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Football Thread 2020/2021


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Re - test crowds / FA Cup

 

I was more surprised at seeing a block of fans celebrating pretty close together. Admittedly it’s not a sell-out by any means and likely a size of crowd that would mean minimal policing. Footage from Brighton looked more regimented.

 

Clip below. Maybe it’s the angle, or just a novelty seeing an actual crowd. Here’s to the tests going well, would happily go back if and when possible.

 

 

 

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Shane Duffy to Celtic and Glenn Murray to Watford. Sad to see them both go but I get that they both wanted more first team minutes.

 

Bit weird that Watford didn't try for someone like Rhian Brewster though.

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It looks like James Rodriguez is heading to Everton. Is it harsh to describe him as a modern day Karel Poborsky? His career got an unexpected upward trajectory thanks to a wonder goal at an international tournament and while he has done OK at Bayern and Real he hasn't shown enough to justify that enormous price tag.

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Everton signing Hammers Rodriguez is such an Everton/West Ham move.

 

The fans will be happy at such a 'coup' and claim its proof they're 'back' etc - but in reality you're just signing somebody that Real massively overpaid for and put on huge wages off the back of a decent goal at one World Cup and have been trying to get rid of ever since once they discovered he's a bit slow and nothing that special.

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He's probably going to be a Gylfi Sigurdsson, absolutely brilliant one week and invisible the next.  Very Everton signing.

 

Not West Ham.  A West Ham signing is a guy who is absolutely brilliant until the clocks go back and then the next you hear of him, is 15 months later when he's shoved out on loan to somewhere in Turkey.

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You'd cant begrudge any fan for getting excited about picking up James and Allan. I dont think any fans would say they are back in the big time, but those kind of signings push them closer to the upper mid tier time. :omg: (Top 7 hunt.)

 

Looking forward to seeing them in the Prem, back under Carlo.

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excellent long-form piece from the Athletic today about the history of Messi's father being his agent, and the pros & cons of that situation.

 

Spoiler

“Who is prepared for all this?” said Jorge Messi in 2016. “Maybe nobody is. I tried to see how the other footballers managed things. It’s hardly that difficult.”

Nobody could really have been ready to manage the career of Lionel Messi, from his arrival at Barcelona as a 13-year-old super talented starlet in need of medical treatment through to his current determination to force an exit from the Catalan club.  

Leo is not like other footballers — the scorer of 634 goals and winner of 34 trophies during 15 years in the Barca first team, but away from the pitch a painfully shy character who just wants to be left alone to play ball.

Jorge is also not like other agents or “handlers” of top sporting talents, although it is not uncommon for those even at the very top of that trade to enter the business in unusual ways. Jorge Mendes was famously a Portuguese nightclub DJ, while Mino Raiola worked in his family’s pizza business, and both have done OK. 

Messi senior was a supervisor at a metal factory in Rosario, but now he is the chief executive of a “family business” that turns over more than €150 million a year between Leo’s Barca salary, his many commercial contracts, the family’s property investments and other various business interests. 

All the trophies, goals and moments of magic have also been accompanied by seemingly unnecessary off-field dramas. Meanwhile, Leo continued to keep playing football and winning trophies at Barcelona, right up until this August’s 8-2 Champions League quarter-final defeat against Bayern Munich, which may now be the last of his 731 appearances in a blaugrana shirt.

Through it all — whether wearing matching tuxedos celebrating winning another Ballon d’Or or more soberly dressed in court accused of tax fraud — Jorge and Leo have been inseparable. Advisors and counsellors have come and gone, often after fallings out, but the father and son duo remain inseparably linked. They appear to act as one, and think as one, in good times and in bad. 

Last week’s infamous Burofax that announced Leo’s intention to use a clause in his Barca contract to unilaterally leave the club has again shone a spotlight on their relationship. It has also left them looking very alone in a world where they no longer have as much control as they have become used to. 

Jorge is now coming to the Catalan capital for a meeting with Josep Maria Bartomeu, maybe the most high profile agent-president summit in all football history, to decide what happens next in Leo’s career. But are the Messis really prepared for what they have gotten themselves into? Is their hand really as strong as they think it is? And do they have the skills and nous to play their cards right, now that everything has finally been put out on the table?

Jorge Messi was always a football fan, but his first organised entrance into the sport was when he helped as coach at the local Grandoli club, where little Leo played his first games.

