THURSDAY'S BIG STORIES
Diego Maradona RIP
If you consider your footballers in terms of their ability and their achievements. If you measure them out in goals and glory. If you heap all their medals and moments in one pan of the cosmic scales, set against the feather in the other, then Maradona, with his Napoli scudetti and his World Cup — and it was very much his World Cup — comes out extremely well.
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But if you take the game not just as a sport but as an exquisite machine of torture and close attention and grace that sends some players, some victims, so deep and far into the heart of themselves that they burn up and collapse, like a dying star, and like a dying star go out as a smear of light across the heavens: well, nobody has ever happened to themselves quite so much as Maradona.
Or to put it another way. Football has had many great players, and a few that might reasonably claim to be the greatest. Only one of those few has ever told the Pope to sell the Sistine Chapel for parts.
Yes, I did argue with the Pope. I argued with him because I've been to the Vatican and seen the gold ceilings. And then I hear the Pope saying that the Church was concerned about poor kids. So? Sell the ceilings, amigo! Do something!
This is my favourite Maradona goal. It's not a particularly important one; you don't have to say that's magnificent. But there is something about the weirdness of the finish that delights: how unexpected it is to go up and over, from there, after that run. It is, in the very best way, an inappropriate finish, and that impropriety comes only from genius at its fullest extension. It's very, very funny. And just look at the slump of the keeper's shoulders.
He lived 60 years: he crammed at least a hundred years of life, up and down, good and bad, into that short time. But football, monstrous as it can be, does offer immortality in return. As long as there are people in the world interested in football, in Argentina and Naples and the world, and in how all of those things once came together in grandeur and joy, then he will never die.
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There's a time and a place for everything, so they say. But we can be sure that the time and place for shouting in Anthony Taylor's face is not in a must-win game against Real Madrid, is certainly not after about half an hour, and is definitely not when he's just booked you for dissent.
Vidal is, of course, one of football's great haranguers of officials, so he's probably had this coming for a while. He is also 33 years old, which should in theory make him a wise head around the place. Whether a wise head has ever been topped with a nu-metal mohawk is an open question: it certainly wasn't on this occasion.
In his absence, Inter went on to lose 2-0, a loss that leaves them bottom of Group B without a win, and in a scrap to even make the Europa League. And given how animated Antonio Conte gets when a throw-in goes the wrong way, we can scarcely imagine the carpeting waiting for Vidal back in the dressing room. Here's Conte after the game:
Unfortunately, I think we saw the difference between them and us. However, it shouldn’t knock us down, and we need to respond with humility as we look to go down our path. The teams are at different levels and we need to grow in every respect.
Since we're on the subject of messing around and getting booked for it, the Warm-Up particularly enjoyed this yellow card, bought and paid for by Manuel Neuer.
There's real presence of mind at work here. First to kick the ball off its little pandemic-plinth, just to make things more chaotic for the opposition. And then, when it backfires: Oops! Sorry, didn't see you there. Oh, you dropped the ball you were about to throw in. How unfortunate. Bye now!
Booked, essentially, for mucking about. And rightly so.
But Neuer wasn't just out to have a good time last night. No, he was out to annoy Red Bull Salzburg, who managed 11 shots on target against the defending champions but only one goal. Up the other end, Bayern scored three. Well, one of them was an own goal. And another was a massive deflection. Morally, we reckon Bayern scored about 1.3. But that's not how any of this works.
IN OTHER NEWS
Amongst all the Maradona tributes, we particularly enjoyed this from Argentina international Nicolás Tagliafico.
A lovely idea and a more-than-decent effort. Here's the original. Imagine being so good at something that your warm-ups become iconic.
Honestly, if you didn't spend last night watching every Maradona video on the internet then you're going to do that today, and that's okay. Tell your boss the Warm-Up said you could. And start here, with the highlights of that time in 1986 Maradona took the World Cup — the whole World Cup, every little bit of it — and bent it to his will.
Honestly, if you didn't spend last night reading every Maradona tribute … well, you get the idea. There's plenty here at Eurosport, all highly recommended. But when it comes to Argentinian football it is always worth reading Marcela Mora y Araujo, who is over at the Guardian with this look at the "the achingly human superstar who embodied Argentina".
From a very young age he was on TV displaying keepy-uppy skills and sharing his dream to win a World Cup, to play for Argentina. Some clips have become incredibly famous; some are archived among the many reels of his every waking moment that seem to exist. His entire life was played out on full view of the adoring public, courtesy of the media who, as legendary commentator Victor Hugo Morales said on Wednesday, saw in Maradona a selling machine.
You know, Maradona won the Europa League once, back when it was the UEFA Cup and nobody had thought to impose a group stage on the thing. And it is honestly heartbreaking that Napoli are going to have to play tonight, at home, in front of nobody at all. Elsewhere Arsenal visit Molde, Leicester visit Braga, and Rangers host Benfica.
Like Maradona, Tom Adams can do over one hundred keepy-uppys with an orange. But tomorrow he'll just do the Warm-Up instead.
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