The Warm-Up: Football is just one big attention-seeker, isn’t it?
Just for one day, football couldn't let a few other sports have all the attention to themselves, could it?
MONDAY’S BIG STORIES
Mahrez makes sure the big attention-seeker that is football keeps waving
The Warm-Up is usually not one to cede any ground to any sport other than football, but even we must admit that on Sunday the eyes of the sporting world were broadly elsewhere, with a brilliant Wimbledon final between Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic and the most dramatic Cricket World Cup final of all time. And yet football, like the wonderful attention-seeker that it is, couldn’t help but barge in and jump around, trying to nick just a little bit of the limelight.
Step forward Riyad Mahrez, who hammered in an astonishingly dramatic 95th-minute free-kick to seal a 2-1 victory for Algeria over Nigeria, and thus seal a place in the Africa Cup of Nations final, after which he charged off on a crazed celebration run that he had entirely earned. Nigeria coach Gernot Rohr called it a “wonderful free-kick from a genius player”, which was very nice of him.
Mahrez’s goal came after William Troost-Ekong had given Algeria the lead with an own-goal, only for Nigeria to level from the spot, Odion Ighalo converting after yet another example of what a farce VAR can be, a penalty awarded after play had continued for a full minute. But in the end Algeria went through, and it seemed to go down pretty well in London, too…
Algeria will face Senegal in the final, who earlier in the day squeezed their way past Tunisia in the other semi-final, needing an own-goal in extra-time, donated to them after goalkeeper Mouez Hassen charged off his line, waved at the ball and it ricocheted off Dylan Bronn and into the net. Cruel circumstances, but if other little upstart sports are going to try muscling into the spotlight, then football needs to keep doing stuff like this.
Bruce to Newcastle: a move in which neither set of fans is happy
Grim times once more in Newcastle and Sheffield, as the appointment of Steve Bruce at St James’s Park edges ever closer. The latest is that the two clubs are currently wrangling over compensation for Bruce, but ultimately this appears to be one of those situations where basically nobody is happy. Or at least nobody in either set of fans is happy.
Newcastle fans are not happy because…well, they’re going from Rafa Benitez to Steve Bruce, a little like someone snatching a fine glass of Rioja out of your hand and replacing it with a flat can of Skol that’s been left out for three days and someone has used as an ashtray.
Sheffield Wednesday fans are not happy because their manager, the man who was supposed to bring some sort of stability to them after a ropey season, and who they accommodated by delaying his appointment in January so he could take some time out after a horrible personal year, is either leaving, or has shown he will leave at the first opportunity.
Bruce himself was confronted by a Wednesday fan at their pre-season friendly against Lincoln at the weekend, which is very clearly Not On, but he seemed to take that in his stride. He said:
"It’s in the hands of the club… For me, at this particular moment, there is nothing really to talk about until the two clubs reach some sort of compromise. Look, it has happened so quickly that I have got to take stock of the situation. It’s in the hands of both clubs and we will see what develops over the next 24 to 48 hours."
Does anybody know what transfer fees mean now?
A little dip into transfer speculation now, and the word on the street is that Harry Maguire’s move to Manchester United for around £80million is edging ever closer, while his replacement at Leicester will be Brighton’s Lewis Dunk, at a cost of £45million.
All of which leads us to wonder about the state of things, whether Maguire is worth £80million, whether anyone is actually worth £80million, and then when you really get down to brass tacks, to question the idea that the whole system of paying large amounts of money to ship a human being from one place to another is morally right.
At which point you really can get stuck in the weeds, and it’s probably time to think about something else. Ultimately, complaining about transfer fees has been pretty pointless for some years: these amounts are ultimately meaningless, numbers shifted around a spreadsheet by huge companies that lost the concept of what things are actually worth some time ago. Getting stressed or upset or even indignant about this sort of thing is a fool’s game.
Still, £80million! Eighty million pounds! Bloody hell.
IN OTHER NEWS
Look, if Antonio Conte tells you to die, you lie down in a box in the ground and make suitable arrangements for your estate. Equally, if he tells you to run faster…well, just run faster.
HEROES AND ZEROS
Heroes: Portland Thorns
Now all women’s football has to do in order to capitalise on the success of the World Cup is to ensure every game features a 94th-minute headed winner.
Zero: Haley Kopmeyer
Alternatively, another way to keep the eyeballs on the game is for more stuff like this to happen.
On this day 25 years ago, Blackburn SMASHED the British transfer record by paying a now rather quaint sounding £5million on Norwich striker Chris Sutton. Here he is scoring a bunch of goals for Rovers.
"The moment of Antoine Griezmann’s departure to Barcelona was broadcast live on television, 393 days after the Frenchman announced his decision to turn down Barcelona and stay at Atlético Madrid in a TV documentary. It had just gone 1pm on Friday when his legal representative arrived at the headquarters of La Liga wheeling a silver suitcase into the building, where he deposited the €120m (£107.6m) buyout clause that releases the striker from his contract, five years after his arrival."
Not a lot guys, not a lot. Unless you’re gagging to watch North Korea vs Tajikistan, of course. And if you are…fair play. You’ve got problems, obviously, but fair play.