“(Leo) always followed what I said to him as his coach,” Jorge told Kicker in 2013. “Even today he is still like that. He has never told me, I’m 25 now and grown up and the best player in the world. The other day I mentioned a couple of things to him after the game against Madrid. I’m still the same as a father as when I was his coach at Grandoli.” 

The obviously incredibly talented Leo soon moved on, starring for the youth teams of Rosario’s biggest club, Newell’s Old Boys, but by the age of 13 it was clear Leo needed treatment for a hormone condition affecting his growth. The Messis were not poor — Jorge was a section head at the city’s huge Acindar metal works — but they could not afford to pay $900 a month required for the treatment. Neither could Newells, even though Leo was already famous enough to have been the subject of a page long profile in the Rosario newspaper La Capital in September 2000. 

Just two weeks after that newspaper article, father and son disappeared. Classmates and teachers at his school wondered where he had got to. Staff at Newells thought he had taken an offer to move to a Buenos Aires club. There was even a rumour that maybe he had hepatitis. 

Jorge and Leo had actually left Rosario for Catalonia without telling anyone outside the family where they were going, to spend two weeks on trial at Barcelona. Leo impressed team-mates and coaches with his dazzling ability, but Barca’s hierarchy moved slowly, and also dragged their heels on arranging a job for Jorge in the city. 

When they returned home to Rosario without a deal having been agreed, Jorge organised for Leo to have a trial with River Plate, just to put extra pressure on. 

It was not until December that Barca director Charly Rexach famously signed a contract written on a napkin in the presence of then Messi family advisors Josep Maria Minguella and Horacio Gaggioli. 

A less romantic tale is that Jorge and Leo would not return to the club until they were sure they were going to be paid the 100 million pesetas per season they felt they were worth. 

In one telling of the story, Leo Messi and Barcelona were made for each other. The La Masia academy was the perfect place to polish his natural talents, while the Catalan club offered the ideal structure for him to progress smoothly towards success as a senior. The reality is that — on a business level with Jorge at least — things have been strained from the very start.

The first big drama arrived less than 12 months after they arrived. Barca had a new general manager who questioned why the club were paying so much money (about €120,000 a year) to a kid who was not yet playing competitive games. Jorge reacted by making contact with another Rosario native Jorge Valdano, to see about moving to Real Madrid. It all got sorted, but not before one Barca director reacted to hearing that the Messis were threatening to “pull a Figo” by asking “Who does he think he is, Maradona?”. Few outside La Masia or Argentina had ever heard of Leo, but Jorge had already shown he was willing to use any leverage he could when dealing with the club.

Leo’s first big public coming out was the Gamper Trophy season curtain-raiser against Juventus in August 2005, a few months after he turned 18. Messi set up a goal for Andres Iniesta in a 2-2 draw, was praised afterwards by Juventus coach Fabio Capello, and heard his name chanted for the first time by 90,000 Nou Camp fans. A week previously he had already made his debut for Argentina’s senior team, but he could not play for Barca’s first team in La Liga as their complement of non-Spanish players was full. 

Inter Milan tried to take advantage of the situation and offered to triple Leo’s wages. Jorge was interested and did not accept assurances from Barca’s then sporting director Txiki Begiristain, leading president Joan Laporta to get directly involved. The Messis rejected two salary offers lower than Inter’s proposal, before reaching an agreement on what was the teenager’s third new contract in 18 months. Laporta also made sure Messi and his father became Spanish citizens, which meant Leo no longer had any problem playing in La Liga.

The Messis were obviously operating on a pretty special level from an early stage, due to Leo’s unique talents, though not everyone sees a father-son, agent-player relationship as ideal.

One source close to Barcelona says: “If I need medical help, I go to a doctor. I do not go to my dad, simply because I trust him more and know him better. It should be the same approach with an agent.”

Jorge had already tried the patience of many at Barca, but Laporta saw the value of keeping tight with both Messis. Through regular pay bumps, Leo replaced Ronaldinho as the team’s best-paid player within three years of making his first-team debut. 

When Sandro Rosell arrived as president in 2010, negotiations became trickier. In December 2013, then club vice-president Javier Faus said publicly he saw no reason why Barca should improve “this gentleman’s” contract “every six months”. “Mister Faus is someone who knows nothing about football, and wants to run Barca like it was a business, which it is not,” Messi replied in a very rare interview with RAC1 Catalan radio. 

