THURSDAY'S BIG STORIES
Hands Across The Park
It's not easy, replacing Carlo Ancelotti. You need a coach that can match his achievements and his stature. Somebody that has, for example, won the Champions League. Won a title or two. Taken care of the seething egos at Real Madrid. It's not like such a coach is just hanging around— hey, why is that monkey paw curling in like that?
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There is, of course, no logical reason why it should be a problem, appointing much-adored former Liverpool manager Rafa Benítez to work at Everton. And you can see the footballing reasons: under Ancelotti, Everton were occasionally excellent but painfully inconsistent, and looked in desperate need of the kind of coach who will happily spend hours on defensive spacing.
Managerial appointments, as a rule, tend to swing back and forth: each a response to the coach that has gone before. After a bit of Ancelotti, a Benítez, just to keep things balanced. And anybody that can come out of the Newcastle job with their reputation more-or-less intact is clearly an expert at handling the Premier League's more cursed dugouts.
But, if you'll forgive the use of an overly technical term, it's a bit weird, right? Not for any sensible reason but for all sorts of resonant ones. There's no logical reason to prefer blue to red, Hibbert to Carragher, or the Z-Cars theme to You'll Never Walk Alone, but that doesn't mean there aren't reasons. There are still Benítez banners on the Kop. That "small club" comment still comes up from time to time. There are tattoos. Football's a business of the heart, a thing that is felt. This feels weird.
Even ignoring the more extreme responses — lads, if you're going to do a "We Know Where You Live" banner, you need to get the address right — it seems fair to assume that Benítez isn't going to get an awful lot of patience from his new fanbase. And you have to wonder at Everton's timing. A whole year without fans in the stadium would seem the perfect time to experiment with forbidden magics. Now there will be people, and people bring bed sheets, and A4 printouts, and make loud booing noises.
It is generally understood that Everton never really took to Phil Neville until a game against his former club Manchester United, when he launched himself through Cristiano Ronaldo and took ball, man, and everything else, before having a stand-up row with his friends and former team-mates. We're not saying that Benítez is going to have to swing for Jurgen Klopp before he truly belongs at Everton. But we're not not saying that.
The Saga Is Over
Speaking of cursed managerial jobs, Tottenham's search for a new head coach — which began shortly after that asteroid wiped out all the dinosaurs apart from Gunnersaurus, who was vaccinated — is over. Congratulations to Nuno Espírito Santo on his new gig, and congratulations to all the rest of us, who get to enjoy his twinkly eyes and verdant beard on Match of the Day.
While not as provocatively strange an appointment as Benítez-to-Everton, which honestly feels weird to even type, you can understand if the Spurs fan in your life is a bit trepidatious. It's not like this was the club's first choice, after all. Or second. Or third. Or… well, we lost count in there somewhere.
And it's not like Wolves have been particularly thrilling to watch over the last few seasons. Talented players shackled within a cautious structure, games to be not-lost rather than won… Spurs are a club coming through a post-Mourinho detox, looking for somebody to put the dare back in the do. Different circumstances and different squads, of course, and maybe Nuno's just been looking for the right club to get all exciting with.
Then there's the Jorge Mendes connection. Again, we have no idea how this is going to play out, but any Spurs fans reading this might went to brush up on their Primeira Liga. We foresee many Portuguese youngsters in your future.
But there is one very important difference between Mourinho and his replacement, and that is that people who work with Nuno seems to come out of the experience quite liking him. And he improves players. Conor Coady and Luke Shaw are both in with a decent shout of ending the summer with Euros winners' medals: the former after being reinvented as a central defender by Nuno, the latter after being nearly broken as a man by Mourinho.
Obviously there's a huge Harry Kane-shaped shadow looming over the rest of Tottenham's summer, and without knowing the end of that story, it's hard to predict the path of anything else. But we can safely say that Spurs have appointed a decent coach and a decent human being. There are worse places from which to start again.
The Other Saga Is Over
Image credit: Getty Images
Jadon Sancho? Manchester United?! Where did this come from!?!
One problem with transfer sagas that last more than a year, but then end predictably, is that all the takes have gone cold. If Sancho had suddenly signed for Liverpool, that would have been delightfully chaotic; if this had turned out to be a swap deal also involving Erling Haaland, Anthony Martial, Lee Grant, and Fred, that would have been ridiculous.
Instead it's just: good player, good move, works for everybody. That means we probably have to talk about the money.
The reported figure is just shy of £73m with no add-ons, which plants it squarely in that bracket of more money than can be reasonably imagined or comprehended. We have asked FIFA to mandate that all transfer fees be provided in Scrooge McDuck swimming pools, but they haven't replied to our emails.
But by the standards of football's ridiculous deals, maybe it's not quite as ridiculous as previous years? It's less than United paid for Harry Maguire, for a start, and Maguire's a defender and so entirely without glamour. It's also a lot less than recent deals for João Félix and Ousmane Dembélé, who both fall into the same kind of "young, attacking, could be world-stoppingly incredible" bracket. Except Sancho's got a good deal more football behind him than either of those two did.
So this means one of two things, maybe. If football's financing does recover from the pandemic and return to previous levels of transfer ridiculousness, then this is going to look like a pretty good deal for United. And if it doesn't, then this is going to be the first sign that we're living in a slightly saner world. One where the numbers are still too big to understand and far too big to be healthy, but still. Progress!
It also means that United are paying Manchester City for a player, thanks to the excitement of sell-on percentages. As far as we can tell, the last time that happened in either direction was Terry Cooke, back in 1999, for a mere £1m. Barely a Scrooge Mc Duck paddling pool. Progress!
IN OTHER NEWS
In many ways, Jordan Henderson's excellent career as a player is just the build-up to the most inevitable managerial career of all time. He was born to do, well, this:
On this day in 1976, in one of football's great odd coincidences, Patrick Kluivert and Ruud van Nistelrooy were born. Yet Kluivert somehow feels more retro, doesn't he? Look at those lovely Ajax shirts.
Enjoyed this story from the Guardian's Dave Caldwell, about a Scottish-American football hotspot in northern New Jersey.
The Scots-American Athletic Club was formed in 1931 in the working-class town 14 miles west of Manhattan, and the Kearny Scots won five straight American Soccer League championships from 1937 to 1941. The Kearny Scots have played in regional amateur leagues for the last 70 years, [but has now] the club has joined the Eastern Premier Soccer League, an elite amateur league affiliated with the US Adult Soccer Association.
Well, there's tennis. And some cricket. And the Tour de France will be winding its way from Tours to Châteauroux for another sprint finish. Not a huge amount of what you'd technically call "football", though.
And Tom Adams will be here tomorrow to tell you all about it.
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