ERNESTO GOES TO THE DOOR MARKED HAS UNO
Top-level crisis talks between senior figures at a national institution. An imminent, apparently inevitable Big Name departure. Much public handwringing over “future roles”. Much like Monday’s summit at Sandringham, Barcelona’s Camp Nou has also been the focus of much media scrutiny, after the venerable Spanish club’s board members met for discussions that look certain to end with head coach Ernesto Valverde being ordered to “step back” from his role as manager of the club.
For some time now, the writing has been on the wall for the Spaniard, what with Barcelona being … [Fiver checks notes] … eh, top of La Liga and still in contention for Big Cup and the Copa del Rey. Unhappy with this apparently appalling state of affairs, Valverde’s employers have already offered his job to Xavi, who knocked them back, but the very public nature of their overtures to their diminutive former midfield metronome mean the jig is surely up for Valverde, who will sit tight and wait for a pay-off. “Valverde is still in a position where he could win all the trophies this season,” said Spain manager Luis Enrique, while Andrés Iniesta chimed in to point out that “the way the club have gone about things is a little ugly”.
Following Xavi’s decision to stay on as manager of the more ambitious Qatari club Al Sadd, Mauricio Pochettino is rumoured to be next highest on Barça’s List of Most Wanted. A former player and manager with their city rivals Espanyol, the Argentinian has repeatedly said he could never contemplate managing at Barcelona and famously once said he’d rather work on his farm in Argentina “than to go and work in certain places”. Here’s hoping he’s used the time since his dismissal from Spurs to practice performing U-turns on his tractor.
In other Valverde news, Ernesto’s Real Madrid namesake-but-not-relation, Federico, has also been making headlines, for an act of $hithousery which earned him plaudits from both camps after the Spanish Super Cup final, which was contested in … [Fiver checks notes] … Saudi Arabia. With the game scoreless, Atlético Madrid’s Álvaro Morata found himself through on goal, only for Valverde to scythe him down from behind just outside the penalty area that led to the referee brandishing a red card and ordering the 21-year-old to “step back” himself from any further involvement.
Despite being reduced to 10 men, Real Madrid went on to win on penalties, with Valverde getting the man-of-the-match award and praise from Atlético’s Diego Simeone. “It was the most important piece of play,” he cooed admirably. “I told Valverde that he did what he had to do at that moment. I think the prize for the best player makes perfect sense because Valverde won the game in this action.” His was a sentiment with which Morata, one can’t help but feel, might have respectfully disagreed.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“The FA has reminded Sheffield United’s Oli McBurnie of his responsibilities following [his] attendance at the Championship fixture between Cardiff and Swansea” – after appearing in a right get-up at Sunday’s goalless south Wales derby, former Swan Oli McBurnie gets a dressing-down by FA suits over images on assorted social media disgraces amid claims he made an obscene gesture to Cardiff fans.
Football Weekly will be in this general direction.
Michael Doyle. Still got it.
“This is a Fiver Facebook marketplace purchasing error just waiting to happen” – Stix.
“Re: Mat Ryan and his heartwarming bushfire animal rescue charity donation of A$28,000 after every Premier League save over the weekend (Friday’s News, Bits and Bobs). At least Claudio Bravo wasn’t in action” – Matt Richman.
“Is The Fiver still suffering from the effects of New Year Tin? It’s all I can think of to explain Mark McFadden’s missive (Thursday and Friday’s Fiver letters) being published two days on the trot” – Katie Maddock (and 1,056 others).
BITS AND BOBS
Fresh from procuring Neil Ashton’s advisory services, Manchester United are ready to continue their splurge with Bruno Fernandes, who is more than happy to come aboard in what could be a £60m deal.
Harry Kane’s hamstring-kaboom could even rule him out of Euro 2020, according to José Mourinho. “We expect him to be out until mid-April, end of April, May, next season, I don’t know,” tooted the Tottenham manager.
Big Phil Neville and England are heading back to the USA! USA!! USA!!! to defend their SheBelieves Cup title, where they will also tackle Spain and Japan.
Having broken the record for goals since football began in 1992, Sergio Agüero is thinking about what he’s done. “It’s a moment to enjoy,” he sighed. “I’m aware it’s not easy to score 12 hat-tricks in the Premier League, as it is such a difficult competition.”
Bernard Cribbins will meet Mike Ashley this week to discuss knack-struck Newcastle’s January transfer business. A short meeting, then.
After leapfrogging Bournemouth out of the relegation zone, Nigel Pearson is musing over his haul of 13 points from a possible 18 since taking over at Watford. “I’m just glad to be back in work,” he parped. “I wondered whether I would have the enthusiasm or the drive and desire, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised that I have.”
Patryk Klimala is at Parkhead to complete a £3.5m move from Jagiellonia Bialystok to the Queen’s Celtic. “It is exciting,” he cheered.
And Charlton have had a bid accepted by Peterborough for midfielder Marcus Maddison.
STILL WANT MORE?
“This is the founding principle of Mourinho-ball: the opposition are infinitely strong, we are infinitely weak” – Jonathan Liew on Humility Man™.
New clothes, “same d!ckhead”. It’s Nicky Bandini’s Serie A blog, featuring Maurizio Sarri, Roma and Zlatan.
Adam White and Eric Devin on PSG and why their Fantastic Four frontline is not sustainable.
“The men were screaming. They made me feel I should not be a referee.” Sachin Nakrani meets Sanaa Darawsha, who has overcome abuse to become Israel’s top female Arab official.
Rachel Brown-Finnis with the talking points from the Women’s Super League, including why Chelsea’s Ji So-yun is unplayable.
Ten – count them! – talking points on the Premier League.
Tumaini Carayol on Danny
Treadwater Drinkwater, and why his shocking debut for Aston Villa wasn’t all his fault.
Jamie Jackson catches up with Mohamud Ali.
Oh, and if it’s your thing … you can follow Big Website on Big Social FaceSpace. And INSTACHAT, TOO!