Faus did not last much longer at the club, and Messi kept agreeing to new deals, with current president Bartomeu increasingly taking control of negotiations. One source tells The Athletic that in reality Jorge in recent times has never had to do much tough negotiating with Barca. “It was not a negotiation during his more recent contracts with Barca,” the source says. “A couple of the contracts were not even questioned, they were simply put on the table to make him feel more important.”

There were other ways he could exert influence, as several sources stated the Messi entourage would suggest players the club should sign, although this was deemed to be friendly advice rather than instruction. 

In the earlier days, it was rumoured Jorge’s approach could cause problems.

“He can come across as self-important, as you would expect as the dad of the best player in the world,” a source close to one round of negotiations tells The Athletic. “Most dads of footballers are, but the way it was described to me, how he acts in meetings with the club over the years has been classless. Everyone knows who your son is, you don’t need to act like that. ” 

In public Bartomeu and everybody else at Barcelona have always maintained their relationship with the Messi family is excellent and that they all always want the same thing — for Leo to end his career as part of a winning team at the Nou Camp. The Athletic asked a former blaugrana executive who dealt directly with Jorge during contract renewal talks in recent years whether things were always quite so amicable in private.

“Jorge is a good guy, well mannered and respectful like his family,” the source replied. “This is a delicate situation, but I wish him all the best in his new adventure.” 

It was difficult to tell if the tone was deliberately ironic, but it sounded like he was very happy not to still have to deal with the Messis. 

When Leo signed for Barcelona in 2000, the entire Messi family all moved to the Catalan capital, but mother Cecilia and siblings Rodrigo, Matias and Maria-Sol soon moved back to Rosario. Jorge and Leo lived in a relatively small apartment in the Les Corts barrio close to both the Camp Nou and the city’s main train station. Money sent home from Spain allowed the rest of the family to live very well in Argentina, but everyday life was not that exciting for father and son. 

Jorge is more extroverted than his son, but they still did not know many people in the new city, and were wary of those they did come into contact with. Father and son played computer games, ate take-aways, spent a lot of time in each other’s company, and relied on each other in many ways. That super tight connection has continued over the years, even after Leo grew up, got married and had kids, and Jorge returned to Rosario to run everything remotely from there, with help at times from older brother Rodrigo.

Lionel Messi poses with his brother Rodrigo (L), sister Maria Sol, father Jorge, mother Celia, nephew Tomas and brother Matias in 2003 (Photo: Marcelo Boeri/El Grafico/Getty Images)

“Leo has other people running his communications, and business, but his father is always there,” says one source who has dealt with the family from early in their time in Catalonia. “He tries to do everything for his son. He has not learned how to step back and move aside and let other people work in a more professional way. They are a good family, they love each other, but they do not seem to be particularly good at building relationships with people who can help them.”

Another source counters: “Having Jorge as his manager is an advantage for Leo in some ways, as you can always rely on your father. But maybe also a disadvantage as sometimes you need someone more experienced. Jorge was not a specialist in business, and suddenly he ran a big company called Lionel Messi Limited.”

At the family’s pristine offices on Avenida Diagonal in Barcelona, only a small number of people are employed. There is a receptionist, a German financial controller, a former private banker called Alfonso Nebot to take care of Messi’s investments and then a former Barcelona employee, Pau Negre.

Within the main office are three private offices: one for Jorge, one for Rodrigo and one for Leo. The trio are rarely in attendance. After Messi won his first Ballon d’Or  in 2009, the family poached Negre to consult almost exclusively on Messi’s international commercial portfolio.

The Messis have worked with many commercial partners — and the family is estimated to currently earn more than €30 million a year from top international companies like Adidas, Gatorade, Huawei, Mastercard and Pepsi. Their status means the family does not need to go out looking for new partners — companies knock on their door with fantastic offers and they can decide which they want to take.

It is clear the Messis know it is right and proper for Leo to earn lots of money — both as the best player in the world, and as a global brand attractive to millions of fans worldwide.

Some partners have managed to build trust with the family over the long term, but always handling both Jorge and Leo very carefully, and making it very clear to both how big the financial rewards involved were going to be. Negre is as close as anyone, in a business sense, to the family yet those familiar with the player believe even he will not have had a central role in advising over the player’s current approach to leaving Barcelona. 

Within their small circle are also some long-time colleagues who joined the family from within FC Barcelona along the way. While if a move to Manchester City is pushed through in the coming weeks, Leo and Jorge will be reunited with a number of former blaugrana directors and staff they know well, and also, of course, with City manager Pep Guardiola. Not that everyone is entirely convinced by the notion of a date with destiny at City or the perception of an everlasting bond between Messi and Guardiola. 

