We saw two games this week which proved beyond all doubt why the Premier League is top of the world in football.
Never in my life have I seen such passion, such commitment and determination from two Premier League teams as we witnessed with Liverpool and Tottenham.
After Liverpool’s triumph over Barcelona, the Tottenham match was expected to be an anti-climax except that it wasn’t. In the second half, super Spurs showed a level of football which had manager Mauricio Pochettino in tears and even at his press conference, he was still crying. Tears of joy, stress and relief.
He said: “I have said all season that my players are heroes and today we proved that. I am so grateful to be a coach. Lucas Moura was a superhero with his unbelievable hat-trick.”
Well done Tottenham! Also, my congratulations to a brilliant Liverpool who stunned the footballing world on Tuesday by beating Barcelona in what seemed mission impossible. Liverpool displayed passion, commitment, belief and pure energy.
The Reds overcame a 3-0 deficit against one of the world’s best clubs packed with superstars who were brushed aside. Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez walked off the pitch shell shocked and with their heads down in disbelief.
Messi was in tears and then to add to his misery the team left for Liverpool airport without him as he stayed behind for a random drugs test.
A lonely Messi was driven to the airport by car so he made the flight back to Barcelona. He couldn’t wait to get out of Liverpool and his nightmare evening.
This was one of the greatest displays of all time and night for the history books. With all the Reds players putting in an effort as though their lives depended on it like Jordan Henderson who got a nasty bang on the knee, played on in discomfort and at half time had some physio treatment and took painkillers and carried on in a memorable second half.
That is spirit! Well done Liverpool! And now we can look forward to an all Premier League Champion’s League final between these to famous clubs and I for one cannot wait.
It all comes down to the last weekend
And so it comes down to the last two matches of the season. This year’s Premier League has been enthralling and whichever team lifts the trophy this weekend, Man City or Liverpool, it is football that is the big winner. These two have given us the most memorable season to remember.
Mourhino snipes at Jurgen and Pep
Jose Mourinho is still bitter about being fired by Manchester United boss Ed Woodward and made some attacking remarks this week about the Vice-Chairman, Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp and Manchester City’s Pep Guardiola. Speaking as a TV pundit, he said despite winning “absolutely nothing” Jurgen Klopp still receives the backing of his board when he wants to bring another player into the club. He also said: “I would love to go into a club and have what Jurgen and Pep have. If you look at the Liverpool team that started last week’s Championship match, how many of them were there when Jurgen arrived? A couple. Jurgen is in the club and wins absolutely nothing for three-and-a-half years and he still has the trust, still has the confidence, still has the conditions to try to keep going and going. Pep was not happy with the full-backs he had (at Man City in 2016-17) and so the following summer, he bought three full-backs that he liked. When he bought one goalkeeper, Claudio Bravo and was not happy with him, the next season he bought Ederson. In my next job, I will not be starting a conversation without knowing exactly what the club wants and what the club has to give in terms of structure and the club objectives.”
Fans love Cahill but no affection for Sarri
There really is no love for Maurizio Sarri at Chelsea. I will explain that but first, let me pay tribute to outgoing club captain Gary Cahill. He has been a faithful servant of Chelsea since 2012 but this year, he has been frozen out by manager Sarri, who has announced that there is no place for Gary next year. Bringing him on for the last minute of normal time was both a necessary gesture but also an insult to a superb international player. I can reveal that Sarri did not intend to bring on Gary and only did so because the fans were chanting his name over and again and he knew it was the captain’s last game at Stamford Bridge. The fans know how important he has been to this club. Meanwhile, as I said, there is no love for Sarri with the Chelsea fans. At the final whistle, the team did a lap of honour but Sarri remained next to the tunnel. He knew there would be boos from the fans despite delivering Champion’s League football for next season. Will he be there in August? Only a brave man would bet on it. It is also interesting that club owner Roman Abramovich did not attend one single match this season after feeling badly treated by the British government over his work visa. He would, I am sure, sell Chelsea to any person or company rich enough to enter the Premier League. However, I can tell you that despite his public show of annoyance and defiance towards the government, he does talk with his management team before and after every game so he knows the situation with manager Sarri.
