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Football Thread 2020/2021


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So Messi sent Barca a fax - how quaint.


Suspect its a bargaining ploy, he’s claiming he has his clause to leave for free active in contract and Barca think not. 

He’ll end up on a €2m a week and picking the team, working Koeman like a sock puppet

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1 hour ago, Naysonymous said:

I do think Grealish should have been called up and the fact that Southgate was happy to call up Harry McGuire despite him literally being on trial for assault and attempted bribery during the squad announcement tells me it can't be a disciplinary issue.


Is he maybe a bit of a dick? I was wondering if it's just that Southgate and/or much of the squad don't like him or something. Not that this always matters a jot but otherwise it does seem strange that they left him out again.

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14 minutes ago, milko said:


Is he maybe a bit of a dick? I was wondering if it's just that Southgate and/or much of the squad don't like him or something. Not that this always matters a jot but otherwise it does seem strange that they left him out again.


He just picked a bloke who was in the throes of being convicted for assault and bribery, Harry "do you know who I am" Maguire, and you're questioning whether Southgate would pick someone who is a bit of a dick?

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His sister being injected with a fluid by Albanians and being kicked in the legs by the police.



Messi will go to Man City or PSG if he does leave. Nobody other than them can really afford him. I can't see him going to Man Utd.

Juventus? Imagine Messi and Ronaldo in the same team?!

I guess he could just retire.

It's going to end up in court as nobody is paying that buy out clause. His wages are eye watering. 

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Also, the Messi situation is a bit, erm, messier (sorry) than you'd think as well. He has a clause in his contract that says he can unilaterally cancel his contract at the end of a season if he wants to leave. He also has a £700m buyout clause. The cancellation clause expired in May. His people think it should be extended because the season was extended, but of course Barcelona disagree and will want a massive transfer fee. 


Naturally, there are already dozens of sites linking him to Manchester United. :lol:  


I can see him going to PSG, personally. 

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2 hours ago, Naysonymous said:


Villa Twitter has been taken over by the nutters.   I mean Grealish should absolutely be in the squad, he's had a fantastic season and is more than good enough to play for England.  Kalvin Phillips plays in a different position so him being in the squad isn't at the expense of Jack Grealish, but Villa fans are finding a year old quote from Southgate saying players need Premier League experience to get in the squad, and that somehow because Southgate is a former Aston Villa player (and he absolutely had the best years of his career at Villa Park) then he somehow owes us one.  I don't get that at all.  I do think Grealish should have been called up and the fact that Southgate was happy to call up Harry McGuire despite him literally being on trial for assault and attempted bribery during the squad announcement tells me it can't be a disciplinary issue.  


On a slight tangent are there any weird nonsensical rivalries which only seem to exist because of Twitter?   Villa seem to have one with Newcastle because we sent them down in 2009 and then when they had the opportunity to return the favour in 2016 they blew it and ended up getting relegated again.  Then there's this one with Leeds which seems to stem from absolutely bonkers game last May.  I'm guessing it's almost entirely fuelled by people with too much time on their hands, but it can't be unique to my lot.  Do Fulham have an unlikely rivalry with Stoke? Do Sheffield Wednesday have a twitter beef with Everton? (etc)

We (Liverpool) have a bit of a strange rivalry with Nottingham Forest i think...We sing a song about hating them and they hate us back apparently, I dont hate them or really know anything about them though

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1 hour ago, JamesTW said:

We (Liverpool) have a bit of a strange rivalry with Nottingham Forest i think...We sing a song about hating them and they hate us back apparently, I dont hate them or really know anything about them though

The Forest thing was borne out of a rivalry in the late 70s, when the two clubs were both winning titles and European Cups. Doubt there are too many Reds (on either side) that would consider either a hated rival now, but the song has stuck.

Bit like the one about Chelsea and history that started during that period in the 2000s when the clubs played each other 672 times. There are a couple of others about Chelsea, one of which should be retired because it’s just dumb.

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8 hours ago, the_debaser said:

If he comes to the Prem, anywhere but the Manchester clubs please. 

I know he’s good, but I don’t even think he could handle alternating between United and City.

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I once went to a talk by Guilliem Balague after he had released his book on Barca.   He believed Man City had set themselves up so that if Messi was to ever want to leave Barca they were perfectly placed to get him. 