One source close to the family recalls discussions about the player’s future previously but that Messi would be more charmed in conversation by “historic English clubs such as Manchester United”, while he was attracted to London during regular conversations with Cesc Fabregas. 

“I always had the feeling he wanted an experience abroad,” the source says. “Even more of a surprise than City is that he would go back to working with Pep. The relationship after so many intense seasons at Barcelona with Guardiola was not the best with the players. 

“This was not Leo in particular. Leo and Pep did not have direct problems but the last season was not the best and the relationship between players and manager became very tired. Go and look at the players Guardiola has signed at Bayern and City. You won’t find many he coached at Barca. The relationship between Guardiola and the players was broken by the end. However, time heals. Messi is not stupid. He knows his best moment was with Guardiola on the bench, so maybe he thinks he needs this guy to get the best of him.”

Messi’s relationship with Guardiola may be rekindled. However, it is striking that, although the family have worked with various different agents and advisors, especially earlier in Leo’s career, in many cases the relationships have not lasted very long or ended very well. 

The Messis have left people behind them who are upset with how they have been treated, as Leo has kept winning Ballons d’Or and Jorge has kept the millions coming in. Some around them have felt that, even more important than maximising total revenues was to ensure that nobody else got a share of “their” money.

“I could talk to you about the character of many people I know in the world, but I would never even think about talking about the character of a guy like this,” says a source who was very helpful to the family at first, but felt he was then discarded. “I’m really sorry, but for a long time now I’ve forgotten about this guy.” 

Others are more sympathetic. Messi is big business and many individuals have sought over the past two decades to capitalise by being associated with his name. “There is distrust,” admits one source, “because of course everyone wanted a slice of Leo. It is understandable that the family should want to protect him.”

Another source consulted for this article recalls watching Leo walking into a UEFA gala in Monaco, then spotting behind that Jorge Messi had stopped to chat with musician Rod Stewart. That added to a feeling that he was not using a foremost networking opportunity in the most professional way. An experienced agent looking on from the outside says that it strikes him how everything when it comes to the Messis always seems to come back to money.

“If you manage a player well, you manage it well all-round,” he says. “If he ends up with serious tax issues, it suggests they just look to capitalise on everything financially to the maximum without looking to the consequences.”

It is not at all uncommon for La Liga stars to get involved in tax issues, with the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Jose Mourinho among the many to have had their own problems in this area through recent years.

The Messis were among the first to be targeted, when the Spanish tax authorities began to take a close look at football in 2013. Leo and Jorge were both accused of having evaded more than €4 million in taxes between 2007 and 2009 by routing image rights income through offshore tax havens Uruguay and Belize, then through others in the UK and Switzerland. 

“Since my son’s career started, I am talking about 2001 when we arrived in Barcelona, I have always tried to make his life easier,” Jorge said during testimony in court in June 2016. “He played football, and I accompanied him how I could.”

That was part of an explanation that he had hired some tax advisors in Argentina when Leo started making professional player money at Barca, and followed their advice on how to structure his finances. Leo also told the judge during those proceedings that “I signed the contracts as I trusted in my dad”.  

Having previously thought they were off the hook by paying five million euros to cover unpaid taxes plus “reparations”, both Messis were eventually found guilty on three counts of defrauding the tax department and handed down suspended jail sentences of 21 months. They also received huge fines — €2 million for Leo, €1.5 million for Jorge. 

Jorge and Leo in court in 2016 (Photo: Joan Cros/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Their money does have altruistic uses though. In 2007 came the establishment of the Leo Messi Foundation, which has since raised many millions for good causes through the use of the player’s worldwide fame. They have helped fund the biggest children’s cancer centre in Europe, the €30 million SJD Pediatric Center de Barcelona, within walking distance of the Nou Camp. In August 2020, just as news broke he was leaving Barca, the Argentine press reported his foundation paid for 50 respirators for hospitals in Rosario. 

However, the foundation has also led the family into awkward territory, from a PR point of view at least. “Messi y Amigos” games organised to raise money for various charitable causes saw fellow stars including Robinho, Diego Forlan, Javier Mascherano, Ariel Ortega take part in a series of games in South and North America in summer 2012 and 2013. 

Controversy came after it was reported there had been Spanish judicial investigation into whether the games played in Medellin and Bogota each year had been used by Colombian drug traders to “launder millions of dollars”. 

