THURSDAY'S BIG STORIES
Bye bye Barca
A historic day in the Champions League. For the first time since 2005, neither Cristiano Ronaldo nor Lionel Messi will be turning out in the quarter-finals. The game has changed, the baton has been handed on to the next generation, and we're all getting older.
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But in fairness to Barcelona, they gave it a serious go. Faced with the basically impossible task of scoring four away goals, they spent the first half creating chance after chance, as PSG — perhaps remembering that 6-1, perhaps infected by some faint residue of Spursiness — shrank back into their own box. For the first 45 minutes, until Pochettino could deliver a talking-to, Barca's tactics were close to perfect.
Unfortunately for Barcelona, and for the chaos-hungry neutral, their finishing was miserable. They could only take one chance, and in truth we're not sure that even really counts: a 30-yard piledriver into the top corner isn't so much a chance as a flare of genius. To balance the books, Messi missed a penalty on the stroke of half-time. Would have made things interesting. Wasn't to be.
What's interesting now, then, is whether this performance affects Barcelona's pursuit of the only trophy that really matters this season: the Messi Stays Invitational, sponsored by One More Year, Please. Because almost all that was good about Barcelona came from the kids: Pedri was bright and inventive, Sergiño Dest had the run of the right flank, and Francisco Trincão looked decent when he came on.
And then there's Ansu Fati, already confirmed delightful, waiting to come back from injury. In short, you can see there's a case for Barcelona's new president to make. Lead these kids. Inspire them. One last assist, across the generations. Good company man Ronald Koeman is on board.
Leo's seen for a while that the team is improving with the changes we've made. We have youngsters with quality and big futures coming into the team, so it's not a question of having doubts about what this team is capable of.
At the end of last season, Barca looked to be in need of a total rebuild, from boardroom to dugout to dressing room. A full hosing out of the stables. And then last night they looked one reliable striker from something almost impossible. Of course, whether the club can afford that striker without shifting Messi on is an open question. But at the very least they have to be seen to try to keep him, and the argument looks a lot stronger now.
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Big Nat Phillips
Over in the other game, the one everybody watched for the seven minutes between PSG's goal and Barcelona's equaliser, Liverpool won comfortably. That's right. Crisis team Liverpool eased past one of the best teams in the Bundesliga.
We can only assume Leipzig haven't been paying attention to the Premier League and were unaware that Liverpool are rubbish now. Shocking, really. People go on about Julien Nagelsmann's tactical genius but he can't even be bothered to watch Match of the Day.
Man of the match, as far as the Warm-Up can tell, was Nat Phillips, Liverpool's 1,474th choice centre-half. First, he did lots of vigorous heading of the ball, enough to win one of the season's finest slightly-loaded compliments from his manager:
The concentration level he shows now week in week out since he is playing for us is absolutely incredible. He is doing exactly the right things at the right moment. In the air he is a monster and you could see today football-wise he is not bad.
That "not bad" is going straight on the CV. Second, and perhaps more importantly, Phillips' monstrosity meant that Fabinho could return to midfield. And Fabinho, though not bad at filling in at the back, is precisely what Liverpool have been missing from the middle. Thiago's been having to do all that irritating fouling himself, and he's just not as good at it. Always looks too guilty and gets booked too quickly.
We're not going to totally rule out a renaissance in the Premier League, but it certainly looks like Liverpool's best shot of getting back into the Champions League is to win the thing. So Liverpool are a cup team now. And crisis or not, you can't imagine too many of the other teams left in the competition will be looking forward to facing Nat Phillips. Monster, it says here. Monster.
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Jobs For The Boys
The longest job search in the game is over: Manchester United's years-long quest for a director of football has ended! And it has ended with the appointment of three people to three different jobs, none of which is "director of football".
Instead, John Murtough is going to be "football director", which apparently is a very different thing. Darren Fletcher will become "technical director", and Matt Judge becomes "director of football negotiations". All three were already working for United in one capacity or another, so at least they'll know where the breakout area is.
In theory it's quite a cute solution. Responsibility for identifying transfers remains with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and the recruitment department, thus avoiding the whole 'I asked for a sofa and they bought me a lamp' problem. Murtough will only get involved if the coach says 'this sofa is great', but the scouts say 'what? mate, that's a lamp'.
In practice, we'll have to wait and see. But the Warm-Up has one prediction. If United continue to flail around in the transfer market like an elephant that's been at the Casillero del Diablo, it will still be Ed Woodward that everybody gets angry with. He's the perfect corporate villain, and no amount of strategic redeployment moving forward will change that.
IN OTHER NEWS
It's about sending a message. Putting down a marker. Getting in their heads. You let them know who you are, and you let them know what you're about.
It probably isn't long enough to count as retro, but that Barcelona 6-1 PSG game really does feel like something from a different era. Neymar in Catalonia! Fans in the stadium! Those fifth officials! Faffing around on the edge of the penalty area with their little wands, looking inscrutable. Maybe that's the real problem with VAR. No personality.
If, like the Warm-Up, you greeted the news that The Football Index was in trouble with a hearty "Eh? What? Who?", then The Athletic's Joey D'Urso is here to explain what it is. And then what's gone wrong.
One of the most serious concerns about Football Index is that it is like a "Ponzi scheme", named after a 1920s American conman who used money he received to pay dividends to early investors but saw his scheme collapse when he couldn’t attract more money to pay later investors.… A Football Index spokesperson said: "We categorically deny any allegations that Football Index’s model is similar in any way to that of a 'pyramid scheme.'"
16 teams left in the Europa League, and they start trying to knock each other out tonight. Manchester United vs AC Milan is probably the glamour tie, but if you really want to watch Arsenal play Olympiakos for the millionth time, we won't judge. It's the Europa League. You cannot go wrong.
Our newly appointed Technical Director of Warm-Up Negotiations, Tom Adams, will be here tomorrow.
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