English football has got an all-star game. It’s called Liverpool versus Manchester City. Not a bad player on the field. Not a player who isn’t technically, or physically, at his peak.
It is what those proposing fake glamour friendlies do not understand. A selective squad with each Premier League club supplying no more than two players isn’t all-star. The starting XIs fielded by our biggest, best and wealthiest clubs — that’s all-star.
We see those match-ups every week, and it means something. On Wednesday, Manchester United versus Tottenham. This weekend, Chelsea versus Manchester United or Tottenham against Newcastle. Names, names, names, darling, to quote Edina Monsoon.
The Premier League is already steeped in all-star quality across almost every fixture
Arsenal and Manchester City would have met, too, were it not for a Europa League commitment in Eindhoven.
And in this country we like our football competitive. We like an edge.
Now that Liverpool and Manchester City appear to share the same animosity that once separated Manchester United and Arsenal we enjoy their rivalry even more.
The idea that we could ever become as animated by a team in which Phil Foden or Son Heung-min is replaced by an equivalent at Nottingham Forest or Bournemouth because a quota must be filled is preposterous. An all-star game might have a one year curiosity value and then, kaput.
There is genuinely more tension in the Community Shield, certainly since Jose Mourinho started counting it as the first trophy of the season.
Even in 1974 when it was strictly for charity, that didn’t stop Johnny Giles punching Kevin Keegan in the face, or Keegan and Billy Bremner getting sent off.
Imagine what an all-star game would look like by comparison. Imagine any player, from any club, risking injury for nothing more than an empty show.
And this is being proposed as an alternate curtain-raiser to our season?
Liverpool versus Manchester City already has all-star quality packed all over the pitch
And not just here, but played on a far continent, as a way of publicising what is already the world’s most popular league. So, let’s get this straight. Every club donates their two best players, flies them to, say, China and back the week before the season starts, to promote a league everybody watches anyway?
And it’s not as if they could just turn up two hours before kick-off if they need to be salesmen either. There would have to be a day or so of pre-publicity, a day to get back.
It’s a five-day trip, with recovery, minimum. No coach in the world would agree to that. And this brings us to the next conundrum: who’s the coach?
Which club get to lose their manager for five days the week before the season starts, so he can fly to Beijing to lend his expertise to another team’s players? Equally, to what extent do Manchester United want, say, Antony and Bruno Fernandes hanging out with Jurgen Klopp, maybe getting friendly, weighing up his methods against those of Erik ten Hag.
Even if we broaden the concept, the same flaws and frailties apply. One version of the all-star idea involves a Premier League XI playing one from La Liga, Serie A or the Bundesliga.
Yet, again, we have those meetings in the Champions League. When Real Madrid play Manchester City or Liverpool there are 22 household names on the pitch.
Why would managers allow their players to fly all the way across the world ahead of a season?
We measure the relative strength of the leagues when Chelsea face AC Milan or Liverpool take on Napoli.
No select team would ever be truly representative unless the best 20-man squad was picked. And if that happened, some clubs — the majority probably — would get nobody in at all.
And that would make the league look weak, if the Premier League squad was the product of, say, five clubs.
What an atrocious idea this is. Fantasy football as played by idiots. Yet, if reports are to be believed, some of these idiots are at the helm of our biggest football clubs. How? Why?
How did they ever accrue fortunes if this is the standard of their reasoning? Why did they gravitate towards football when they plainly have such little feeling for it?
Chelsea’s Kante conundrum
Chelsea have a genuine dilemma over N’Golo Kante. They are a much better team with him, as any club would be. Yet he’s 31, hasn’t played since August 14 against Tottenham and now won’t return until 2023.
Having missed 10 league games in his first four years in English football, including suspensions, he has now been absent for 44, and counting, in his last four years.
Everyone can see what Kante brings to Chelsea but he cannot influence matches from the main stand.
He wanted a four-year deal last year, but awarding that would be madness in the circumstances.
Equally, he can talk to foreign clubs from January and will leave on a free transfer next summer if no agreement is reached. Under normal circumstances it would make little sense to gamble, but who out there is better?
Kyle’s one of a kind
Given Kyle Walker’s unique role for Gareth Southgate’s England, some of the conventional right backs mentioned as potential squad replacements cannot replicate what he brings to the team.
In the circumstances, then — and notwithstanding Walker’s increasing hope of recovery — it is no surprise the manager is taking a closer look at Liverpool’s Joe Gomez, particularly after his performance against Erling Haaland.
Is he good enough? The jury remains out — he gave away a foolish penalty against West Ham in midweek — but he’s a round peg in a round hole; as Ben White of Arsenal would be, too.
It is sensible of Gareth Southgate to be looking at players like Joe Gomez amid his injury crisis
Don’t let them near football
Tracey Crouch is frustrated that her proposals for a government regulator for football have been thwarted by the chaos surrounding this Government.
Her review was published 10 months ago, but we are yet to see so much as a white paper from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.
‘I would expect nothing less than top quality,’ said Crouch, it seems without irony, ‘but it’s being delayed by politics and that is frustrating.’
Indeed, which is why you don’t let Government and politicians anywhere near football if you want it run properly. Particularly, and feel free to take this personally Tracey, your lot. A less talented and competent group of people it would be impossible to imagine.
Anyone who still thinks they should have anything to do with our national game should be sectioned.