“I am very sorry about what they are saying, not just about me but about people I love like my papa and players who are friends,” Messi said in reply to these allegations in December 2013. “What we do in these games is 100 per cent for charity. I am deeply united with my dad and my family, in the personal and the professional. I concentrate on playing football, and he concentrates on my off-field interests, and selecting the best professionals to help us.”

The Spanish investigators looking into the situation did not find anything that merited bringing charges but it did not reflect well on the organisers that the allegations had arisen at all. 

“I do not consider they are the smartest people in the world,” says one source close to the club. “Leo is the best player in the world, in history but he never had the best agent or the best people working for him. At that level, you need a manager, a social media manager, a financial manager, an investor manager.

“My point is that if you ask me about the negotiating skills or business strategy or career plan, they never seemed to have it or the most professional approach. But that does not make it wrong, necessarily.”

In more recent years, Leo’s siblings have also had their own business interests, operating somewhere within the Messi family brand. In 2016, Maria Sol and Rodrigo opened a restaurant in Barcelona city centre, with tables decked out like pitches, tactics diagrams decorating the walls and TVs showing games, but it closed to the public in October 2018. Since 2017 the family have three “MiM” branded hotels in Sitges, Ibiza and Mallorca, although these are managed by the well established Majestic Hotel Group.

Most recently, Rodrigo also decided to become an advisor to young players, and has taken an interest in different emerging starlets coming through La Masia. He attempted to build a relationship with Leo’s young Barca team-mate Ansu Fati, and sold himself publicly as Fati’s main agent although the player’s family also keept communication open with other big agents around Europe. 

That made it appear, to the outsider, that the Messis had given their endorsement to a teenager who has the potential to be the best attacker out of La Masia since Leo himself. In the agent world, perceptions of Rodrigo are not overly high. It is not unusual for the brother of a famous player to become an agent but one source compares his track record to that of Pere Guardiola, the brother of Pep, who prepared for life as an agent by working for a long time in a senior position at Nike, while also receiving major funding from sports’ rights’ company MediaPro. 

The day after Bayern humiliated Barca in the Champions League, it was revealed that Fati had started a relationship with Polaris Sports, a sister company of Jorge Mendes’ Gestifute. This suggests bad news for the Rodrigo bond with Fati, while also acting as a harbinger that the connection between the Messis and Barca was coming to an end.

By 2018, the relationship between Cristiano Ronaldo and Real Madrid, especially between the player and the president Florentino Perez, was close to breaking point. The pair had always had an imperfect bond, right from the beginning as Ronaldo had really been signed by previous president Ramon Calderon, but they stuck together for nine years to win four Champions Leagues. 

Ronaldo’s agent Jorge Mendes was then told to quietly find a buyer willing to pay €100m. Mendes quickly found Juventus, and the deal was done. It was far from a fairytale ending and hurt Ronaldo’s already uneasy relationship with Madrid fans, but it was done professionally with emotions kept out of things as much as possible. 

Such a smooth parting was never likely for Leo Messi at Barcelona because separating the personal and the professional is much more difficult for all involved. The Athletic reported recently that Bartomeu has his own reasons for persuading Leo to leave, especially as it would help fix a huge hole in the club’s accounts. And two decades of stresses and strains between Jorge and many different Barca directors had also taken a huge psychological toll.

A source who had a senior position at the Nou Camp in recent years, however, hit back when The Athletic suggested it had been inevitable for frustrated Barca directors at some point to decide they could no longer pay the Messis the ever-growing amounts they kept demanding. 

“The idea that Messi is leaving for money is science fiction,” the source says. “Messi was already the best-paid player in the world. He is going for the lack of a sporting project. Over recent years the club has spent an enormous amount of money without building a team which can compete at the level that Messi expects.”

Many of Barca’s socios have also grown hugely frustrated as the team’s competitive level has dipped in recent years, as seen alarmingly in their increasingly humiliating Champions League exits. So Messi might have had a very supportive audience had he come out to explain now why he has decided to leave. Current and former team-mates Luis Suarez and Carles Puyol have publicly supported his stance, but Leo has remained silent. 

“Messi has always had a communication problem,” says a source who has helped past and present Barca players with communication advice. “He has never realised what he can win by talking. Maybe the Burofax had to be done from a legal point of view, but it should have been accompanied by a press conference, or a press statement, maybe.”

