FRIDAY’S BIG HEADLINES

Pep's new deal, now what about Messi?

Premier League
Liverpool and Manchester United both win by not losing — The Warm-Up
YESTERDAY AT 09:06

The classiest knitwear in the Premier League is going nowhere, then. We will be treated to Pep Guardiola and his passive-aggressive press conferences - “believe me, I am so happy” – for an extra couple of years after he signed a contract extension yesterday which ties him to the club until the summer of 2023.

It’s great news for Manchester City, clearly. If the momentum seemed to have been slowly eeking out of the Pep project, with City currently sitting tenth in the table, all the players now know that a major rebuild is on the cards and Guardiola will be the man to lead it with his trademark intensity, and no little weirdness. The news brings a certain clarity to the club’s operations.

But it’s also great news for the English game. Not just because it guarantees that Phil Foden will continue to be developed by one of the greatest ever minds in football, or that Guardiola’s futuristic style of play will continue to decorate the Premier League. No, this brings us to the real story of yesterday’s contract extension: what it actually means for City’s chances of signing Lionel Messi.

The ink was barely dry on Guardiola’s signature – he’d barely had time to squeeze the words “we decided that the best for all of us is to continue because still we have the feeling that there is unfinished business” out of his mouth – before attention quickly turned to a rather unhappy little figure in Barcelona who just may have been distracted from his Josep Bartomeu voodoo doll long enough to register the development.

In fact, our colleagues at eurosport.es were quick off the mark in reporting that Guardiola’s new contract was seen by City as a crucial factor in being able to sign Messi – along with also keeping hold of his great mate Sergio Aguero and exploiting the instability and angst in Barcelona which led Messi to speak out this week and say he is “tired of always being the problem”.

Today’s papers are full of suggestions that City are now going full steam ahead to bring Messi to the club. Does it matter, as Marcus Foley has argued here, that Messi might not actually be an ideal signing for City, or Guardiola? Maybe.

But frankly, who cares? We need Messi in the Premier League. It has to happen. Please make it happen.

Blood spilled at Arsenal… or fake news?

As if to welcome back proper football this weekend in style, David Ornstein revealed yesterday afternoon that a recent scrap between David Luiz and Dani Ceballos at Arsenal’s training ground resulted in blood being spilled (or, at least, some level of oozing).

Ceballos wasn’t having the story but Ornstein’s account of the flare-up seemed pretty well-sourced...

“Those who were not away with their national sides took part in a practice match last Friday and The Athletic has learned that as manager Mikel Arteta blew the final whistle, David Luiz took exception to a challenge by Dani Ceballos and retaliated by hitting him in the face, a scratch drawing blood.

“Luiz is said to have struck Ceballos on the nose, sending him to the ground. When Ceballos got up to confront Luiz, team-mates and staff stepped in to diffuse the scuffle.”

And any training ground bust-up story of course would not be complete without the suggestion that this is actually a good thing:

“Training is thought to have ensued positively and free of any subsequent issues, with a feeling around the camp that the flare-up shows a competitiveness which — if channelled in the right way — is ultimately what Arteta wants and might come to be seen as a good thing in the long run.”

Stephen Kenny’s video nasty

Just when you thought the international break would pass without anything interesting of note happening… bang! Right at the end, we have a genuine geopolitical controversy which threatens to stoke centuries of enmity.

This rather strange story comes courtesy of Ireland manager Stephen Kenny, who apparently tried to motivate his players ahead of their friendly at Wembley, which they lost 3-0, by showing a video with some “anti-English” sentiments and displaying some notable moments in the history of Anglo-Irish relations – presumably including the ‘dere's more to Ireland dan dis’ episode of Alan Partridge. It didn’t go down well with some of his players and Kenny is now said to be fighting for his job as a result.

As reported by The Guardian: “Kenny left a number of his squad uncomfortable by the contents of the video, which were a mix of motivational pro-Irish messages and a history of Anglo-Irish relations. Indeed, it is believed some players objected to what they were shown.”

In a statement the FAI said: “The Football Association of Ireland is aware of issues surrounding content shared with our Republic of Ireland senior men’s team ahead of the recent international friendly against England at Wembley Stadium. The FAI is already looking into this internally as a matter of urgency, in order to establish the facts. The FAI has no further comment to make at this time.”

IN OTHER NEWS

Decent little tackle this, don’t know what all the fuss is about

RETRO CORNER

Yesterday marked the tenth anniversary of the Venky’s takeover at Blackburn Rovers. Things are a little more stable at Ewood Park these days but the early years were a wild ride indeed, from signing ‘the new Batistuta’ (Mauro Formica) and ‘the Brazilian Denis Irwin’ (Bruno Ribeiro), to chickens running on the pitch in protest and just basically everything about the reign of the wildly under-qualified Steve Kean, who ended up in a spot of bother after fans recorded him making some unwise comments about Sam Allardyce.

But The Warm-Up’s favourite moment was advisor Shebby Singh getting carried away with himself at a fans’ forum and telling supporters that Morten Gamst Pedersen was a “pensioner” and that Kean would be sacked if he lost three games in a row. It’s the sincerity of the way he simply says “yes” – gets us every time.

COMING UP

We’re back with a full schedule of Premier League lives over the weekend, plus Barcelona v Atletico Madrid, Villarreal v Real Madrid and Bayern Munich v Werder Bremen. But kicking things off tonight, it’s PSG v Monaco in Ligue 1. Join us for live comments from 7:15pm!

Andi Thomas has been watching “anti-English” videos all week. His 5,000-word diatribe on Anglo-Welsh relations should be ready by Monday morning.

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