TUESDAY’S BIG STORIES
Cash for tears
How much would someone need to pay you to be miserable? Not just a bit down in the dumps, but unfiltered, sweeping and endless despair? £1,000 a week? £10,000 a week? £100,000 a week?
Conte, Tuchel and the handshake that's entered Premier League folklore – The Warm-Up
That is the question at the heart of the Manchester United project right now. ‘Can we pay someone enough money that, even though they know they will be really, really unhappy, they say yes anyway?’
Up until now, the accepted terms for endless despair in the post-Sir Alex era have ranged from around £100,000 [the likes of Morgan Schneiderlin] to £480,000 a week [the likes, or like, of Cristiano Ronaldo].
And now a new name is considering trading their happiness for wads of cash: Frenkie De Jong. We’re all aboard the transfer merry-go-round at Old Trafford again, with the Dutchman becoming the latest to spend the entire summer wondering ‘can I really do it?’
One doesn’t simply sign for United in a heartbeat. Oh no. The process must take many weeks, sometimes whole transfer windows, as you lurch from definitely staying to definitely accepting wads of cash. Right now, De Jong is sat between the two extremes. He certainly wants to stay at Barca, if given the choice, but then again… wads of cash.
Of course, it would also spell a reunion with Erik ten Hag, the man who helped shape his craft at Ajax. Big Erik is getting the band back together. Or at least the drummer and rhythm guitarist. Donny van de Beek is back from Everton, while De Jong is reportedly soon to be subject of an €85m bid.
Is it really the most sensible move from United? After all, they have previous at spending overinflated fees and it all going wrong, so someone with a ‘for sale’ sticker slapped on their forehead by Barcelona – the same Barcelona who have only recently started Sellotaping themselves back together – may be worth swerving. Then again, this is Manchester United and spending big on the wrong players is their USP.
What about De Jong’s thoughts? He can be forgiven for wanting to leave, given Barcelona are so keen to sell him, but is he ready to hop straight onto another misery bus? His former boss, and now current boss with the Netherlands, Ronald Koeman doesn't think so.
"All I know is that Frenkie wants to stay at Barca. He said that a few days ago. But I don't know if Barca want or need to sell him because they need money. He is one of the few for whom a lot of money can be asked,” Koeman said on Spanish TV show Vaques Sagrades.
Well that clears that up. Anyway, for what it’s worth, the Warm-Up would accept £3,000 a week to be miserable at Old Trafford. And don’t tell anyone, but we might even secretly enjoy it.
We dedicated yesterday’s Warm-Up to him but you have to be extra well-behaved to get two in a row.
Which given his outrageous plans to begin phase one of his retirement aged 32 – the same age as this iteration of the Warm-Up – Gareth Bale has absolutely not been well-behaved.
Let this be a lesson to you, Gaz. (And good luck in America!)
IN THE CHANNELS
We work in sports journalism, and that obviously comes with the caveat of at least occasional social awkwardness, but my word, Ten Hag looks set to take it to new heights.
Exactly 28 years ago, the owner of the greatest hips in football became the oldest goalscorer at a World Cup – aged 42! Exactly 28 years on, no one has come close to matching Roger Milla’s record. Here he is, banging them in for Cameroon and beyond. A true legend.
Netherlands, fresh from their failed experiment of playing against the team in orange, are among the teams in action in Women's World Cup qualifying.
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