THURSDAY'S BIG STORIES
The warm-ups are over. Every Euros team is now simmering nicely, ready for a month of intense bubbling over increasing heat. A pinch of group stage. Diced quarter-finals. And then, for one lucky team, the delicious, spicy, slow-cooked soup of victory.
The Premier League returns with a feast of local derbies - The Warm-Up
Defending champions Portugal completed their preparations with an impressive 4-0 win over Israel. Cristiano Ronaldo got one of the goals, obviously. But perhaps more exciting for Portugal's fans, Bruno Fernandes got two, and neither of them came from the penalty spot. One came from a point just a couple of yards to the right of the penalty spot, but the ball was moving so it's fine.
Everybody ended the club season looking tired. But Bruno, who had been carrying Manchester United for several months, looked to be trapped in a state beyond tiredness, an all-encompassing deep-in-the-bones knackeredness that was exhausting just to look at. Our expert medical opinion is still that he, like all other footballers and indeed human beings, needs a full month of sitting still and doing nothing. Maybe a crossword. But nobody at FIFA is returning our calls.
Instead, the Euros! If this is to be the tournament of careful defending and weary attacking, then the determining factor could well be the players like Bruno that can make something from nothing. A wave of the foot, and the ball disappears, and the goalkeeper doesn't know which cup it's under until — surprise! — it's in the net. Like this:
Minds too tired to press, legs too heavy to counter: this will be a tournament of individual moments. Every team lucky enough to have a Bruno will need them smiling and scampering about. And Portugal, who are lucky enough to have the actual Bruno in among all their other Brunos, will need all the help they can get in the group of extreme unpleasantness.
By the standard of the Premier League's Big Six, £22m isn't all that much money. Not quite half a Fred, before wages, or about two-sevenths of a Pépé. It's also the amount of money that the Big Six will be paying out, to the grassroots of the game, for their dalliance with the Super League. Rumours that Manchester United actually offered to hand over Fred have just been made up by us.
If it doesn't seem a lot, then that's because by football's broken economics it really isn't. But then we're guessing that £22m actually goes quite a long way down at the grassroots. And it comes with another round of grovelling apologies, which will doubtless be of great comfort the next time a big club decides to go trawling the lower leagues for youth prospects.
The six clubs involved in proposals to form a European Super League have acknowledged once again that their actions were a mistake, and have reconfirmed their commitment to the Premier League and the future of the English game.
Now, the Warm-Up was all for points deductions, enforced relegation, clapping all the owners in the stocks and deploying the mouldering fruit… but we can understand the FA not wanting to pick that particular fight. At the same time as this goodwill gesture was being agreed, Uefa was announcing that disciplinary proceedings against Real Madrid, Barcelona, and Juventus — the three that hadn't said sorry — have been stayed indefinitely.
We all laughed at how unprepared the Big Six were for the backlash. But it's probably important to remember this isn't entirely true. They didn't see the public fury coming, but at the moment of launch, they were already making moves in the Spanish court system to ensure they were protected from punishment. That's paying off now.
Back in England, the bigger punishments — a £25m fine, and a 30-point deduction — have been suspended. Don't do it again! Quite what happens if the teams in question decide, next time, to leave the Premier League altogether… is a difficult question that nobody involved wants to answer. But hey, at least everybody now knows the price.
You have to feel for Paulo Fonseca. Obviously managing Spurs is a pretty decent job, as management jobs go, and if he does move to north London he'll be doing so on an excellent wage to work with some talented footballers in a very shiny stadium. Life could be worse.
But he'll also be doing so after a brief, delirious period in which first Mauricio Pochettino and then Antonio Conte were getting the job. That's one of Tottenham's most beloved managers, and one of the world's most winningest. Tough acts to follow, particularly since he doesn't really have to follow them, but the imagined versions of what they might have been. Much tougher.
Fonseca's appointment is currently at the "advanced talks" stage, which is the moment in negotiations that lies between "Hey, you interested?" and "How much?! Get out!" Promises of attractive football and long reads about his most inspirational teachers are tantalisingly close. But the most intriguing aspect of this appointment is its circularity. If Fonseca comes to north London, he'll be replacing José Mourinho, who is of course moving to Roma, where he's replacing… Paulo Fonseca!
Football has a problem. At the top of the game, the managerial merry-go-round is spinning faster and faster, and there aren't enough viable candidates to go around. This is why super clubs end up appointing club legends straight from the vineyard, this is why managers trade places, this is why that "never go back" rule is taking an almighty kicking.
Perhaps Mourinho and Fonseca were simply in the wrong jobs; perhaps each will find their new surroundings more amenable. But if both are looking around for another gig in a couple of years, we won't be too surprised. The merry-go-round spins and spins nobody seems to know how to stop it. Congratulations, then, to José Mourinho, on his reappointment as Tottenham manager for the 2023/24 season. And the very best of luck.
IN OTHER NEWS
You know, if we were only allowed to keep one genre of footballing content, it might be goalkeeping training montages. Look how nimble they are! How spry! How bouncy! Here's David de Gea, who may or may not be trying to put himself in the shop window.
IN THE CHANNELS
Scotland Euro 2020 hype video featuring Pat Nevin? Scotland Euro 2020 hype video featuring Pat Nevin! Be warned though, it's powerful stuff: you should probably avoid it if you don't want to end up accidentally supporting Scotland.
Particular props for matching "A new way tae think" with footage of Steve Clarke at his sternest and most bristly. Oh, the tournament's close now. So close. So close.
Here's Ryan Baldi over at the BBC, digging deep into the Harry Kane backstory. You want training ground anecdotes? Check. You want stats? Check.
Whenever I looked at him after training, he'd be sitting there, going over it in his head. That is a player who takes care of his football. He means business. And he was doing that at 18. That's incredible.
No more Euro 2020 warm-ups! But football continues. Football always continues. First we have a men's friendly between Estonia and Latvia, and then a women's friendly between Northern Ireland and Scotland.
To keep himself busy until he gets the Spurs job in 2025, Tom Adams will be here with tomorrow's Warm-Up.
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