Spurs vs. Man Metropolis does not imply 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 City‘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 realized from Liverpool, Man United, Real Madrid, Chelsea and Borussia Dortmund successful their season openers.

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It is Monday, and Gab Marcotti reacts to the largest moments on the earth of soccer from the previous weekend in Europe.

Leap to: Spurs’ statement win? | Barcelona’s focus | RIP, Gerd Muller | PSG’s new stars | Benzema, Real romp | Greenwood, Pogba shine | Questions about Liverpool | Haaland hungry for Dortmund | Chelsea’s impressive depth

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

Harry Kane was reportedly current on Sunday when Tottenham Hotspur confronted Manchester City, although he was clearly not within the matchday squad and no one, 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 recreation, a minimum of 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 seeking 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 remains to be open for one more two weeks. It is one of many quirks of league soccer that Week 1 — 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 educated collectively — counts as a lot as Week 10 or Week 30, when groups truly change 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 remains 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 City

That stated, there are some apparent factors to make. Jack Grealish has but to seek out his pure place, Metropolis are way more incisive with De Bruyne on the pitch, and Benjamin Mendy hasn’t all of the sudden improved. On the opposite finish, Nuno Espirito Santo has maintained a stable defensive framework, Dele Alli could possibly be a worth add this season (after being a passenger for the previous few years) and Son Heung-Min generally is a difference-maker by way of work fee and ending. (By the best way, I am not a giant fan of giving gamers long-term offers properly into their 30s, however the contract via 2025 that Son signed is a large increase for the membership. He could not be capable to fill Kane’s sneakers if he leaves, however a match and rested Son via the center offers 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, except he desires to show himself into some kind of super-villain and go on strike. And, from Metropolis’s perspective, going properly previous £100m makes little sense as a result of at these numbers, you’ve a sensible shot at Kylian Mbappe or Erling Haaland, who’re quite a bit youthful than Kane at 28. That’s why I wrote that I did not suppose he was shifting, although that was earlier than I noticed simply how far out Metropolis seem like keen to push the boat.

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

What can be attention-grabbing 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 nearly nothing final season, I am tempted to counsel 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 techniques. However one factor he does properly — as he confirmed each final season and Sunday evening towards Real Sociedad — is put together his gamers mentally. Gerard Pique led his teammates out for a tough fixture, surrounded by banners lambasting membership president Joan Laporta and with the load of Lionel Messi‘s traumatic exit on their shoulders, and obtained the job carried out.

– Report: Barcelona off to winning start post-Messi
– Barca scores: Braithwaite, De Jong lead the way
– Hunter: Pique’s presidential poise makes him Barca’s leader

Not solely that, however for greater than an hour they performed very properly. 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 methods, the again line was stable and Martin Braithwaite was in the appropriate place on the proper time. They have been unfazed and centered, and simply what Barca followers wanted presently.

The truth that Depay performed via the center counsel 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 change 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 thought and it isn’t — for the primary time in a very long time — a Messi-dependent one.

Pique, who (like different teammates) took a pay minimize to assist register the likes of Depay and Garcia, stated it was the least he may 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 practically half a billion {dollars}), Barcelona followers proceed to demand solutions. It is not nearly a bunch of fan boys being upset at Messi’s departure, both. There are severe 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 recreation described him as Florentino Perez’s lapdog, one of many worst insults you possibly can hurl at a “Cule.”)

The excellent news for Barca followers is that the reality will come to gentle in the future; the membership’s constructions just about assure this. The query is how quickly that can be. However what’s encouraging is that it isn’t 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 regarded unremarkable, very like he did on the pitch. Till, that’s, the ball got here wherever close to him. He was properly earlier than my time — presumably yours, too — so you must depend on numbers and YouTube (like this clip, from the 1974 European Cup closing) to color an image. The latter offers you a way of his acceleration, his skill to seek out house, his contact and, in fact, his ending. The previous merely feels unreal.

Muller scored 68 objectives in 62 appearances for Germany, with whom he gained each the 1972 Euros and the 1974 World Cup: prior to now 60 years, no one else has managed greater than a objective a recreation at worldwide degree whereas scoring a minimum of 50 objectives. He notched 365 Bundesliga objectives (plus one other 289 in varied different competitions, together with the previous NASL), placing him 76 objectives forward of Robert Lewandowski. In 1972, he scored a surprising 85 objectives in a calendar 12 months, a document that stood till Lionel Messi broke it a decade in the past.

You may decide him towards the backdrop of his personal period (the Seventies), and he dominates each individually and with Bayern and Germany. Or you possibly can decide him over the course of historical past and, nonetheless, he can be up there with the very best.

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. In addition they obtained the razzmatazz of seeing the brand new signings unveiled. Achraf Hakimi and Georginio Wijnaldum have been truly 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, but it surely’s a thorny situation that will not go away. The contract provide from the membership continues to take a seat there, unsigned, and he turns into a free agent in June.

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The definitive timeline of Messi’s Barcelona career

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 may have the choice of going wherever he likes, unencumbered by a switch payment. That might be the nightmare state of affairs for PSG, particularly inside the context of the Messi deal.

If Mbappe does depart, come subsequent June they are going to 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 are going to adjust to the brand new Monetary Honest Play guidelines (and since, given his twin position on the UEFA Government 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 recreation of the season.

Carlo Ancelotti’s second debut in LaLiga noticed him set Real Madrid up the best way you’d anticipate for the journey to Alaves. David Alaba returned to his previous 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 superb in big 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 robust performances of the type 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 house 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 regarded final 12 months.

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

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



Shaka Hislop says Erling Haaland is taking part in on the degree of a ahead properly 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, method and intelligence who — if he continues to develop — may characterize the membership’s long-term future up entrance. He would not flip 20 till October and whereas many proceed to agitate for Erling Haaland, if he continues on his present trajectory, he is certainly not a foul Plan B.

– Dawson: Man United off to perfect start

As for Pogba, he is out of contract on the finish of June and there are some large selections 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.

After all, with solely months left on his deal, Pogba (and his agent, Mino Raiola) could properly produce other plans, which implies the danger of dropping him without cost could be very actual. For sure, 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 objective, two help day.

Liverpool welcomed again Virgil Van Dijk and rolled over Norwich City, 3-0. A stable end result, 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), regarded sharp too.

The query — and it isn’t 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 scorching 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 superb 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 at the moment are of their 30s, with Henderson coming off an damage and Thiago having been restricted to only 20 league begins in every of the previous two years.

Klopp wants any individual 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 desires 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.

Possibly 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 shortly, 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 minimize out for him, as they displayed the same old defensive frailties (and never simply because Axel Witsel needed to fill in at center-back for Mats Hummels).

However when you have been searching for an announcement off the bat towards an excellent staff — a minimum of on paper — properly, 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 power to supply gamers in-house, because of among the finest academies in Europe, is a large 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 objective as properly.

Chelsea’s penchant for sending kids 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, could be thrown into the fray.

It is one method to do enterprise and it really works for them, despite the fact that it means Chelsea’s website lists no fewer than 38 first-team gamers. A few of these are blasts from the previous who will doubtless exit on mortgage once more (Matt Miazga, Michy Batshuayi, Kenedy, Baba Rahman, and many others), and it means Chelsea can be feverishly seeking 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 when you strike upon sufficient gems, it pays for itself. And till the rules change, it is completely authorized too.

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