The have Pep as manager, and Txiki  Begiristain as Director of Football, both who were massively influential to Messi at Barca.   



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So will Maguire's appeal only be successful if the police have made a clear and obvious error ?


Is looking increasingly like a Messi power play, former club head honcho and Messi mate Juan Laporte has called for the board to resign at the shambles, conveniently he's also been waiting for club elections to get back involved.

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Decent article on The Athletic about the Messi situation.




What Messi’s transfer request means for him, Barcelona and Manchester City

(Additional contributors: David Ornstein, Sam Lee, James Horncastle, Paul Tenorio, Adam Crafton)


Lionel Messi has asked to leave Barcelona after nearly two decades at the club, and sources close to the six-time Ballon d’Or winner say he has been in contact with Pep Guardiola and would be keen on a move to Manchester City.

City have strongly distanced themselves from a move for the 33-year-old, while Barcelona replied to Messi’s fax outlining his desire to leave by saying they expect him to finish his career at the Nou Camp.

It is clear that there are a lot of agendas at play and politics surrounding what happens next, with Barcelona coming off a terrible season that ended with an 8-2 destruction at the hands of Bayern Munich and the club sacking their coach Quique Setien.

After that decision was made, Ronald Koeman was appointed head coach and has reportedly already told several senior members of the squad, including Messi’s best friend Luis Suarez, that they are surplus to requirements at the club.

This has all led to Messi sending them his own message, prompting Barcelona fans to protest outside the club’s offices demanding that the president Josep Maria Bartomeu resign from the board.

Here, we try to make sense of a chaotic 24 hours at the club and look at what may happen next…


What’s happened?

Alfredo Martinez, a respected journalist in Barcelona with radio station Onda Cero, broke the news on Tuesday afternoon that Messi had sent the club a fax in which he made clear his desire to leave the club. 

Barcelona confirmed they received the fax, and The Athletic understands that the player’s father and agent, Jorge, had communicated with the club on Tuesday morning to inform them of his son’s decision. 

And last night Barcelona, determined not to look like the bad guys in all of this, said: “The club have responded to the fax to say that they expect Messi to continue and to finish his career at Barca.”


What are the terms of his contract — can he just leave?

Messi’s contract with Barcelona expires in June 2021, at the end of next season, with the release clause set at €700 million. That is where the straightforward part of the contract situation ends. 

The Barca captain insisted at the last renewal of his deal that a new clause be inserted that would allow him to unilaterally terminate his deal at the end of the 2020 season, allowing him to leave on a free transfer if he so chose. The clause, according to sources close to the player’s camp, stipulated that Messi must inform the club before June 10 if he wanted to break his contract.

With the season prolonged due to COVID-19, that date came and went without Barcelona finishing their season, which finally reached its conclusion with their Champions League humiliation at the hands of Bayern on August 14. 

Messi’s camp believe that the interruption and subsequent extension to the season granted him until the end of August to exercise the termination clause, meaning that the fax sent to Barcelona on Tuesday would serve as legal notice of his intention to rip up his contract and leave the club on a free transfer. 


Could there be a transfer fee? 

This is essentially the legal battle that could now play out between Barcelona and their star player. 

Messi and his family are clear that the June 10 activation date for the termination clause would be extended beyond the end of the season. Their reasoning is that if Messi’s contract had expired this summer instead of in 2021, that the club would have expected him to honour all the relevant stipulations in playing out the deal despite the interruption and extension of the season.

Barcelona, determined not to lose him and his significant commercial draw, are in no doubt that the clause had expired. Their stance remains, therefore, that to buy Messi would necessitate a club activating his €700 million release clause by depositing the entire fee with La Liga in a single payment. 

This is the crux of the dispute between the two parties, with Barca not quibbling over Messi’s desire to leave and confirming receipt of the fax, only whether the player is allowed to leave for free or for €700 million. 

Should both sides stick to their interpretation of the legal small print, then the lawyers will have to get involved. In theory, nobody would want this to happen, as any court battle would be likely to drag on and neither the player nor the club would want him stuck on the sidelines for an unpredictably long time.

Which means that some kind of understanding would have to be found, and if Messi insists on leaving, then a lower transfer fee may be accepted by Barca. Some at boardroom level at the Nou Camp have privately considered the pros and cons of removing Messi’s €100 million+ salary from the wage bill quite regularly in recent years, even before the coronavirus crisis laid bare the serious problems with the current financial model.

