FRIDAY’S BIG HEADLINES

The Haaland mega-auction is on

The most expensive item of art ever sold at auction, achieving a cool £340m in 2019, was a 500-year-old painting by Leonardo Da Vinci named Salvator Mundi – who sounds a bit like a journeyman Italian striker who spends most of his career in the lower reaches of Serie B before having a 24-goal season with Swansea, earning a big-money move to Newcastle and promptly flopping, before finishing his career at Cesena.
Champions League
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Anyway, we digress, the point is that when everyone in the room wants a piece of what’s up in front of them, the price can explode faster than you can say, ‘sold to the Abu Dhabi Department of Culture and Tourism’.
And the men currently wielding the gavel in what could turn out to be the most frenzied football auction in history are Alf Inge Haaland and Mino Raiola, currently traversing the continent to find a nice home for Erling ‘generational talent’ Haaland.
Yesterday, photos emerged of Raiola and Haaland snr arriving in Barcelona airport. Which could be innocent. Who doesn’t like strolling the beautiful boulevards of Barcelona, enjoying the Gaudi architecture, even in a pande... ah right, they were met on arrival by Joan Laporta’s assistant. Okay, that’s pretty clear then.
It wasn’t long before details emerged of a meeting with Barca to discuss a £154m transfer this summer, and it wasn’t much longer before fresh reports had Raiola and Haaland snr making a flying visit to the capital to hold talks with Real Madrid.
In between, there was a slightly ambiguous statement from Dortmund sporting director Michael Zorc, who told Sky Germany: "I spoke to Raiola yesterday. We made our intention clear." He also added to Sport1: "No problem when Alfie and Mino want to sunbathe on the Mediterranean Sea. I am relaxed because I know what we want."
And it’s clear what Mino wants, with even fresher than fresh reports this morning detailing how his Euro trip will continue today with summit meetings with Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United in London.
The hype around Haaland is quite unlike anything we can remember – what’s more, it’s justified. Can you ever recall a moment where one young player was scoring at such a prodigious rate and was actively desired by basically every big club in football? When it has been so clear that they would improve any team on the planet?
It’s got all the ingredients for an absolutely astonishing transfer this summer. Maybe not as much as Salvator Mundi, but close enough.

Lingard in…. Sancho or Grealish out?

There is a rather extraordinary story in The Sun this morning, which claims that Gareth Southgate has been so enamoured by the return of Jesse Lingard to the England set-up that he is seriously considering making space for him by jettisoning one of Jadon Sancho and Jack Grealish in his squad for Euro 2020.
“His outstanding form on loan at West Ham had earned the Manchester United outcast a shock call-up to Southgate’s squad for the World Cup qualifiers — and Lingard played in all three,” writes David Kidd. “When naming that party, Southgate admitted Lingard, 28, had been ‘lucky’ to be included, because of injuries to Jack Grealish, Jadon Sancho, James Maddison and Harvey Barnes.
“But it is believed that Southgate has been so impressed by Lingard’s form, as well as his huge popularity within the squad, that he is trying to figure out who to omit to find room for him. That could mean the axe for Sancho or Grealish — both would be huge calls.”
Now, call The Warm-Up a traditionalist, but shouldn’t you be picking a player based on their ability to decide matches rather than their ability to crack a joke and entertain their mates?
Lingard’s revival at West Ham has been a really nice story and it was a warming sight to see him back in national colours after he played such a key role in England reaching the World Cup semis in 2018. It’s great that he’s popular within the camp. But instead of Sancho or Grealish? No, no, no. No. Nope.

Lee Collins RIP

Some terrible news reached us all yesterday with Yeovil announcing that their captain Lee Collins had died at the age of 32.
No further details have been released but police are not treating the death as suspicious.
"All at Yeovil Town Football Club are mourning the loss of club captain Lee Collins,” read a club statement. "Lee sadly passed away yesterday and our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends.
"We ask everyone to respect the family's privacy at this time. The club will make no further comment at this time. Our game with Altrincham tomorrow has been postponed."

IN OTHER NEWS

Timo Werner, we just can’t get over that miss…

RETRO CORNER

The Premier League is BACK this weekend! To celebrate, here’s one of the best bits of punditry so far this season:

HAT TIP

Which brings us to the existential question: what is football for? Is it about something inherent in the game, about competitiveness—and skill and beauty—for its own sake? Or is it about the production of content to generate revenue for the big brands? Increasingly, it feels the latter is true.
Jonathan Wilson has produced a sweeping, magisterial takedown of the naked greed of the Champions League elite and their desire to milk football for every penny it’s worth through their new plans for the ‘Swiss System’ for the competition. Wilson touches on neoliberalism, modern clubs as content producers and, er, a brief diversion on self-pleasure in this magnificent piece which is well worth your time today.

COMING UP

Birmingham take on Swansea tonight but you have to wait until Saturday for the sweet, sweet Premier League return. In fact, across all Europe’s major leagues we have no less than nine (9) games for you live on Saturday, culminating with Arsenal v Liverpool at 8pm!
Andi Thomas has got a couple of Gaugins and a nice Picasso above the fire, but he’ll have to churn out a few more Warm-Ups before he’s buying Da Vincis. He's back on Monday.
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