It’s the time of year for hardy annuals. Ladybird poppies, nasturtiums, helip-terum, Paul Pogba’s agent negotiating a contract with a club he doesn’t play for.
Every year, without fail. Roses should be as easy to cultivate.
This time, it is Paris Saint-Germain. Mino Raiola is out there calculating how much Pogba should receive after a transfer that hasn’t taken place, to a club that hasn’t bought him, for participation in matches that would constitute a breach of contract if he put so much as one toe on the pitch.
If Manchester United are smart, they should cut their losses on Paul Pogba this summer
Recent history suggests the fee for this will be measured in tens of millions. Beats gardening.
Quite where Manchester United are in this hoedown, who cares? Certainly not Raiola. His machinations never seem to take into account Pogba’s actual contractual status, the binds he agreed when records were broken to facilitate his transfer.
The suggestion is United will go again, bigger and better, to extend. But why? The only Pogba who would be worth an upgrade on his current Manchester United contract is the one who plays for France — and United have never had him in five years of searching.
Wayne Rooney argues this is because France use him better. They play him deeper so he has more time to pick a pass. Yet when United did that, and their midfield came second best because Pogba is not the most diligent defender, the answer always was to play him higher upfield so others could screen behind.
Every year, Pogba’s agent Mino Raiola negotiates a contract with a club he doesn’t play for
Make your minds up. There was never an argument over where Cristiano Ronaldo — or Rooney, for that matter — worked best, because wherever they were played, they made it count.
And yes, Pogba had a fine European Championship; but not so fine that France found a way past Switzerland in the first knock-out stage. Nobody can be player of the tournament exiting in the last 16. The greatest players drag their teams through. That is why Jorginho is now being discussed as a Ballon d’Or contender.
So United have a dilemma. Next year, Pogba leaves for free. This summer, he will command a fee, although nowhere near the £89million paid to Juventus. Do United take £43m, and cut their losses, or do they feel Pogba is worth that in what he might do for them in his final season?
It is hard to find evidence for such optimism. Some good games, the odd consistent spell, but just once in five campaigns have his fellow professionals put Pogba in their Premier League team of the year. Across the same period, contemporaries such as Sadio Mane, Harry Kane and Kevin De Bruyne have made three appearances each. Kane has five in total.
So it is not just the media, or ‘old-school fans’ as Rooney had it, who cannot see what Pogba delivers for all the aggravation surrounding him. Contemporaries seem uncertain too. Maybe Pogba is just a beautiful flower growing in the wrong place; but there does seem to be an awful lot of fertiliser that comes with him.
The only Pogba that would be worth an upgrade is the one who plays so well for France
Salazar stain doesn’t go away
Sifan Hassan may go for an unprecedented treble in Tokyo: 1,500, 5,000 and 10,000 metres.
If she pulls it off this would stand as arguably the greatest achievement in athletics history. With one tiny asterisk. She was a protégé of Alberto Salazar, now serving a four-year doping ban.
‘I work hard,’ Hassan said, ‘I’ve been clean all my life.’ No doubt, but that is why the identity and history of coaches and associates is important.
As Sir Mo Farah discovered, those asterisks may look like tiny spots, but they carry the imprint of a thousand ugly headlines.
Sifan Hassan (R) may go for an unprecedented treble in Tokyo: 1,500m, 5,000m and 10,000m
Hypocrite Bach has become satire
In the field of sports administration, Thomas Bach has performed the impossible.
He’s made us think almost warmly of Sepp Blatter. Sure, Blatter was a crook and a charlatan, but this guy? He’s shameless.
This week, the International Olympic Committee altered the Olympic motto after 125 years. To the words ‘Faster, Higher, Stronger’, ‘Together’ was added.
‘Satire became obsolete when Henry Kissinger was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize,’ wrote Tom Lehrer, and if it wasn’t already dead, Bach would have it lying stone cold on a slab by the time these Games are out.
Thomas Bach insists cancellation of the Olympic Games in Tokyo was never an option
Together? What absolute BS is that in a country where 80 per cent of the population are against the Olympics taking place, yet Bach insists cancellation was never an option? Where is the togetherness when no fans are allowed to what is supposedly their own party, the one for which they pay the bill?
What togetherness is there for athletes forced into lengthy, mentally-unsettling quarantine because draconian rules have been introduced in a desperate attempt to appease the locals?
And where is the togetherness now it transpires IOC members do not quarantine in their rooms on arrival in Japan, but can leave to consume personalised meals at the restaurant of the five-star Okura Hotel. At all of his public engagements, Bach is very careful to wear a mask. Then again, so did Dick Turpin.
Absurd to blame Horner for racism
Lord Hain spoke like the clumsiest racist enabler after Sunday’s British Grand Prix. He didn’t mean to. He intended quite the opposite. But by condemning Christian Horner for his criticism of Lewis Hamilton, he empowered racists by affording them an excuse for abhorrent behaviour.
Hain, vice-chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Formula One, criticised Horner for his damning words on Hamilton’s role in the collision with Max Verstappen.
‘Racists had an excuse to let fly their vitriol and evil at Lewis after what I thought was a very intemperate and ill-judged attack by Horner,’ he said.
‘I am not suggesting that Christian was implying anything racist. He was talking in pure racing terms and not racist terms, and that is obvious.’
By condemning Christian Horner for his criticism of Lewis Hamilton, he empowered racists
Is it? For if so, then what Hain is saying is that Horner was wrong to criticise Hamilton, because he is black and could be further abused. We could use the same argument to censor criticism of Priti Patel, or Sajid Javid. Would Hain advocate that? Any person of colour in the public eye is vulnerable to abuse on social media.
