WEDNESDAY'S BIG STORIES

Thank You, Gareth Bale

You might think there'd be a lack of news, this being the first Wednesday of an international break. And you'd be right. Fortunately, Gareth Bale is here to get everybody going with some shock revelations about his future. He's going to go back to Real Madrid!
Football
Bale and Mourinho 'saw football differently' - agent
4 HOURS AGO
I think the main reason I came to Spurs this year was to play football first and foremost. Going into the Euros I wanted to be match-fit. The original plan was to do a season at Spurs and after the Euros still have a year left at Real Madrid. My plan is to go back, that's as far I have planned.
Okay, "shock revelations" might be overselling that a touch. Stop the presses! Man intends to comply with employment contract! But in the absence of much in the way of football, picking over the words of footballers is our major spectator point. And we reckon there are four ways of getting excited about this.
One: A Sensational Spurs Snub. Honestly, the cheek of it. A glorious return to the club that nurtured him, that changed him from a gangly left-back into one of the best forwards in the world, and how does he repay them? He turns up to use them as a gym. Wales, Golf, Madrid, Hamstrings, Spurs. In that order.
Two: To The Barricades, Tottenham! For a man who came to play football "first and foremost", he hasn't done a huge amount of that. Obviously disentangling the snarled mess that is Spurs' dressing room is well beyond the Warm-Up, but Bale seems to be carefully hinting that all he's after is time on the pitch. And so, a manager that will give it to him…
Three: My Madrid Hell Is Over. Somebody's tipped him off, right? Either he's reached some kind of behind-the-scenes truce with Zinedine Zidane, or he knows that Madrid's coaching staff will be getting… let's say refreshed. There's a World Cup to get to. He needs to be playing somewhere.
Four: Hello! Hello! Somebody? Anybody? "My plan is to go back, that's as far as I have planned". After that, who knows. We'll see what comes up. You've all got my agent's number. Er, that phone is on, right? It's not on silent or anything? Just checking, just checking. Any minute now. Any minute…
Pick your favourite. Now, here at the Warm-Up we don't do predictions. We're too scared that somebody will dig them up after the fact and make fun of us on the internet. But if you pushed us, we'd have to say that, yes, there probably will be a lot of news stories about Gareth Bale over the summer. Rumours and briefings and counter-briefings and all the fun of the fair. But we're secretly hoping for a glorious return to Southampton.

RIP Frank Worthington

One of the most talented players in the history of English football died yesterday at the age of 72. The Warm-Up was too young to see him play, but if the response from those that did is anything to go by, his was a talent that wrote itself into the memory of all that were lucky enough. Including, to judge by their thrilled expressions, this BBC audience.
It's oddly comforting, watching 70s television during lockdown. Everybody's hair is extremely relateable.
As the obituaries are pointing out, Worthington only picked up eight caps for England: slim returns for such an abundant talent. But if his career was peripatetic, his life was full, and wherever he went he made the people happy. He also scored the Warm-Up's favourite goal of all time, this classic bait and switch for Bolton Wanderers against Ipswich.
A lot of great goals seem impossible. This one goes a little further, into the realm of the unthinkable. Nobody on that pitch or in that stadium is even aware that it's on: that the ball can be flipped back over the head, that the entire defence will dissolve. Nobody except Worthington, that is. Pure and delightful genius.

IN OTHER NEWS

So if you take this bloke's right leg, and Erik Lamela's left leg, you've got the perfect footballer, right? Wrong! You've got a footballer that falls over a lot.

RETRO CORNER

We can't actually remember how we ended up here, watching this clip from an old Aston Villa video. But we're glad we did, because the story of Gareth Southgate's contrived nicknames comes with a wonderful performance from John Gregory.

HAT TIP

Over to the Guardian today, where Jonathan Liew picks apart the systemic imbalances within sport (and, by implication, wider society) that make the process of challenging racist abuse so difficult for the victims.
By the time of the hearing, the incident will begin to feel like a surreal abstraction: you, who were there, will have your recollections challenged by others who weren’t. The player who abused you will wheel out a succession of character witnesses to defend their honour. If he had said the thing, they will insist, that would make him a racist. But he isn’t a racist, and so he can’t have said it. Ultimately, you will be told, it’s your word against his, and so nothing more can be done.

COMING UP

Quarter-final time in the women's Champions League: Pernille Harder faces her old team as Chelsea play Wolfsburg, while Manchester City visit Barcelona. Later, qualifying for the men's World Cup begins. Wales are away to Belgium, which means we'll be watching that Hal Robson-Kanu goal all day, and the Republic of Ireland are away to Serbia.
Marcus Foley, who has never been given a nickname by John Gregory as far as we know, will be here with tomorrow's Warm-Up.
Liga
Ancelotti praises Bale on Real return
15/08/2021 AT 10:03
Transfers
Real to wait for Mbappe after he tells PSG he will not sign new deal - Paper Round
23/07/2021 AT 22:04