If Barca did decide that their only option was to sell, then their asking price would presumably be bigger than the €222 million the Catalan club received when Neymar left for Paris Saint-Germain in 2017. Although Messi is 33, the same age his great rival Cristiano Ronaldo was when he left Real Madrid for Juventus for €100 million in 2018.


How has it got to this point?

Messi has long grown frustrated with how things have been going on and off the pitch at Barcelona. Despite racking up La Ligas and Copas del Rey over recent years, the failure to win a Champions League since 2015 has hurt, and especially the increasingly embarrassing exits each year of key players such as Carles Puyol, Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Dani Alves, who left without being adequately replaced.

Meanwhile, the relationship between the board and senior players at the club, including Messi, has deteriorated badly. That has come to the boil this season — with Messi using social media to angrily react when he felt former sporting director Eric Abidal had named him as responsible for Ernesto Valverde’s sacking as coach in January, then taking on club president Bartomeu over how the players’ salaries were cut due to the COVID-19 crisis. Sources close to Messi told The Athletic in July that his main problem was that he was fed up being blamed by others at the club for problems which were not his responsibility.

Then came the most humiliating Champions League defeat of all — the 8-2 quarter-final hammering by Bayern in Lisbon. That was followed by Bartomeu openly saying that the biggest problem at the club was a bunch of senior players who were not good enough any more, and appointing new coach Ronald Koeman to rebuild the team.

(Photo: David Ramos/Getty Images)

On Monday, Koeman reportedly told Suarez, the Uruguay striker who is Messi’s best friend at the club, that he had to go. Twenty-four hours later came the fax saying Messi wanted out too.

A former Barcelona employee told The Athletic: “This isn’t just an attack on Barca. This is an attack on the whole club, top to bottom. He is completely fed up of Barca. Koeman has not convinced him with his declarations. Messi’s best friend is Suarez, and they’ve treated Luis awfully.

“He is serious (about leaving). Man City or Inter.”

When reports emerged of Messi’s message to the club, Puyol tweeted in support of him, and Suarez endorsed the former centre-back’s post.


Has he threatened to leave before?

Media speculation that Messi could leave Barca has been a feature of many transfer rumour mills through recent years.

Headlines in the Catalan and international press have had him close to joining other clubs from Chelsea to Bayern to Inter Milan to even Real Madrid, but in every case it has ended with Messi and his father agreeing a new bumper contract with Barca.

Things have never before reached this point however, where he has formally communicated to the club that he wants to leave.


Could Man City actually make it happen?

The significance of our story back in February was that, after all these years and despite his age and vast wages, City would still try to sign Messi if he became available this summer. The world has changed dramatically since then but the two most relevant factors are: City still want to sign Messi, and, as we now know, Messi has asked to leave.

Is it a ploy? Will he change his mind? Will Barca block his exit and hold him to the previously agreed date? Nobody’s quite sure yet, and that possibly includes City — they are in “wait and see” territory now. That means that over the past few weeks meetings have been held, numbers have been crunched, conversations have happened and, somehow, they believe there is some chance of getting a deal done, depending on what happens in Catalunya.

Politically, this has always been very difficult for City’s top executives and Guardiola, who have all worked at Barcelona. City owners, including Khaldoon Al-Mubarak, have driven the interest in Messi since they set foot in Manchester, and that remains the case. The position of Guardiola, sporting director Txiki Begiristain and chief executive Ferran Soriano is effectively this: they are willing to make it happen, but can’t be seen to want to make it happen. They do not want to be the bad guys at the Nou Camp.

If Messi were to leave Barca for City, they do not want to be the ones at fault. This may be crucial right now, because it certainly appears that the blame would lay at the door of Bartomeu, as Messi could justifiably claim he has been left with no choice given the upheaval at the Nou Camp, and he has been backed up by Puyol and Suarez on Twitter. City might say, “Well, the decision to leave was his, we’d be stupid to pass up the opportunity.”


Does this all sound mad? It does. Many fans reading this will not doubt for a second that City would pay around £1 million per week in wages to one player, or that they could come up with a way to do it, but it really would shatter all the structures the club has put in place over the years, in terms of the top wages they pay, the — relatively — low fees they pay and the age range of the players they sign. Al-Mubarak did say this week that they are ready to buy players outside the usual 20-25 age bracket, but that could just as easily apply to Kalidou Koulibaly, the 29-year-old Napoli centre-back who they have been trying to sign for a couple of months. 