Leo had become more comfortable expressing himself in recent years, especially since becoming both Argentina and Barcelona captain. Having three children with his childhood sweetheart and now wife Antonella Roccuzzo — Thiago (born 2012), Mateo (born 2015) and Ciro (born 2018) — has also changed him, and the influence of Jorge and Rodrigo on his decision making appears much less than even when he was in his mid-20s. 

In his private life he appears more as the head of the family, while professionally he has spoken out on behalf of his team-mates, especially in recent months during public disagreements with former sporting director Eric Abidal and Bartomeu. Although behind these statements was always the idea that he himself had felt personally attacked by what had been said about him, and felt he had to respond.

Barca fans were mostly on Messi’s side during those battles with the club’s hierarchy. However, the apparent coldness of his decision to now leave the club, in a dark moment in its history, is hurting his relationship with supporters who have loved him so deeply. It has also been noticeable that besides Suarez and Vidal, who have both been told they are no longer wanted by Barca, no other current players have offered any public support for Messi’s stance. 

Indeed, it is understood some senior players have been, at best, “surprised” by the aggression in Messi’s approach and one source close to several players highlighted how Suarez, whose Barca career is all but over after a phone call from Ronald Koeman last week, still turned up for testing and training this week. While Suarez was informed he is no longer needed, Messi has only been told he would be key to Koeman’s project.

“Barca’s socios are now being critical of Messi as he has confused the club with the president,” says one club member. “Messi should have come out to speak, said he loves Barca so much but I have to leave, and give the reasons, explain his problems with the president. This silence, and his way of leaving, is a bit sad for everyone. It is a beautiful story, with a sad ending.”   

Amid the family’s official silence since the infamous Burofax was sent, the vacuum has been filled with other noise as they and Barca have attempted to steer the media narrative and win the PR battle. Leo’s silence may have raised an idea that he is not fully in agreement with the policy over his future being led by Jorge, but a source in Argentina with knowledge of the situation says that “they are in total agreement”, and that by keeping silent they are following the advice of their legal advisors. They do not feel the need to talk at the moment, and remain confident they are on the winning side in this battle and will be able to get what they want. 

Indeed, one person who knows the family plays down the notion that Jorge is leading the decision. “In the past,” the source explained. “Jorge managed absolutely every detail of Leo’s daily life. Even those close to the circle, if they wanted a message to Leo, it needed to go through his father or brother.

“Since the 2014 World Cup and the tax issues, it has been different. Messi has evolved and matured. He is less shielded now. His father will have a say and he and his brother will likely be present for conversations with Barcelona. But brother Rodrigo will not have any say in Leo’s decision. Jorge will have his opinion but Leo, I do believe, is the one driving this.

“I was listening to the radio and they said ‘Advisors of Messi are taking the wrong or right decision’. No, the advisors of Messi work for him, so it is he who is deciding the strategy. It was he who didn’t turn up to training. The advisors may suggest things about the contract but he is making the moves now.”

Messi’s confidence in the battle with Barcelona is not shared by many observers familiar with Spanish contract and sports law. Or some of those who have previously been close to the family, but fallen out along the way. Minguella was among those who helped to introduce Jorge Messi to Barcelona’s directors back in 2000, but has not worked with them for many years now. Whether coincidence or not, the 79-year-old started his own YouTube show days after the Burofax arrived at the Nou Camp. Minguella told episode one that the Messis had “jumped into the swimming pool” by following the advice of their lawyers and claiming they had allowed themselves to be outmanoeuvred by Bartomeu.

“I’ve said many times that Barca’s directors are dopes, but this time they have acted cleverly…” Minguella claimed. “Neither Leo Messi nor his people expected this reaction from the president. He is usually a ditherer, but in this he moved fast and created many doubts on the other side.”

Time will tell whether the policy being pursued by the Messis will work in their favour, and they will be able to engineer an exit so that Leo can go on winning even more trophies and Jorge can keep control of his affairs off the pitch. However, the way in which they have gone about their business means they have already soured many relationships, and will now undoubtedly affect how Leo is remembered at the Nou Camp. 

When the Messis found a way to get out of Rosario back in 2000, they left even without telling the people closest to them at first. Leo’s talent was such that no matter what they asked for, or how they treated some of the people around them, things would always work out in their favour.

Leo became the best player, arguably, the world has ever seen. Jorge kept his son’s career on a mostly upward trajectory, even allowing for the tax problems and PR disasters along the way, especially when measured by the amount of money they kept earning. They did not need anything more than a small office in Barcelona with a very small number of professional staff helping with administration and technical questions. The family always made the most important decisions. 

