts from the previous who will possible exit on mortgage once more (Matt Miazga, Michy Batshuayi, Kenedy, Baba Rahman, and many others), and it means Chelsea will likely be feverishly trying to place their “mortgage military” as soon as once more, like they do most Augusts.

It is a manner of doing enterprise that will get criticised, however should you strike upon sufficient gems, it pays for itself. And till the laws change, it is completely authorized too.



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