LIONEL MESSI is a free agent. That news would normally spark off a wave of transfer speculation, interested parties circling the Camp Nou and non-stop media coverage. Nobody seriously expects Messi to leave Barcelona, least of all the club’s president, Joan Laporte.
The recently-appointed top man at Barca urges fans to keep calm and assures everyone that talks are in progress and going well. Should Messi go, it would be a travesty for a club low on confidence and liquidity. The family silver – and there’s plenty of it at Barca – may have to be pawned in order to keep him in the Catalan capital.
Where would he go if not Barca? The Manchester Evening News said Manchester City have nothing to lose if they make a bid to take the Argentinian to the Etihad. They list Messi among possible signings such as Harry Kane and Jack Grealish. Meanwhile, the Daily Mirror said Paris Saint-Germain are monitoring the situation, but they also have eyes on Cristiano Ronaldo and Paul Pogba.
Spanish football expert Guillem Balague told the BBC Barcelona had raised the level of urgency over contract talks, but there are complications. “They want him to sign as soon as possible, but the timing will be dictated by tax issues, Messi’s wages and fitting a new contract within La Liga’s financial fair play rules.” Apparently, Barca have to reduce their wage bill by € 200 million.
Copa, what Copa?
Messi is currently in action in Brazil, playing for Argentina in the very low-key Copa América. The wisdom of playing the competition in a covid-19 environment that has seen 465,000 deaths is one thing, but the 11th hour switch to Brazil, the timing and the format really do raise questions about CONMEBOL.
Two groups of five, playing four games apiece in order to reduce the field from 10 to eight. Brazilian senator Renan Calheiros has been opposed to the Copa taking place, calling it the “Championship of death”.
Not surprisingly, coverage of the Copa América has been scant, even though the BBC have been showing the games. For Messi, it’s another chance for him to win something with his country, but who will notice?
The trials of Rafa
Rafa Benitez has accepted the job as Everton coach and fans are protesting about the former Liverpool boss being named as Carlo Ancelotti’s successor. Benitez remains one of football’s most employable managers, but it isn’t the first time complaints have poured in following his appointment. At Chelsea, his arrival was greeted with jeers and banners referring to his time at Liverpool.
Yes, Benitez was manager at Anfield and won the Champions League, but that doesn’t make him forever a red, even though the famous “small club” comment about Everton has never been forgotten.
Benitez won the Europa League with Chelsea in 2013 and did a good at Stamford Bridge, but he was constantly abused and largely unappreciated.
He can expect similar at Everton from some Goodison regulars judging by the early reaction. In a few months, they may start to realise that they have secured a top-class coach who knows the game inside out. He told the Liverpool Echo: “I am here, I will fight for my club, I will try to win every single game, and it doesn’t matter who the opponents are, or the rivals. It is something you have to do, it is your nature, that you have to try to do your best.”
The newspaper added: “While it is wrong to say Benitez is a busted flush in terms of management, undoubtedly his recent record has been one of diminishing returns. And, as his old foe José Mourinho is discovering, the game moves on.”
The spirit of Nuno
Finally, Spurs got their man, or rather, got a man. Nuno Espirito Santo is a decent fellow, likeable by all accounts, but he’s no more proficient than the men they let go over the past two years, Mauricio Pochettino and José Mourinho. It has been a struggle for Spurs and this may have been due to a lack of available candidates as well as the club’s lack of success.
Daniel Levy, speaking to the Guardian, said he was keen for Spurs to revert to “our core DNA of playing attacking, entertaining football” and that Nuno as the man to do it.
With 60 years now passed since they won a league title, Spurs are in desperate need of a trophy, but then so is Nuno. He has yet to win a major honour as a manager. Perhaps they can break new ground together?
Sources: The Guardian, CNN, The Daily Mirror, BBC, Liverpool Echo, Manchester Evening News.