This situation might be different, however, especially as a point will inevitably come when Leo’s ability to make things happen on the pitch will decline. Even Abu Dhabi backed City will struggle to match his current €100 million a year gross wages, and at 33 his time at the very top of the game must soon come to an end. Beyond that there will be a difficulty in continuing to monetise the Messi brand into the medium term, especially if the Barca connection has been badly damaged.  

That pure talent probably made it almost impossible to fail as Leo Messi’s agent, and explains perhaps why Jorge said in 2016 that it was “hardly that difficult”. As Leo has matured he has relied less and less on his father and now feels he deserves to have control of his own career, including, it seems, to leave Barcelona for free. 

The controversy that move has caused, and the uncertainty over where his contract leaves him, means there are real worries that they may pay dearly for never having put in place a proper professional structure to manage their affairs. 

In any potential meeting with Bartomeu and the Barca board over the coming days they will be on their own, where they have always been most comfortable. However, this may be the time they need support more than ever.

“This is the first time in Messi’s history where he needs good management,” says a veteran Argentine reporter who has covered Leo’s career at Barca on the ground from the very start. “From when he was 13 years old, until now, his football has always prevailed, they could make mistakes in investments, marketing, Leo’s image, the entourage, the strategy, planning his career, everything. 

“The ‘ace’ has always been Lionel the player, not Jorge the manager. Right now is the first time they have to really negotiate and resolve something, and they are doing it all wrong.” 

 

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Now that HHH has weighed in on the Declan Rice speculation, I don't know what to believe anymore. Is the WWE storyline bleeding into football? Is football sports entertainment? Have we all unwillingly bought into the kayfabe for the last few decades?

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Messi is absolutely mad, he's going to end up public enemy #1 in Barcelona rather than have a gravy train of appearances and testimonals he could milk essentially forever in order to get 1 or 2 seasons at some other team where they'll very happily drop him if he's not performing and where the fans will regard him as "Oh yeah he did do a season with us didn't he that was cool", much like Silva wil be at Chelsea.

 

With the distinct difference Thiago wasn't really a 1 club man, despite 8 years at PSG and his leaving has been conducted with, for want of a better word, honour.

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How many fans are really siding with Bartomeu? I think it is crazy to suggest this will threaten his legacy at Barcelona tbh. This spat will fade in the memory, but the 600-odd goals he scored and all the trophies he won won't.

 

I also think it's daft to suggest a sportsperson at the absolute top of their game wants a "gravy train". If that was his attitude, he never would've reached that level he has in the first place. Most clubs when a player really wants to leave, they try to meet them somewhere in the middle. Instead they are saying they have to be paid £700m or he stays for another season. Compare this to what happened with Ronaldo - no public drama, they just quiety acknowledged his wish to leave, and a deal got done.

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3 hours ago, neoELITE said:

Pick your England 11 on the BBC.

 

I couldn't pick Grealish.

 

Screenshot_20200903_073219.thumb.jpg.3110cdf5a69b633a35292c8ccc59681e.jpg

 

Bit difficult choosing the back 4, pretty limited options really. I know Kalvin and Foden won't start. Apart from up front I think it's a pretty weak squad. 

 

890996299_Screenshot_20200903-1057462.thumb.jpg.6a5c2c2670668f4a01edbc2d405408d8.jpg

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That's... definitely interesting.

 

Peps been long known as an admirer of sports science since the Barca days.  (Looking up the Operation Puerto doctor, he was alleged to have training regimes for Real and Barca.)  Juve has long has a reputation for having "very good doctors".

 

Given the lack of strict doping controls in football, it would not surprise me if a lot of clubs were at it.  Like match fixing, thinking that it doesn't happen here is just ignoring reality.

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5 hours ago, neoELITE said:

Pick your England 11 on the BBC.

 

I couldn't pick Grealish.

 

Screenshot_20200903_073219.thumb.jpg.3110cdf5a69b633a35292c8ccc59681e.jpg

 

 

What the fuck is that? A formation England don't play, our best player in a position he's never played, Dier hasn't played midfield in over a year (he's been selected as a defender and has stated multiple times he's a defender) and you've put the best right back in the world on the left.

 

This looks like a Football Manager save where you accidentally press the 'Let Assistant Pick Team' button.

 

 

 

 

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Good article @Adrock, its been talked about for a long time in football, Juve players always used to be juiced to the gills on creatine then look half the player when sold on and not on the same supplements.

