Worries from the Weekend
“There’s an idiot on the pitch,” the commentary team exclaimed deep, deep into injury time in Kyiv. Although the statement was a bit harsh on Liverpool goalkeeper Loris Karius, it was pretty accurate. The Liverpool keeper had nearly been Bale’d out by the Welsh wizard but he managed to turn the spotlight back on himself before the end.
If his performance had been witnessed down in the lower levels of Vietnamese football the safe assumption would be an Asian match-fixing consortium had got hold of him. On Saturday night many terrible Sunday League goalkeepers were texting their mates, “you might think I’m rubbish but I’ve never done THAT!” Clubs worldwide were suddenly adding £10m+ to the price tag of their custodians as people have a sneaky suspicion that Jurgen Klopp might be in the market for a new keeper over the summer, preferably one that doesn’t have wrists and fingers made of chocolate.
Believe it or not, if you can just take your mind away from blaming Loris Karius for Real Madrid lifting a third successive Champions League trophy for just a moment, Liverpool were the better side for the first half-an-hour or so. That was, sadly, until Sergio Ramos did what Sergio Ramos does so very well and found a way of hurting the opposition. Mohamed Salah had looked lively in the first 30 minutes and as a result, so had Liverpool. Although the extent of Salah’s dislocated shoulder, ruling him out of leading Egypt in Russia, was a freak injury there is no doubt at all that Ramos, the master of such dark arts, had noticed an opportunity to hurt the opposition’s biggest threat and get away with it. And boy, did he take it. He also managed to lay a cheeky little elbow on Karius two minutes before the Liverpool keeper made his first unforgettable mistake of the night. Instantly Liverpool went from brave, attacking and likely to score first to having a single touch in the final third in the remaining 15 minutes of the first half. One touch! Having had about 50 or so.
Did he not see him? Did he think he could throw the ball through him? Did he just forget that Benzema was allowed to do what he did? Nobody will ever know but Karius reacted in the same way almost every goalkeeper in every game at every level in the world would have reacted. He pleaded that there must have been foul play somewhere, anywhere. But there wasn’t, Loris. There wasn’t.
But Liverpool bounced, they really did. Sadio Mane levelled things up and there was a brief moment that dreams could be dreamt once again. Until Zinedine Zidane did about the only thing he needs to worry about during a game as Real Madrid coach, making a worthwhile substitution. Enter the Dragon times ten. Gareth Bale, with his second touch, scored the best goal ever seen in a Champions League Final. The tall Welshman turned his 6ft 2 plus frame upside down to smash in an overhead kick worthy of winning the biggest show on Earth. And, it would have been what everyone remembered had Karius not managed to spill a speculative 30-yarder from Bale a short while later.
“You’ll never walk alone” the Liverpool fans sing, relentlessly. Unless of course you are their young German goalkeeper. Not one single Liverpool player consoled him at the final whistle, a sad thing to see as it could have been any single one of them making the mistakes that cost them their moment.
Gareth Bale, intelligently using the British media, issued the most subtle of “come and get me” pleas as he now prepares his exit from Real Madrid, rightly believing he is better than a substitute spot on such occasions. Just don’t let it be Jose who comes to get you, Gareth. We want to see you attack like you attacked on Saturday night.
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The Champions League Final wasn’t the only big game on Saturday. There was the small matter of the £180m Playoff Final at Wembley, between Fulham and Aston Villa. The build-up had been littered with chat around how John Terry would sign a new deal with the Villa if they won and got promoted, but that deal would have a clause meaning he wouldn’t have to play Chelsea. Well, nobody needs to worry about that now as Fulham dominated the game and won 1-0. Their winner was created by the wonderfully talented, 18-year-old Englishman Ryan Sessegnon who won the hearts of mothers all over the land during the week as it was revealed that he had taken his kit home, washed it and, wait for it, ironed it after he finished training so late even the kitman had gone home. Ah, Ryan. What a nice young man you must be. Don’t change when you join the Premier League circus.
And what a week it has been in the aforementioned circus. We have new managers all over the place, some interesting transfer stories and much-wanted coaches signing new contracts.
Antonio Conte may not have actually left the building yet, but that has not stopped Roman Abramovich killing a bit of time whilst waiting for his new visa. Roman seems to want the now ex-Napoli coach Maurizio Sarri to lead Chelsea’s next revival. Sarri left Napoli having Spursed up the Serie A title this season.
With Chelsea thought to be sniffing around their manager, Tottenham managed to persuade the Poch to sign a new five-year contract meaning they’ve either convinced them they are going to go “big” in the transfer market or, more likely, they are paying a bit more money. As is customary with such contract extensions, it was swiftly followed with the list of players Tottenham might sign. That list has names like Wilfried Zaha, Anthony Martial, Matthias de Ligt and Emre Can scribbled on it. However, the only transfer activity almost guaranteed at White Hart Lane is that of Toby Alderweireld heading off to Manchester United.
Jose Mourinho is very keen on the Spurs centre back as he is top of the list of 350 players identified as being better than Phil Jones. Jose is also keen on the Brazilian midfielder Fred, who is a traditional Brazilian footballer in the sense that he has a brilliant one-word name.
The biggest managerial news of the week came at the Emirates. In a last minute switch that caught several people off-guard, Arsenal announced the sacked Paris Saint-Germain manager Unai Emery as the man to replace Arsene Wenger. Emery, who won three successive Europa Leagues with Sevilla, was sacked by PSG for failing to win the Champions League. We don’t know whether the fact he is a Europa League specialist is what clinched the job for him.
Emery is already making moves in the transfer market and has been linked to a Juventus player. Don’t get too excited Arsenal fans. It’s not Gonzalo Higuain. It’s not Gianluigi Buffon. It’s not Paulo Dybala. It is Stephan Lichtsteiner. He’s 34. He’s a right back. It’s not exactly Unai Emery’s Patrick Vieira moment, is it?
West Ham United have also been in the business of announcing new managers, unveiling Manuel Pellegrini on Tuesday. Pellegrini won the Premier League with Manchester City but has more recently been in virtual retirement, managing in the Chinese Super League and being £8m a year for the pleasure. Naturally, West Ham have given him a pay rise to join them and no doubt increasing Pellegrini’s desire to bring the good times to the Athletics Stadium. Yaya Toure is waiting by whatever communication device he uses, boots ready.