TUESDAY’S BIG STORIES
UEFA in a real pickle
There has been much talk about a European Super League, and much push back against it. The push back is that a European Super League will be boring. It will be the same old teams - bar a few exceptions - contesting the same old games and leading to the same old results. Sounds terrible and also a lot like the current Champions League. The European Super League is already here - it just hasn't changed its name, yet. The Champions League is already everything the European Super League would be: boring and uncompetitive.
UEFA are in a pickle here because their flagship competition is now inferior to its secondary competition, the Europa League, which is competitive, interesting and stacked with quality. Take for example, the fact that Europe's top five leagues are currently led by teams competing in the Europa - that is Tottenham, Leverkusen, Real Sociedad, Lille and AC Milan.
Perhaps part of the Europa's appeal is the depth of its participants. There are, at the knockout stage, still 32 teams in with a shout of winning the tournament, and that gives it an unpredictability that the Champions League has lacked in recent years.
Barcelona against PSG is arguably the standout tie in the Champions League but after La Remontada, you know, meh. The format seems tired, and the solution is certainly not moving to a European Super League, which would maintain all of the Champions League's negatives and little of its positives.
What was Mino Raiola's end game?
Mino Raiola said last week that Paul Pogba would probably do one from Manchester United. This week, he says he won't in January at least. Here is what he said late last night.
"When it comes to him in England they are sensitive, perhaps too sensitive," Raiola said.
In January, the big players hardly move, then in the summer let's see what happens.
So what was the point of last week? It just made Pogba's life more difficult. And that is the polar opposite of what an agent it means to do, no?
The "let's see what happens" in the summer line is an interesting one, also. Perhaps Raiola has not been inundated with offers for the World Cup winner. Let's see what happens in the summer, indeed.
Positive Jimenez news
Nuno Espirito Santo has given an update on Raul Jimenez and it was a positive one. The Mexican forward suffered a fractured skull in a collision with David Luiz in Arsenal's 2-1 defeat against Wolves in late November. There had been fears that the injury might be career-threatening.
However, Wolves boss Espirito Santo expects the forward to return to full fitness.
"He's improving. He was here again, he had breakfast with us and a good walk around the pitch," said Espirito Santo.
"It's always a big disruption when you lose a player, especially Raul and how the situation happened, which was traumatic for everyone.
We have to overcome it. Raul is going to be OK, he is going to be back to the same player and person he was.
"Now we have to work together and keep competing. It was a traumatic situation but in time I am positive, step by step, we will start asking more questions."
Heroes and Zeros
A wonderful gesture.
Emili Rousaud is absolutely correct in his analysis that Lionel Messi will have to take a pay cut if he is to stay at Barcelona but there is no need to say it out loud. Grief.
There are many hat-tips this Tuesday morning. First are to the winners of Eurosport's inaugural Star of the Year awards: Robert Lewandowski and Pernille Harder. Florian Bogner of our German office profiled the rise of Lewandowski here and Peter Sharland from the UK office talked to Harder here.
Monday brought the sad news that Gerard Houllier had passed away. Here is his crowning glory as Liverpool manager, winning the UEFA Cup against Alaves in 2001.
Tony Evans wrote about Houllier's connection to Liverpool on Monday. That article can be read in full here but below is a snippet of it.
He deserves to be ranked with the greatest of Liverpool’s icons. He was the bridge between eras and an advocate for the city. The ties went beyond football.When the ground is full again, there will be more flags than ever celebrating his legacy. The greatest tribute is the most simple: Gerard Houllier, once and for ever a Kopite. He is already missed.