Prime Minister Boris Johnson laments European super league plans

Boris Johnson has criticised the Premier League clubs plotting to form a breakaway European super league, claiming the plans would be ‘very damaging’ for football.

News of the potential breakaway competition broke on Sunday with Arsenal, Tottenham, Chelsea, Manchester United and Liverpool all in favour of the idea, with Manchester City also rumoured to be interested.

The plans have received widespread criticism, with Prime Minister Johnson the latest to voice his concerns.

Related Articles

Both UEFA and the FA have condemned the plansBoth UEFA and the FA have condemned the plans

UEFA & Premier League release statements condemning European super league plans

UEFA has released a statement with the backing of several leagues and FAs condemning plans for the formation of a European super league.

Jude Summerfield

|

Apr 18, 2021

A number of clubs have signed up for a European Super League according to reportsA number of clubs have signed up for a European Super League according to reports

5 Premier League clubs sign up for breakaway European super league

Five Premier League clubs including Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Man Utd and Tottenham want a European Super League

Robbie Copeland

|

Apr 18, 2021

Gary Neville is not happy with the propsalsGary Neville is not happy with the propsals

Gary Neville slams 6 Premier League clubs involved in European super league plans

Gary Neville has reacted to the news that 6 Premier League clubs have signed up for a breakaway European super league

Krishan Davis

|

Apr 18, 2021

Thomas Tuchel & Zinedine Zidane will meet againThomas Tuchel & Zinedine Zidane will meet again

Real Madrid or Chelsea: Who will make the Champions League final?

Predicting whether Real Madrid or Chelsea will reach the Champions League final, looking at squad strength, manager & system, record in big games & more.

Tom Gott

|

Apr 15, 2021

“Plans for a European Super League would be very damaging for football and we support football authorities in taking action. They would strike at the heart of the domestic game, and will concern fans across the country,” a statement posted on his Twitter account read.

“The clubs involved must answer to their fans and the wider footballing community before taking any further steps.”

The Premier League itself, along with the FSA and several supporters groups, have also released statements condemning the proposed super league. In addition, UEFA have warned that any clubs who take part in a splinter league would face harsh sanctions.

Florentino PerezFlorentino Perez
Perez is one of the architects of the Super League | Soccrates Images/Getty Images

Not only would they be barred from the Champions League, they may also be booted out of their domestic divisions. In addition, players from the breakaway clubs would be prevented from representing their countries at international level.

The plans, which are the brainchild of Florentino Perez and the Glazers, would see England’s big six joined by Spain’s big three, Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid. Serie A sides Milan, Inter and Juventus are also said to be backing the plans.

These teams would be joined by five more founding members, with five additional places up for grabs for teams who qualify annually. Both Bayern Munich and Paris Saint-Germain are said to have rejected the plans, in a somewhat surprising move.

Let’

Federico Valverde in isolation after close contact with positive COVID-19 case

Real Madrid have confirmed midfielder Federico Valverde entered a period of isolation on Saturday after being in close contact with someone who later tested positive for COVID-19.

The 22-year-old has been in and out of Real Madrid’s midfield this season but was expected to enjoy a run at right-back after injuries to Dani Carvajal and Lucas Vazquez forced him to take up that role in the 0-0 draw with Liverpool.

Federico ValverdeFederico Valverde
Valverde has spent time as an emergency right-back | Angel Martinez/Getty Images

Real’s next game comes against Getafe on Sunday, but the club confirmed on their official website that Valverde will play no part.

Importantly, Valverde himself has tested negative for the virus, but he must remain in isolation until another negative test proves he has not contracted COVID-19.

You might think that manager Zinedine Zidane is facing a right-back injury crisis right now, but that’s not the case. The boss will now have no choice but to put his faith in Alvaro Odriozola, who is actually a right-back but is well down the pecking order.

Alvaro OdriozolaAlvaro Odriozola
Odriozola might finally get a chance | Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

The 25-year-old, whose season has been hampered by injuries as well, has not really impressed in his sporadic appearances on the pitch, but he might get the chance to rebuild his reputation now that Zidane literally has no other options.

Alongside Valverde, Carvajal and Vazquez, Real will also be without centre-back duo Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane, left-back Ferland Mendy and winger Eden Hazard, all of whom are battling either injury or COVID-19, or in Ramos’ case, both.

Nacho Fernandez is also suspended, leaving Zidane with just one senior centre-back, Eder Militao. To address that, the boss is expected to turn to the academy, where 21-year-old Victor Chust is waiting in the wings.

Zinedine ZidaneZinedine Zidane
Zidane has a real defensive dilemma | Michael Regan/Getty Images

Such a depleted defence is hardly ideal for a team challenging for a league title, but fortunately for Real, their upcoming fixtures are relatively kind.

Getafe sit 15th in the standings coming into Sunday’s game, while Real will be expected to beat 12th-placed Cadiz when they meet on Wednesday as well.

For more from ​Tom Gott, follow him on ​Twitter!

Let’

Real Madrid 4-2 Bayern Munich: Los Blancos’ controversial step towards greatness in 2016/17

For Real Madrid, the 2016/17 season was all about making history.

Zinedine Zidane’s men were looking to become the first side to ever retain the Champions League, but when they were drawn against German giants Bayern Munich in the quarter-final of the competition, the realisation as to why nobody had ever won back-to-back titles became clear.

In the first leg, Real were largely outplayed but were dragged to victory by Cristiano Ronaldo, who bagged two second-half goals and baited Javi Martinez into two yellow cards to fire Real to a surprising 2-1 win.

[embedded content]

It wasn’t pretty, but at least there was no controversy about it. This was just Ronaldo doing Ronaldo things. Bayern, who had deserved the victory, weren’t the first team to come up short to him and they wouldn’t be the last.