It is disgusting. More should be done about it. Yet to blame Horner for the actions of outright racists, is to excuse them.
The idea that, after such a controversial incident, one of those most keenly involved should keep his counsel is equally ludicrous. We address this problem at source: and the source isn’t Horner, or even his accuser in the House of Lords. It’s the racists. Hain’s argument eats itself.
Swansea a victim of EFL war on ambition
Some may remember Swansea’s grand plan. Steve Kaplan and Jason Levien, the owners, were going to sign top international players to attract global sponsors, reaching new fans, which in turn would finance stadium expansion and improve training facilities.
Looks clear on paper; and that’s why 91 other clubs are also trying to do it. This week, manager Steve Cooper left after taking Swansea to the Championship play-offs in consecutive seasons.
He has seen key players such as Daniel James and Joe Rodon sold, with scant funds to replace them and it promises to be another lean summer. Cooper may feel his prospects improve elsewhere, but there is no guarantee.
The pandemic has scuppered a lot of schemes, but so have financial regulations. If owners cannot invest in a product, many settle for moribund stability — and there’s nothing the EFL is harder on than ambition.
A big rave session rather than history behind Spurs’ new kit!
Many football clubs have strips inspired by history: an anniversary, a particularly successful season, a major event.
Conversely, Tottenham’s new second kit appears to be the product of a visit to Cyberdog in Camden Town in about 1998; or an all-nighter at The Wave.
Maybe it comes with glow-sticks.
Tottenham’s new second kit appears to be the product of a visit to Cyberdog in Camden Town
Members of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee were shocked by football’s failure to handle the dementia crisis. Why? Haven’t they read a newspaper in the last five years?
It’s been widely reported. Award-winning campaigns have been run, change implemented. But all the DCMS Committee, led by Julian Knight, ever seems to do is piggy-back on misery for their own advancement, gaily bayoneting the wounded as they go.
Next Captain Hindsight and the lads — it’s nearly all lads — will be turning their attention to events at Wembley on July 11. Apparently, there was a bit of a ruckus.
At first glance, Jordan Henderson and Liverpool potentially separating seems lunacy.
This is the influential club captain, an outstanding performer in important matches, and he could leave before a season in which the club must wrest its crown from Manchester City, with competition from an ever-improving Chelsea and the rebuilt Manchester United. What are they thinking?
Maybe that Henderson has two years left on his contract, which takes him through to the end of season 2022-23.
At first glance that midfielder Jordan Henderson and Liverpool may separate seems lunacy
Maybe that, by then, he will be 33. Maybe that, in 2020-21, Henderson featured in just 28 games for Liverpool across all competitions — his lowest number since 2016-17.
Paris Saint-Germain and Atletico Madrid have been mentioned but Liverpool have no need to sell, unless Henderson acts up — and he doesn’t seem the sort.
He knows what Jurgen Klopp’s methods have done for him — and what he has done for Klopp’s Liverpool.
So if he is sold, it will not be cheap. It may be different in 12 months, but for now Liverpool have no reason to cede to contract improvements, or cash in at a reduced rate.
Newcastle’s arbitration hearing with the Premier League has been adjourned until next year, because neither side has provided enough information for a judgment to be made.
This development suggests it is still being insisted that the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia is not controlled by its chairman Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud, also the nation’s de facto ruler.
That’s the problem with transparency. A little’s no good.
Philip Beard, as chief executive of Queens Park Rangers, presided over an escape on the last day of the season, relegation to the Championship and promotion back to the Premier League. When he left, in 2015, Rangers were on their way to relegation again. Quite why his stewardship of West Ham is seen as preferable to that of the current owners, who finished sixth last season, is a mystery.
Still, there it is: a £400million takeover on the table and a promised increase in transfer spending. They are all the same, these buyers. Rich as Croesus when it comes to selling the fans a dream, strangely frugal or evasive when haggling over the price and offering proof of funds.
Beard and co have plans to regenerate the local area — which already has a Westfield shopping centre, an Olympic Park and more — transform the stadium and improve the team. Sounds too good to be true? It possibly is.
West Ham’s owners have a problematic relationship with the fans, so by leaking their interest to the media, Beard’s consortium will hope to prosper from division. The alternative would be just to pay the money the current ownership demands. If they’ve got it, why the sideshow?
When Philip Beard (left) left QPR in 2015, Rangers were on their way to relegation again
The first night of the Hundred was a success — everyone agreed.
But, of the 7,395 who attended the Oval, roughly 5,000 came on free tickets.
If the women’s game is to grow, it must find a way of converting complimentary attendees into paying customers. Products of value aren’t given away.
As having a Rugby League World Cup without Australia and New Zealand would be like holding a FIFA World Cup without Europe, the most likely outcome of Thursday’s withdrawal is the competition gets put back a year. It really would be a meaningless event without them, and they know it.
The four minutes notice given to the organisers before pulling out was very poor form, and there is no doubt Australia’s powerful National Rugby League are behind this, upset that their players will have to quarantine for 14 days on return, missing a significant period of pre-season.
Equally, sport cannot just expect every pre-pandemic schedule to be ratified. What was previously compatible with Australia’s domestic season is no longer a fit.
Simon Johnson, chairman of the Rugby Football League, said the NRL have been trying to stop the tournament for months. Maybe they should have been taken them seriously then. Covid’s complications were unforeseeable; this, by the sound of it, was not.