TUESDAY’S BIG STORIES
Zlatan is just like the rest of us
It started just like any other press conference from Zlatan Ibrahimovic, full of tedious self-promotion and wildly inaccurate predictions: "If I’m going to be a part of the squad for the Euros we’re going to win the Euros. I only play to win." That was coming from a man who has scored as many World Cup goals as the Warm-Up (zero, sadly); a man who watched from home as his nation put in their best showing at a major tournament in 24 years at Russia 2018.
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But then, just as we were waiting for him to reveal a severed lion’s head as part of an elaborate new commercial deal, he was tripped by an innocent question. How had his family reacted when he announced he was returning to Sweden duty ahead of Euro 2020?
That's not a good question you're asking. I had Vincent [his son] here who really cried when I left him. But now it's okay.
And then the strangest thing happened. Liquid started to gather at the corner of his eyes, he bowed his head and gestured for the reporter to pause. Surely he wasn't crying? But he was. Now in normal circumstances, this wouldn’t prompt comment. The Warm-Up is all for more emotion. Hell, we’ve found ourselves knocked for six by pre-roll adverts on YouTube this past year. But tears from Ibrahimovic?
Obviously the reaction was full of the usual nonsense – ‘Zlatan didn’t break down in tears, his tears were attacking the earth’ – but we can't help but bask in such refreshing humanity from an unlikely source. It was a reminder that behind the grizzly showman, always on the hunt for a taunt or put-down, is just a regular man with the same settings as the rest of us.
His return to Sweden won't mean they win Euro 2020. It may not lead to him ending his World Cup drought. But it has left us wondering whether Ibrahimovic could be likeable again if he ditched the façade.
'A real celebration for women’s football'
Chelsea manager Emma Hayes has led the chorus of enthusiasm for a historic new TV deal for the Women’s Super League. The deal with BBC and Sky Sports is worth around £24 million and is the biggest such deal for women’s football anywhere.
"It’s not just one club, one person, one entity, this is all about the whole and it’s a real celebration for women’s football and everyone involved in it," said Hayes, with the deal set to run from next season until 2024.
"The fact that all of them are committing to the studio package piece too – the build-up to games, the analysis of games, the level of detail that in and of itself becomes an important marker."
The Football Association’s Kelly Simons said there was potential for the WSL to become the most-watched women’s sports event on the planet.
"It is one of the biggest deals commercially, definitely for women's football in terms of a domestic deal, and up there for women's sport," she said.
"We have benchmarks for what we think are the most successful, high-profile women's sport leagues in the world like the WNBA (Women's National Basketball Association) and the NWSL (National Women's Soccer League), and they are low hundreds of thousands in terms of an average peak per week.
"We anticipate this would significantly be above that."
IN THE CHANNELS
If there’s one positive to come from the pandemic, it’s that not even masks can’t contain the best smiles on the planet. Jesse Lingard, welcome back to the England fold.
Happy 27th birthday to Nick Powell, the former Manchester United ace who made, err, three substitute appearances for them in the Premier League. Anyway, this goal is the reason they signed him.
You're still with us? Fair play. We were eagerly anticipating Berwick Rangers v Civil Service Strollers in the Lowland League tonight, but that’s a victim of the current coronavirus restrictions - which means you have a day off. Rest up: there’s World Cup qualifying and women’s Champions League action on Wednesday.
The 'how to fill an article before international week commences' baton passes to Marcus Foley tomorrow.
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