THURSDAY’S BIG STORIES

Ronaldo stays! Or does he?

Juventus vice president Pavel Nedved is insistent that Cristiano Ronaldo will stay at the Allianz Stadium.
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Here is what he said:
He has a contract until 30 June, 2022 and he will stay. For me, Cristiano can't be touched.
The 36-year-old forward has been linked with a return to Real Madrid in the wake of Juventus’ exit from the Champions League against Porto - a loss for which he was partially culpable.
It seems to make logical sense. The Portuguese was bought to help Juve get over the line in the Champions League. He failed to do so. The Old Lady are now a team in transition, and Ronaldo is keen to add another Champions League to his haul to cement his legacy. It can be said with some certainty that he will not win it with Juventus next year.
Therefore, it is curious that the club – via Nedved – would insist that a player on a hefty wage would be retained for the last year of his contract. It makes limited logical sense to allow Ronaldo to run down his deal when they can extract a transfer fee for an asset that has failed – ultimately – to live up to its expectation: winning Europe's premier competition.
Call The Warm-Up a cynic, but perhaps Nedved is engaging in brinkmanship. “Can’t be touched” is an interesting phrase - it seems like a challenge, as if Nedved is attempting to draw out interested parties, namely Real Madrid.
Nedved went on to add the following:
Cristiano, both technically and in terms of image, pushed us towards the peak of football. On a technical level, you can't fault him. He's scored more than 100 goals in 120 games and he dragged us into the Champions League.
This increasingly reads not like a hands-off warning but more of, well, a cross between a LinkedIn profile and a sales pitch. This is a new, strange twist in a saga that will run all summer.

Frank de Boer: He’s not very good

Frank de Boer was obviously, it goes without saying, an excellent footballer. As a manager, not so much.
De Boer has had some success - at Ajax and Atlanta United - but in, to be blunt, more competitive environments of, say, Serie A, the Premier League or international football he has had next to no success.
His overall win ratio as a manager is 57.3%. Impressive stuff. For reference - and it is some reference - Tim 'second-to-none win ratio' Sherwood had a win ratio of 50% at Tottenham and 35.7% at Aston Villa. So, on the Sherwood Scale, he is doing pretty well. However, that overall win percentage includes less-than successful stints at Inter Milan (35.7%), Crystal Palace (20%) and now the Netherlands (28.6%).
The Netherlands have good football players; they were, in the not so distant past, good at playing football. They no longer appear good at playing football, but still have the same nucleus of football players. This does not reflect well on Frank de Boer.
His side lost 4-2 to a decent Turkey team away from home but, truth be told, if they want to qualify from a group that includes Norway, these are the types of games they need to be picking up points from.

Bad news for Ansu Fati and Barcelona

After a faltering start to the season, Barcelona are undergoing a resurgence. Improbably, they sit just four points adrift of Atleti at the top of Liga.
Their mid-season revival has been built around a renewed commitment to youth, with Pedri excelling and Ilaix Moriba emerging from La Masia. Oscar Mingueza and Ronald Araujo have also seen solid game time.
It is a talented cohort, and Ansu Fati may have the highest ceiling. However, it is unlikely that Ronald Koeman will be able to field Fati alongside Pedri and Ilaix Moriba this season with the news that Fati may have to undergo further surgery on his meniscus injury.
The 18-year-old is expected to miss the rest of the season and the Olympics and Euros for Spain.

Gareth Bale looking match fit

Gareth Bale returned to Tottenham to get match fit. He looked fairly match fit here for the opening goal in Wales' 3-1 defeat against Belgium. Job done, back to Madrid, then.

HAT-TIP

Ronnie Wallwork, who won the Premier League with Manchester United in 2001, has led a chequered life after football. The Athletic detail his life away from the pitch in an article called Ronnie Wallwork: How did it come to this?
He came prepared. Ronnie Wallwork had been warned there was a good chance he would be locked away. His head was bowed, staring at the floor. A security van was outside, with blacked-out windows, in case it turned out he was on his way to Strangeways, the local prison. Then the judge began her sentencing remarks and it quickly became apparent that he was going to be spared. Wallwork was given a two-year prison sentence, suspended for 18 months. He was a free man, as long as he kept out of trouble until September 2022.

COMING UP

Double England action. The senior team are in action against San Marino in a World Cup qualifier and the U-21 side takie on Switzerland at the UEFA European Under-21 Championship.
Tom Adams, who both technically and in terms of image pushed The Warm-Up towards the peak of football, is here tomorrow.
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