Again? Seriously? Again? Daniel Levy must survey the morning papers like Bill Murray roused by his 6am alarm call in Groundhog Day.
‘OK campers, rise and shine…’ Except, instead of Sonny and Cher and the inane chatter of radio DJs, Levy is confronted with the latest bulletin from Mauricio Pochettino’s press conference, the latest round of brinkmanship, the most recent revelation running counter-productive to everything the club wishes to achieve.
How he could have quit, or he would have quit, or he doesn’t buy the players, or he’s the coach but not the manager. Last week Pochettino was walking out had Tottenham won the Champions League, this week he wanted a demotion in title because he had no say in transfer dealings. It is all, Pochettino’s disciples say, part of a cunning plan to get Tottenham’s transfer business done.
Mauricio Pochettino creates uncertainty to motivate Tottenham to keep him happy
This is his way of applying pressure. He creates uncertainty to motivate Tottenham to keep him happy. For Levy, surely, it’s becoming tiresome.
Pochettino is a brilliant manager, everyone agrees on that. But Tottenham are a brilliant club, too. They have built the best club stadium in the country, they have an academy system that feeds a steady stream of young prospects, and they have consistently broken their transfer record during Pochettino’s tenure. Moussa Sissoko, £31.5million; Davinson Sanchez £36m; Tanguy Ndombele £54m. It might tumble again if the club can pull off the deal with Real Betis for Giovani Lo Celso.
This is advanced as Pochettino’s motivation. Yet when did it ever help negotiations to give the impression the manager is teetering on the edge half the time? Certainly when he is a very viable target for Real Madrid, or Paris Saint-Germain, or Manchester United — or any number of clubs that could have a vacancy in the not too distant future?
Supposedly, Pochettino is playing a clever game. Yet how clever is it really? For a game to even be necessary Pochettino must presume Levy is ready to jeopardise all that development, all that advancement, for the sake of a cheap deal.
The chairman likes his own form of brinkmanship, obviously, as the minutes tick away towards the deadline, but he would have to be a fool to sell his club short now. Is the relationship between chairman and manager really so distrustful that Pochettino has to engage in this charade? Does he genuinely not believe the club are trying to deliver his players?
Tottenham have responded coolly to the latest drama, saying Pochettino is part of the four-man recruitment team and, no, they will not be changing his title to coach. Maybe they just think he needs a cuddle. The fear, of course, is that he genuinely likes the sound of that train in the distance; and all of this so-called politicking merely lays the ground for the day he decides to catch it.
Surely the Tottenham manager’s games are becoming tiresome for chairman Daniel Levy
SULKING BALE DESERVES NO SYMPATHY
Being photographed on the golf course while apparently ‘too ill’ to travel with Real Madrid to a pre-season fixture is hardly helping Gareth Bale’s claim of poor treatment.
Whether Zinedine Zidane has an irrational grudge against him or not, this image merely feeds the negative portraits of a player most interested in lowering his handicap.
That his agent, Jonathan Barnett, said Bale was playing golf to ‘clear his head’ after the collapse of a move to China only compounds the issue. Whether Bale has been harshly treated by Zidane or not, the one thing Madrid do not owe him is money. It is not their job to take a huge loss so Bale can earn in the region of £5million a month in China.
He has been magnificently rewarded in Spain and it is not unreasonable for Madrid to recoup some of their investment with his resale. They are not standing in his way. They are simply holding out for their share.
Certainly, Bale sulking on the putting green will elicit no sympathy. He is no longer mourning his place in Madrid’s team. He is just a very rich footballer, denied the chance to become even richer. That’s not a sob story and it’s not even personal. It’s just business.
Real Madrid winger Gareth Bale sulking on the putting green will elicit no sympathy
LA LIGA IN ANOTHER FINE MESSI
As it stands, La Liga will not be broadcast on English screens this season. This news is a hardy annual, and typically resolved at a late hour.
It is worth remembering what happened last year, when the rights went to streaming service Eleven Sports, whose numbers through the season were desperately low. Eleven then ran into difficulties and ultimately retained La Liga only on a non-exclusive basis.
This is significant because Andrea Radrizzani, the Leeds chairman, owns Eleven Sports and was particularly outspoken on the deal the Football League struck for Championship football with Sky, claiming the clubs could have done much better.
If he can’t sell Lionel Messi and Barcelona, however, it does pose the question why he thinks he would have more luck with Blackburn Rovers or Luton Town.
As it stands, La Liga will not be broadcast on English screens this upcoming campaign
WHY ARE JUVE SO KEAN TO SELL?
Every glimpse of Moise Kean suggests he is a player. He made his debut for Juventus at 16, scored in Serie A at 17, for Italy at 19, and won’t turn 20 until February.
He is strong, skilful, scores good goals — he’s not the finished article but, at that age, who is? The only alarm bell is why Juventus would sell a player with such potential to Everton for £29m — because, on the face of it, they’re mad.
SO, WHERE HAVE ALL THE FORTNITE WOMEN GONE?
Here’s something interesting about the Fortnite World Cup. Not the money. The make-up. There were 100 finalists at Flushing Meadows last week, qualifying in entirely open heats, across every continent, with no restrictions on age or gender, and 40 million entered.
They were whittled down over a period of 10 weeks and at the end, that incredible number — bigger than the entire population of Canada — was reduced to the hundred best. And how many women?
None. And you’ll hear every possible reason advanced for this. Scientific differences, emotional differences, gender differences. The 2015 test conducted by the University of Colorado Boulder, that suggested men had faster response times than women when reacting to light and sound.