 

The article appears to be treading a careful line of hinting at more but merely saying they’re all maxxed out on legal supplements and like a coffee.

 

Of course I’ll happily take it as proof it was a dirty title won cos they all sat at Melwood getting juiced up like Dolph Lundgren in Universal Soldier every day.

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33 minutes ago, Pants McSkill said:

 

 

What the fuck is that? A formation England don't play, our best player in a position he's never played, Dier hasn't played midfield in over a year (he's been selected as a defender and has stated multiple times he's a defender) and you've put the best right back in the world on the left.

 

 

Calm down, calm down.  He's only let Roy Hodgson have a go.

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35 minutes ago, feltmonkey said:

What's up with the lack of left-backs in the England squad?  Who's actually been picked to play there?

 

Maitland-Niles can play there, mind you he can probably do a respectable job anywhere and England should just field an entire XI of AMN clones

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Another big blow to the Premier League collective finances with the Chinese rights deal being torn up, this is going to hit the bottom line for every club with less to go round.

 

Did like the insider expert on the Athletic piece who said the joke in China is that it's only once you've signed the contract the negotiations start.

 

https://www.theguardian.com/football/2020/sep/03/premier-league-cancels-564m-chinese-tv-contract-in-blow-to-clubs-finances

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Palace have royally fucked up the season ticket options for next year (even more galling given so many other teams have put together fair/reasonable options):

 

1. Buy your ticket and pay in full up front for the season (excluding first 2 games where there are 100% no fans). Games will be assigned by ballot whilst capacity remains below the total number of ST holders. Receive a pro-rata refund for every game you don't get to at the END OF THE SEASON.

 

2. If you are shielding (even though, officially it's not required/a thing now), pay £200 (£100 junior) to save your seat for next year, but you have to supply medical evidence to the box office of your shielding requirement.

 

3. Give up your seat.

 

Oh, and you've got 11 days to decide or that's it, your ticket is gone.

 

You can create bubbles to sit with the people who you want to, but only if everyone's season ticket is bought in the same transaction (and it's a right fucker to setup on the online account).

 

I have no idea how it ever got signed off, I can only assume a Brighton fan infiltrated the Sales and Marketing department.

 

The less said about sending some random person in the box office confidential medical information the better!

 

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13 minutes ago, skadupuk said:

Palace have royally fucked up the season ticket options for next year (even more galling given so many other teams have put together fair/reasonable options):

 

1. Buy your ticket and pay in full up front for the season (excluding first 2 games where there are 100% no fans). Games will be assigned by ballot whilst capacity remains below the total number of ST holders. Receive a pro-rata refund for every game you don't get to at the END OF THE SEASON.

 

2. If you are shielding (even though, officially it's not required/a thing now), pay £200 (£100 junior) to save your seat for next year, but you have to supply medical evidence to the box office of your shielding requirement.

 

3. Give up your seat.

 

Oh, and you've got 11 days to decide or that's it, your ticket is gone.

 

You can create bubbles to sit with the people who you want to, but only if everyone's season ticket is bought in the same transaction (and it's a right fucker to setup on the online account).

 

I have no idea how it ever got signed off, I can only assume a Brighton fan infiltrated the Sales and Marketing department.

 

The less said about sending some random person in the box office confidential medical information the better!

 


Sony and microsoft are both watching with interest...

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45 minutes into Stephen Kenny's reign, and Ireland are indeed generally keeping the ball down and looking to play a possession game. They're lacking any real threat though, with the only real chance being gifted to Aaron Connolly, who did well to cut into the box with a little nutmeg, but had the passing options well closed off and couldn't hit the target with his shot. Bulgaria's main threat has been to play the ball in behind to chase, which has required Randolph to come rushing out a few times, but generally Ireland have been in control.

 

It's all very pre-season, which in fairness it is. Good to get some rust scraped off before the actual important game against Slovakia next month. 

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Properly lopsided squad isn't it, very few good centrebacks, or central midfielders, and no left back. But tons of options in terms of forwards / attacking midfielders.

 

885318125_Screenshot_2020-09-03PickyourEnglandNationsLeagueXI.png.76a1d6ae0999e676db381531cc2b6973.png

 

Maybe there would be a logic to playing someone younger and hungrier the game time up front though. i.e. Abraham or Greenwood. Particularly Abraham as he didn't seem to play that much towards the end of the season - should be quite fresh. A lot of players aren't available, maybe if Kane was a little more cynical he would've found an excuse to sit this one out.

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