Lyon still trying to lure Wenger
Arsene Wenger is trying to decide whether or not to join Lyon in the French Liga 1 next season when current boss Bruno Genesio departs. Lyon are desperate to sign Wenger but Paris St Germain have also made their interest known. Wenger has refused Lyon several times but I am told he is flattered that Lyon have shown such persistence and recognises that he will be given a free hand to mould the team and the club if he joins. The 69-year-old has made no secret of his desire to return to club football and I know he is getting restless not being involved on a daily coaching basis. Fifa have talked to Arsene about a technical role but I also know he prefers to be at the sharp end and on the touchline. During the past few months, he has spent time with his family, building a stronger bond with them because it has been strained due to his obsession with football. At Arsenal, Arsene always went straight home after training sessions but would settle down to watch football from around the world, analysing all types of play and identifying players for future reference. Spending time with his longtime partner Annie and his lovely daughter has been a priority over the last few months but now he is determined to get back to work. His main distraction has been working as a TV pundit for beIN Sports but coaching is where his heart belongs.
Manchester City go for the Big Three
Manchester United players are to lose 25% of their wages for failing to qualify for the Champion’s League. Meanwhile, on the other side of town, Manchester City are in line to share £15million If they win the domestic league treble. The city already have the Carabao Cup and if they beat Brighton on Sunday and then Wolves in the FA Cup six days later they will be the first club to hold all three honours.
Quality players for free
There are some big names available on free transfers when this season ends and you will be surprised who might become available. I have contacted the clubs who employ the following players and my understanding is that none of them has yet agreed on new contracts which means they are free to leave and cost their new clubs nothing in transfer fees. James Milner at Liverpool, Adrien Rabiot at Paris St Germain, Yacine Brahimi at Porto, Mario Balotelli at Marseille, Hector Herrara at Porto, Max Kruse at Werder Bremen, Juan Mata at Man United and Arjen Robben at Bayern Munich could all become available with no transfer fees.
Hazard’s exit at Chelsea will not be the end of Blues
If, as widely expected, Eden Hazard moves from Chelsea this summer and signs for Real Madrid, I do not believe it is the end of the Blues as a dangerous striking force. This is a personal view but one I am convinced is right if manager Maurizio Sarri makes it work for him. There is a player who I believe can fill Hazard’s boots and bring new horizons to Chelsea. That man, for me, is Pedro. I have seen him play seven times this season and watched him train, mix with fellow teammates and trust me he is the real deal. Very talented, very popular within the squad and very experienced. I was surprised when Barcelona released him and he signed for Chelsea in 2015. Since then I do not think he has been shown enough respect for the talent he possesses. A two-footed winger who is capable of taking on defenders, leaving them for dead and cutting inside to make an assist or going for goal. He is fast, thinks out clever moves and he always shows 100% commitment. If I was Sarri the names of Pedro and Willian would be amongst the first I write down on the team sheet. The pair play well together but too often are substitutes for each other.
Pedro is loved by supporters because they know what he can do and what he brings to the party. In October 2016 he scored the fastest goal of that year netting against Man United after only 30 seconds…and the joy on his face was heartwarming. He did it for the fans. That was his 50th game for Chelsea and he also won Premier Goal of the Month for collecting the ball, beating two defenders, turning and hitting a ball which curved into the net. The skill of the man is amazing.
Because of this skill, he was constantly picked before the season’s Player of the Year, Willian. It always saddens me that it had to be one or the other who played because together they are lethal. A second Goal of the Month was followed by a bad injury to his face which saw him returning home for operations on several fractures. Back he came and scored again regularly but a change of tactics meant he often came off the bench in a 3-5-2 line-up.
In 2017-18 he finished with seven goals in 48 appearances. How many players can boast of winning the World Cup, Champions League final, Spanish League, Spanish Cup and European Championships? My belief is that Chelsea should break their ‘not signing or re-signing players over 30’ rule and give Pedro the chances he deserves and if and when Hazard does leave they will have a superstar just waiting to give them the quality they need.