The Warm-Up: Hello, Paul Pogba rent-a-quote services, how can we help?
Jack Lang reacts to yet another international break bombshell from Paul Pogba and looks at all the latest from the Borussia Dortmund swap shop...
THURSDAY’S TOP STORIES
Keeping it Real
Paul Pogba is a fantastic footballer and seems like a very nice man. Most of the people who hate him seem to do so for spurious reasons. You will get no Graeme Souness nonsense on these pages.
However, Manchester United fans must wish that the midfielder could just play a straight bat every now and then when asked about his future.
Yes, another international break, another statement that, while broadly inoffensive, just begs to be whipped into clickbaity headlines.
“Like I’ve always said, Real Madrid is a dream for anyone,” said Pogba, to the sound of dribbling saliva in tabloid newsrooms worldwide.
“It’s one of the biggest clubs in the world. There is also Zidane as a coach and it’s a dream for anybody who likes football.”
Julen Lopetegui would probably disagree, but that’s neither here nor there. The point is the ease with which Pogba could have avoided using the word “dream”, and thus a cluster of stories speculating about the next steps in his career.
Still, at least he also waxed lyrical about his love for his current employers. Oh no, wait: “For now, I’m at Manchester. We don’t know what the future holds. I’m at Manchester and I’m happy.”
Ah, the old, “For now, I’m at Manchester.” Thanks for the vote of confidence, Paul. You can put down the Mino Raiola handbook now.
Dortmund swap shop
More rumours from the outskirts of International Fortnightsville: Borussia Dortmund are supposedly bracing themselves for big-money moves for Jadon Sancho this summer, and have already started lining up a replacement.
The Warm-Up can only hope this leads to a massive domino run of wing transfers, eventually culminating in something stupid like Monaco signing Jordon Ibe.
His name is Luka
In actual football action, Wales beat Trinidad & Tobago in a match The Warm-Up didn’t watch for reasons relating to having a will to live. Sounded like a thriller, though, honestly.
Ditto Germany 1-1 Serbia, although that one did at least feature a timely goal by Luka Jovic, newly linked with a €50million summer move to Barcelona. The transfer window is now, folks.
IN OTHER NEWS
You know who The Warm-Up hasn’t heard from for a while? Adrien Rabiot’s agent slash mum slash personal PR liability, Veronique, that’s who.
But wait! That buzzing on the wires! Are those… some new quotes on her son’s hilariously self-inflicted woes at Paris Saint-Germain?
“Adrien is a prisoner,” begins France’s unofficial queen of understatement. “He is a hostage at PSG. Soon it will be dry bread, water and a dungeon for him! It is a cruel environment.
“I am not crying and looking for sympathy, nor trying to weaken Adrien further by saying that he is not coping well, but his human side is under attack. I will simply say that he is taking all of this very badly since the start.”
Dry bread, water and a dungeon! Truly, madame, you have outdone yourself. It’s like your parents coming to school and shouting at a bully on your behalf. Except the bully is paying you hundreds of thousands of Euros per month and otherwise ignoring you. Dry bread, water and a dungeon! Dry bread, water and a dungeon!
HEROES AND ZEROES
Heroes: Zulia FC
Winnning away from home: difficult.
Winning away from home in continental competition: v difficult.
Winning away from home in continental competition at absurd altitude in Bolivia: v v difficult.
Winning away from home in continental competition at absurd altitude in Bolivia with only 21% possession: v v v difficult.
Winning away from home in continental competition at absurd altitude in Bolivia with only 21% possession and after conceding 54, yes FIFTY-FOUR (FIFTY-BLOODY-FOUR!) shots: you, my dears, are absolute legends.
Hey, remember the tit-for-tat ticket price battle between Manchester United and Sevilla last season? Sure you do; you read about it on The Warm-Up and had that really good nap straight afterwards!
A very happy Warm-Up birthday to Ronaldinho, who turns 39 today. You’ve seen all his best Barcelona moments a million times over, so instead let’s delve into the bookends of his career back in Brazil, shall we?
Here he is as a teenager, absolutely humiliating Dunga and generally being annoyingly good:
…and here are his best bits for Atletico Mineiro, including one sneaky-as-hell bit of offside avoidance:
"There is a need to be sensitive to the fact the world has changed. What seems a simple choice for a middle-aged man with only one flag to his name might not be the case for a teenager keen to honour both his family and his country. There is a need to dial back the language used, to accept this can be a complex topic, and that this is no one’s fault, not an indication of some basic frailty of spirit."
Oh, and if you haven’t guffawed over this thread from Warm-Up alum Adam Hurrey (official party line: good riddance), you haven’t lived:
Euro 2020 qualifiers ahoy! We start, at 3pm, with the big one (Kazakhstan vs Scotland – do keep up at the back), move on to the almost self-parodically unappealing Cyprus vs San Marino at 5pm, and then dive into the warm seas of EIGHT 7.45pm kick-offs.
In all honesty, it’s fairly thin gruel. The Netherlands should kick off with a win against Belarus, ditto Croatia vs Azerbaijan, while Northern Ireland face Estonia. The main draw is Belgium vs Russia, which should at least be fairly diverting.