Perhaps the push for Messi explains the delay in that move, given City were determined to sign the centre-back to bolster their defence. Would they really decide not to buy a centre-back so they could sign Messi? Would they sign both? Would the world end if they do?

Yes, basically all scenarios sound ridiculous, and it’s difficult to sit here and tell you that any club, even if it is one as vastly wealthy as City, are ready and able to pull off the biggest signing in history. But that is the situation we are in, and what we have to do now is wait to see if it does happen and, just as interestingly, how it would happen.

Very few clubs anywhere would be able to even match Messi’s €50 million+ pay-packet (after tax), and a battle may arrive between his determination to leave Barcelona and his willingness to accept a pay cut to his basic wage. 


What about Inter Milan, the club most often mentioned in recent speculation?

In July, PPTV — the rights holders to Serie A in China — hyped up coverage of Inter’s game against Napoli with a provocative image. The Duomo in Milan was lit up with the silhouette of Lionel Messi on its Gothic facade. As an advertisement it would have passed without comment were it not for the fact Inter’s Chinese owners Suning also own PPTV.

Reports of Messi’s father, Jorge, buying prime real estate in the regenerated Porta Nuova district close to where the club’s new offices are situated was not interpreted exclusively in terms of his dual citizenship — the Messi family tree can be traced back to Recanati near Ancona — and the fiscal advantages of domiciling in Italy. They were looked upon as a breadcrumb trail that starts with Messi and ends at Inter. Since moving to Italy, Ronaldo has dared his great contemporary to come to Serie A and where better than at Juventus’ biggest rivals?

Inter have a bargaining chip in the shape of Lautaro Martinez but the principal appeal of Barcelona to the Argentinian was always the prospect of playing and learning alongside his legendary compatriot one day. Besides, Inter’s chief executive Beppe Marotta has described links with a move for Messi as “fantasy football, a utopian situation” in an industry where no matter the wealth of a powerhouse like Suning the rules of Financial Fair Play hold Inter to account on the revenues they make independent of their owners.

Unless the clause in Messi’s contract is legally binding and he is able to walk away from the Nou Camp for free it is very difficult to foresee Inter doing a deal for him, particularly when the compromise struck between the club and Antonio Conte over the coach staying at San Siro made clear the need for prudence in a challenging economic environment. His wages are even bigger than Ronaldo’s and the strain they have put on Juventus is a cautionary tale.


Where else could he actually go? 

Real Madrid president Florentino Perez has previously made serious efforts to convince Messi and his family to make a “Luis Figo-style” move across the Clasico divide, however Madrid also have their own serious financial issues, and a move to the Bernabeu just seems impossible. 

The few other clubs with the financial might to even attempt a deal were surely running the numbers on Tuesday night when the news broke, but there were no serious indications that Chelsea, Paris Saint-Germain or Bayern were putting any proposals together.

MLS has found creative ways to sign big names in the past. David Beckham received MLS expansion franchise rights for $25 million as part of his contract with the LA Galaxy, an investment that paid off in a huge way as expansion fees soared north of $300 million. Zlatan Ibrahimovic was revealed to have a 50 per cent stake in AEG Sweden upon leaving the Galaxy in 2019, making him a part-owner of Hammarby. (AEG owns the Galaxy.) In other words, making up a massive gulf in wages isn’t always the biggest hurdle in front of MLS clubs for the biggest names in the sport. 

But Messi’s status and salary at Barcelona is on a completely different level than either of those signings. The highest salary ever paid in MLS is $7.2 million for Ibrahimovic, a number that was padded by bonuses that took it higher. That’s a long, long way from what Messi makes at Barcelona. Are there owners willing to far surpass the record salary numbers? Yes. Miami is a natural landing spot with Beckham’s involvement. The LA Galaxy are always interested in big names. And the silly rules that govern most of MLS would not get in the way of a signing of this stature. If there were talks between a team and Messi’s representatives, MLS would do everything it could to help facilitate the deal. 

But, as one MLS team source said, Messi is “out of our league and planet”. It doesn’t look like it’s going to happen — at least not this time around. You can read more about Messi and the MLS here.

Messi has made clear his desire to one day play for the club he supported growing up, Newell’s Old Boys, but a return to Rosario is out of the question for now. 