The shambles of the current Government shows politicians should be nowhere near football
Wenger had a point about biennial World Cup
The biennial World Cup was a rotten idea, and most agreed on that.
Arsene Wenger’s argument, when proposing it, was not just about increasing FIFA’s wealth, however.
He also reasoned that, as demands on players increase, more will end up injured at this important time in their careers. A player who might make his international debut late — Harry Maguire and Kalvin Phillips were 24, Kieran Trippier 26 — could get an injury keeping him out of the World Cup, and would then have to wait until he was 30 to feature, by which time it could be too late.
And we can argue that this is no more than bad luck and we should not dilute the pinnacle of the international game because some players are unfortunate.
Yet as Diogo Jota joins Reece James who joins N’Golo Kante who joins Gini Wijnaldum in putting their dreams on hold until 2026, it is the strongest Wenger’s case will ever be.
The idea of a biennial World Cup is rotten but it would give injured players another opportunity
Proposals for a closed shop Super League were not, as is often reported, universally unpopular with fans.
On the continent, followers of the major clubs involved did not react the way supporters did here at all. For all the talk of those lovely socios and ultras who hold such sway at their clubs, they really did not care about stifling competition and ruining football — as long as the team they followed got richer and stronger from it.
Now, some Barcelona fans have found a cause then can really get behind: Lionel Messi’s transfer to Paris Saint-Germain.
Barcelona’s socios going to the European Court of Justice over the Lionel Messi transfer do not even whiff the sense of irony
So unfair, apparently. They have gone to the European Court of Justice to protest that it broke European Union laws on state aid.
The argument is the French authorities should never have allowed the transfer to progress, because it — get this — distorted competition.
This from a club who are still trying to carve up football for their own ends. What a bunch of creeps they are.
Wolves thought they had their man in Michael Beale, who has led Queens Park Rangers to the top of the Championship.
As an English manager fluent in Portuguese, having previously worked as assistant manager to Rogerio Ceni at Sao Paulo in Brazil, he was No 1 in a field of one. On Thursday, Beale turned them down.
With their total reliance on a team of Portuguese players, and until now dependent on the managerial recommendations of Jorge Mendes, Wolves remain very limited in who they might appoint to succeed Bruno Lage.
Beale’s rejection leaves them increasingly short of options. They really should have seen this coming, and prepared.
QPR manager Michael Beale has turned down the chance to take over as Wolves manager
It says everything about Cristiano Ronaldo’s state of mind that not once, as he marched towards the Old Trafford tunnel and an early exit on Wednesday night, did he think: ‘This is going to look really bad from me.’
Did he even watch the match? Was he aware of how well Manchester United were playing, or was he merely obsessed with his own thoughts, his own predicament?
We can argue that United should have let him leave in the summer when it became clear he was not going to be Erik ten Hag’s main man. Yet maybe the club, and manager, thought that, at 37, he would understand there remained a role to play, even if he was no longer the focal point.
Apparently not. Apparently, Ronaldo’s ego is now so fragile he cannot even recognise a good performance if it doesn’t involve him. He was always high maintenance and that was fine, because he was worth the trouble.
Yet United now look better without him and, if he doesn’t recognise that, he is going to spend a lot of afternoons walking unloved and alone.
Cristiano Ronaldo stormed down the tunnel after being an unused substitute vs Tottenham
In dark times, we all like to laugh, so full credit to Rick Parry for continuing to give those interviews in which he runs through football’s many problems, as if he wasn’t the instigator for most of them.
This week, Parry announced that the Premier League and EFL — of which he is chairman — have had 30 years to sort out fairer wealth distribution for the lower leagues, while omitting to mention that for five of those years he actually ran the Premier League, helping create the model that left the leagues below impoverished.
In his most recent address, Parry spoke out against the anti-competitive effects of the parachute payments (which he helped implement) and said the 15.6 per cent that finds its way from the Premier League to the leagues below was inadequate (indeed, the split used to be 50 per cent, 25 per cent, 12.5 per cent, 12.5 per cent until he came along).
Come on, you could be paying £200 a ticket for a skit as good as that over the West End.
LIV just don’t get it… you can’t buy history
Just as Pinocchio wanted to be a real boy, LIV Golf would like to pretend it is a real tour — you know, with majors and everything.
Majed Al Sorour, one of the businessmen behind the breakaway group, said if LIV players are not allowed to participate in golf’s big four tournaments, he would create his own for them. And how would that work exactly? Would the LIV Masters be played at Augusta National? No? Then it’s not the Masters, is it? Same with the LIV Open if it cannot take place on one of the storied links courses of Great Britain and Ireland.
Al Sorour is another of those people who does not get the sport in which he has invested. The majors are not about prize money — and that is all LIV Golf has to offer.
The majors are about history, records, achievements back and forth across the mists of time, all of the unquantifiable elements that make sport so compelling. If it was just about the cash then everybody would have obsessed over the Players Championship when it was giving close to $1million more to the winner than any other tournament.
And it was big, but it wasn’t a major, because sometimes there is more to life than money — a fact those at the helm of LIV Golf do not understand.
LIV Golf have discussed holding their own majors if players are barred from traditional ones
Real Madrid president Florentino Perez said this week that he doesn’t read the rumours linking his club and Kylian Mbappe.
And why would he? Most of the unsettling gossip appears in the newspaper Marca and as just about nothing concerning Real Madrid gets into that publication without the club’s compliance, one can presume he knows well in advance of going to press.