The fact that Fortnite is basically a shooting computer game which will always have greater appeal to young men than women, meaning they’ll devote more time, often obsessively, and get better at it. But here’s the worrying one. That gaming environments are male dominated, making them hostile to women, who will encounter misogyny as often as they do in life, and ultimately lose interest or become cowed.
Take your pick. Even so — not one person. And Epic, Fortnite’s manufacturers, estimate the male-female player ratio to be 65:35, not 100:0. So there has to be a reason. We know why men and women have to compete separately in most physical sports. But esports? It would be truly depressing if they had to go the same way, too.
There were no women involved among the 100 finalists at the recent Fortnite World Cup
CONFUSION FOR CHINA AT WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS
No doubt swimming’s governing body FINA were not at all embarrassed that China, and its noted drug cheat Sun Yang, should finish top of the medal table at their world championships.
So many athletes denounced Sun that FINA passed a rule mid-tournament outlawing free speech. Sun also accused his rivals of ‘disrespecting’ China.
Actually, they were disrespecting cheats but as China has so many of them — particularly in swimming — the two are easily confused.
FRIENDS IN HIGH PLACES FOR MAN UNITED
A Manchester United supporters group claims it will be another 158 years before the club can pay off the debt levelled on it by the Glazer takeover in 2005. So far, just £44m of the £660m taken out has been repaid.
The irony here is that before the elite clubs hijacked its meaning, debt — not owner investment — was the target of UEFA’s financial fair play. How fortunate that United had so many friends in high places able to explain to football’s rulemakers who the real wrongdoers were.
TEST CRICKET’S LATEST IDEA WILL LEAVE BAFFLED FANS STUMPED
Cricket was always the sport Americans couldn’t understand. Five days and it’s a draw. Watch them getting their heads around that, ha ha.
Have you seen the format of the World Test Championship? Try explaining that to any nationality: English, Australian, Indian, West Indian. It reads like it was sketched up on the back of a fag packet. And some very good ideas have started that way. Most times, however, the inventor returns to his jottings and shapes his thoughts further.
This is where the World Test Championship differs.
There is no set fixture schedule, no round robin as such. There are 12 teams but they don’t all play each other. They play who they like, pretty much, same as always. Nor is there a fixed number of matches. There is a league and, in that, everyone is competing for the same points — but not every match has an equal points value.
So England’s five Ashes Tests with Australia carry the same total points as the two Tests they will play on tour in Sri Lanka next year: 120 per series.
In other words, win at Edgbaston this week and it is worth 24 points; win in Colombo next March and it is worth 60.
And some series are not included at all. In the time England will play 22 Tests, Sri Lanka will play 13. So not all of England’s games will count towards the WTC standings.
Have you seen the format of the World Test Championship? Try explaining that to any nation
Of course, not every competition makes perfect sense. The EFL Cup, for instance, is decided with one game per round bar the semi-final when, inexplicably, there are two.
The FA Cup insists on full blown replays in its early rounds and then the lottery of a penalty shootout once it gets towards the final. There are countless sports in which winning the league merely entitles the champions to a play-off with an inferior. And lifting the cup at UEFA’s inaugural Nations League did not even afford Portugal a place in the European Championship finals.
All of these competitions have significant logical flaws but none is quite as baffling as the World Test Championship, the most comical notion being that this is supposed to reinvigorate Test cricket, with a league table and a final at Lord’s in 2021.
The idea is that cricket lovers will know where their team is in the table and will take interest in the long-form game, globally, as a result. In other words, if England are near the top, New Zealand versus Pakistan may become hugely significant in the battle for supremacy. Yet is New Zealand versus Pakistan even a WTC accredited match? And how many points per Test? Forget Nasser or Bumble, at this rate we’ll need Prof Brian Cox to explain the significance of events in Dunedin.
The organisers gave more thought to It’s A Knockout.
WIE WAS NO NOVELTY ACT BUT ADVISERS LET HER DOWN
The Women’s British Open began at Woburn on Thursday without one of the most famous names in the sport. Michelle Wie is taking the rest of the year off in an attempt to recover from a series of hand injuries. She is 29 and her time away from the game has been described as ‘indefinite’. Her last two rounds were 84 and 82 in Minneapolis, and she looked distraught contemplating an uncertain future.
We will never know if, physically, Wie would have better withstood the challenge of a professional career had she not been parachuted into men’s tournaments by the William Morris Agency and various sponsors from the age of 14. That was Wie’s brilliance — the teenage girl who could compete with men. And she did, on odd occasions, if competing is making one cut in 13, or just being there at all.
Michelle Wie’s advisers made one of golf’s greatest talents unexceptional down the years
On other occasions, such as the 2006 European Masters, she finished last, 15 over par. It didn’t matter to Omega, the tournament sponsors, because competition wasn’t the point. She could have played in a women’s tournament and competed, because she was an astonishingly gifted player, but against men she was a novelty act, there to pull in the crowds.
Winners win. It becomes a habit. Wie should have been a big winner, a regular winner, but spent too much time interrupting her momentum at competitions where just surviving to Saturday would be a triumph. No wonder her game deteriorated. She had distance in the women’s events but even cherry-picking her tournaments among men, that advantage was negated; and who knows the physical toll of striving for those extra yards? If this is the end, she will retire having won a single major, the US Open in 2015.
It is her advisers, not Wie, who truly performed the impossible: they made one of golf’s greatest talents unexceptional.