Could this just be a ploy to get rid of Bartomeu?

That Bartomeu does not get on well with Barca’s senior and long-serving players has been an open secret for a long time. Pique saying after the Bayern defeat that “the club needs structural changes and I am not talking about the coach or the players” was clearly aimed at the directors. Bartomeu reacted to that by saying, “We have a football crisis; not an institutional crisis”, and vowing to stay until the end of his term next summer to fix the issues with the squad, including forcing out many of the players who are pretty much in open rebellion against him. 

Bartomeu also said in that interview on Barca TV that he had not spoken with Messi since the 8-2 defeat. For a club president not to discuss such deep problems personally with the team captain would be astounding in most circumstances, but Tuesday’s fax has just confirmed the complete breakdown in the relationship between those in the board room and those in the dressing room.

Bartomeu (Photo: Noelia Deniz/Urbanandsport /NurPhoto via Getty Images)

It remains possible that, with all other attempts to move out the board having failed, the fax is a “nuclear option” being used by Messi and those around him to try and force a complete change of leadership at the club. They may be hoping that Bartomeu is pressured by those around him to resign, or that he himself realises that staying in the job is not as important for the club as keeping its greatest ever player.

Bartomeu’s resignation at this point may not necessarily mean that Messi would stay at the Nou Camp anyway. For a player determined to get back on top and challenge for the Champions League once again, a big question over the past week has been how quickly Barca could rebuild a continental contender around him. He may wonder if he has time to wait around while a new board came in and made the changes required to fix all the many things that have gone wrong at the Nou Camp over recent years.


Can Bartomeu call elections now and what happens if he does resign?

Many Barcelona fans — and quite possibly Messi himself — would like for Bartomeu to step aside and a new president to come in who could provide strong institutional leadership, surround himself with still popular former players such as Xavi and Puyol, and quickly make the team the very best around again.

That is not so easily done. For starters, Barca’s club statutes mandate a three-month period following the resignation of a president before the vote of club members (socios) to elect a replacement. A caretaker administration runs the club’s business during that interim period, but may not have the power or status to make big decisions such as buying or selling players or firing or appointing a coach. So that would mean the first three months of the season at least being played out under even more institutional uncertainty than presently exists.

Another huge factor is Barca’s serious economic problems. The COVID-19 shutdown cost them around €200 million in revenue last season and the board had to engage in some fancy financial footwork to get the 2019-20 accounts to balance. This led directly to Bartomeu saying that at least €100 million had to be cut from the wage bill for the coming campaign, to comply with La Liga budgetary rules — hence the move to remove big earners such as Suarez, Ivan Rakitic, Arturo Vidal, and potentially Pique, Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba. Forcing out the president would not fix any of these money problems, and could make them even worse, in the short term at least. Although it is unlikely that Messi cares that much how the beans are counted.

(Photo: Manu Fernandez/Pool via Getty Images)



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1 hour ago, Gotters said:

So will Maguire's appeal only be successful if the police have made a clear and obvious error ?


I'm not going to defend Maguire's actions too far, but I am getting a distinct feeling that he's been stitched up.

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11 hours ago, Plissken said:

Leeds fans keep trying to start one with us. It’s almost as if they think they are a big club.

Leeds fans try and start on everyone, whoever we played last, whoever we play next, anyone who has 'wronged' us, like Villa and Derby. Anyone who won't sell Ben White to a rival team :lol:


I think it's mostly in jest but you get a few dick heads who take it too far. 


Looks like Leeds are about to break their 20 year old transfer record(Rio) by signing Rodrigo from Valencia for £30 million. He'll make a good back up to Bamford I'm sure. 

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1 hour ago, Plissken said:


I'm not going to defend Maguire's actions too far, but I am getting a distinct feeling that he's been stitched up.


I'd tend to agree - dodgy goings on in the bar, no CCTV or bodycam footage and the unseemly haste for the trial and sentencing. 


That said a £50k bender and drunken yelling at police isn't a good look for him irregardless of how the Greek plod handled it. 

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Not a dig in any way here: Those who think Grealish should be in the England squad, who should he replace?


Genuinely curious, as good a season as he's had, I can't see what he brings that we don't get elsewhere, and more pertinently, it appears to me other players do things he doesn't.

I'm very happy to be shown otherwise on either point.


Like I said, not a dig.

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