MONDAY'S BIG STORIES
Four more years! Four more years!
Happy days, Tottenham fans. Everything's going to be okay. Your summer of painful anticipation is over, and the news is good. Your most important player is staying. Son Heung-min has signed up for another four years.
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Aren't we hilarious? (That's rhetorical. Please don't answer. Please.) Obviously Harry Kane is Spurs' captain, goalscorer and best player, and obviously that transfer saga is going to run for weeks yet. Months. Months that will feel like years. You know that, we know that, Kane knows that.
However. From a Spurs perspective, Kane wanting out is upsetting, even as it's not surprising. But Kane and Son wanting out would be close to apocalyptic. Obviously Nuno Espírito Santo will be hoping that his captain has a change of heart, or his bosses are able to resist Manchester City's gigantic novelty cheque. But whatever happens now, he knows that he still has a player he can build his attack around.
In fact there's probably a contrarian Son-is-more-important-than-Kane opinion to be advanced here, if you're feeling particularly enthusiastic. Something to do with pace, maybe; something to do with ankle integrity. We're not brave enough to make the argument here — this is the Warm-Up, not the Ultra-Volcanic Take — but hopefully somebody gives it a go.
Perhaps more importantly, Tottenham have finally had some unequivocally good news in an otherwise strange summer. Kane agitating for a move, managerial speed-dating, an away kit that looks a lot like the primordial moment of cosmic creation but very little like a Tottenham shirt … the months after Jose Mourinho leaves your club are supposed to be happy months. Finally, something to smile about.
France's Hardest Working Olympian
A hat-trick is three goals. A perfect hat-trick is one goal with the head, and one with either foot. A hat-trick where all three goals are equalisers? As far as we can tell, there's no name for that yet. Let's call it the Gignac.
Three times, France went behind against South Africa. Three times, Andre-Pierre Gignac — captain, over-23 player, extremely tired-looking human being — took his team on his back and put the ball in the net. He got the assist for France's winner, too, though Teji Savanier gets most of the credit there.
The peculiar selection rules for men's Olympic football, in which the U23s can be accompanied by up to three players of any age, seem to have created a new footballing job: designated babysitter. Pick a veteran, maybe even somebody retired, and send them along to keep an eye on things. Mexico are being minded by Guillermo Ochoa, while Brazil have gone with Dani Alves. Max Kruse is looking after Germany, Max Gradel the Ivory Coast, and Egypt have sent the double act of Mohamed El Shenawy and Ahmed Hegazi.
And France have Gignac. He leads the line, he scores the goals, he tidies up after the defence has left their toys lying all over the floor. This win means France are still in the competition, though they'll need to beat Japan by two goals to be sure of their place in the next round. The manner of the win: that cuts both ways. Coming back from a goal down three times might galvanise a squad, bind them together, fill them with a sense of destiny and purpose.
Which is just as well, since the other implication is that France absolutely cannot defend. Four shipped to Mexico and now three to South Africa, who also hit the post and missed a penalty. No team in the competition has scored more than their five, or conceded more than their seven. You can see why Gignac looks so knackered. He's got all these kids to look after, and none of them are doing what they're told.
With apologies to Louis van Gaal's family, who have presumably enjoyed having him around for a bit, we can all agree that the world is better place when Aloysius Paulus Maria is stalking a dugout somewhere, whistle around his neck and clipboard in hand. So bless the Dutch FA, who according to reports are bringing the big man back.
The basic principle of appointing international managers seems to be: find the person that is the complete opposite of the last poor sap, and get them in. England went from Sam Allardyce to Gareth Southgate, the polar opposites of English management. Now the Netherlands are going from Frank de Boer, haunted and uncertain, to Van Gaal.
At Euro 2020, the Netherlands were a lot of fun but were also a tactically ragged mess: Van Gaal should take care of the latter, and if his Manchester United teams are anything to go by, he could see the former off as well. Cheap shot? Well, maybe. But the Netherlands looked like a team in need of a man with a plan and the personality to insist on it. Van Gaal always has a plan.
And we're betting this won't be the last short-term appointment in the men's game. With just one and a half years between international tournaments, and with another disrupted season coming into view, this is not the time to be tearing everything down and starting again. This is the time for patching up and getting through. For going to back to what you know. This is the time for Van Gaal.
IN OTHER NEWS
Since it looks like Van Gaal is coming back to us all, let's luxuriate with the extended highlights of That Game. Spain, unstoppable Spain, world champions Spain, best team in the world Spain: one. Netherlands: five?
Enjoyed this George Caulkin interview with Conor Coady, over on the Athletic (£). One last reminder of how much fun everybody involved with England had this summer, before we go back to the incessant noise of the Premier League.
A lot of the feeling is down to the manager and the environment he has created. You’re put at ease, helped to relax. It’s totally different to club football because you’re away from your family and friends. When we first met up, our rooms were full of pictures of our families and kids, our wives and partners, making it feel and look and smell homely. It makes you want to be there, to be part of it."
A rest day at the Olympic football, so time to watch some [spins big Olympic wheel] three on three basketball!
Presumably, to balance the universe, something annoying happens to Tottenham tomorrow. Ben Snowball will be here to tell you all about it.
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