However, the second leg was full of drama and controversy.

Things started off at an electric tempo. Both sides had numerous chances cleared off the line, but first blood went to Bayern just after the break when Robert Lewandowski stepped up to convert a penalty. Game on.

From that point on, Real seemed to lose their heads. They could not get a grip on the game as Bayern pushed and pushed and pushed for the second goal needed to guarantee them a spot in the semi-final.

Marcelo Vieira Da Silva, Joshua KimmichMarcelo Vieira Da Silva, Joshua Kimmich
Marcelo & Kimmich battle for possession | Power Sport Images/Getty Images

Arturo Vidal spurned a fantastic opportunity to get that goal, and his profligacy was punished in the 75th minute as Ronaldo (of course) popped up out of nowhere to head home a Casemiro cross and give Real the advantage they did not really deserve.

The nervy nature of Real’s performance was obvious, and just 36 seconds after Ronaldo’s header, it was nearly fatal. Los Blancos were all shook up at the back and a major miscommunication saw Sergio Ramos slot the ball into his own net with the kind of precision that would have made him a hero had it been at the other end.

Keylor Navas and Nacho Fernandez both expected to get the ball themselves, and all three were left with egg on their faces as Bayern celebrated the fact they were heading to extra time.

It had been scrappy up to this point, but in the 84th minute, it started to get messy.

Viktor KassaiViktor Kassai
The referee took centre stage | Power Sport Images/Getty Images

Marco Asensio came charging down the left wing and was expertly dispossessed by Vidal, whose clean challenge was obvious to everyone apart from the referee. The Chilean was booked, and because he had already seen yellow earlier in the game, he was gone. A clean challenge had left Bayern in the lurch.

“In a quarter-final you have to put a better referee, or it is the moment to introduce video refereeing, which is what UEFA are trying, because there are too many errors,” Bayern manager Carlo Ancelotti said (via BBC Sport) after the game.

Despite their disadvantage, Bayern held firm in extra time, but their spirits were broken by Ronaldo yet again. He fired home his 100th Champions League goal in the 105th minute – Madrid neighbours Atletico reached 100 as a club on the same night – but the problem was he was clearly offside when he got the ball.

Two enormous decisions had gone against Bayern, and the Germans collapsed after that. Ronaldo completed his hat-trick after the interval and Asensio bagged a fourth to make this tie look far more comfortable than it was.

Real would go on to beat Atletico in the semis and Juventus in the final, sealing their spot in history as the first side to win back-to-back Champions Leagues, but whether they should have had the chance to get that far is up for debate.

It was this game that created the ‘Real paid the refs’ narrative that dominated Twitter for a good few years. Everything that could have gone against Bayern, did.

Real undoubtedly rode more than their fair share of luck in this tie, but sometimes all you need is the greatest goalscorer in the history of football to guide you through.

For more from ​Tom Gott, follow him on ​Twitter!

Let’

Brendan Rodgers challenges Leicester’s COVID rulebreakers to make amends on pitch

Leicester City manager Brendan Rodgers has urged James Maddison, Hamza Choudhury and Ayoze Perez to do their apologising on the pitch after the trio were dropped from the squad for breaking COVID-19 rules.

The three players, alongside injured winger Harvey Barnes, were all found to have broken rules by attending a party held by Perez in the build-up to the recent 3-2 defeat to West Ham, for which the three fit players were all dropped.

Ayoze PerezAyoze Perez
Perez invited around 20 people to a party | James Williamson – AMA/Getty Images

Maddison, Choudhury and Perez have all been welcomed back into the squad for Sunday’s FA Cup semi-final against Southampton, and Rodgers challenged the three players to prove their commitment to the club by shining on the pitch.

“These guys have made a great contribution for us, we are also in the position we are because of them,” Rodgers said (via Sky Sports News). “They made a mistake and in football there will be a choice again, at some point in their careers, and hopefully they’ll make a better choice.

“We always have to look forward and it’s in the past. The best way they can do that as a player is by their actions on the field.

Hamza ChoudhuryHamza Choudhury
Choudhury has been a fringe player this season | Alex Pantling/Getty Images

“It’s a really exciting period and they come in and are available. They know for the rest of the season they have to have that level of focus and commitment to achieve what it is we want to.

“We dealt with it last week when they trained separately and they understood the consequences. We had a meeting at the beginning of the week and we accept their apologies. They were sincere and knew they’d made a mistake. The team is based on pride and behavioural expectations and they fell below that.”

Of the three players. it’s Maddison’s absence which was felt most. With 11 goals and ten assists in all competitions, the playmaker is in contention for a spot in Gareth Southgate’s England squad for this summer’s European Championship.

James MaddisonJames Maddison
Maddison’s England future is up in the air | Matthew Ashton – AMA/Getty Images

“I don’t know,” said Rodgers when asked about Maddison’s chances of a call-up. “I’m not picking the England squad, I only look at Leicester and just concerned really with what we do here at Leicester.

“I don’t speak to him on England, to be honest. He was very remorseful. I’ve always said I’ve loved working with him. He’s a young player that has made a mistake. He was man enough to hold his hand up, he wasn’t hiding from it, he was bitterly disappointed at himself and letting his team-mates down.”

For more from ​Tom Gott, follow him on ​Twitter!

Let’

Lionel Messi lights up Copa del Rey in potential last dance with Barcelona

It was only fitting that in what may be his final season with Barcelona, Lionel Messi lifted the Copa del Rey – the King’s Cup.

The football world was only recently recovering from the sinking realisation that we might never see the great magician take on Real Madrid in El Clasico ever again, and that sadness multiplied when he fired a blank in the 2-1 defeat.

Lionel MessiLionel Messi
Another wonderful performance from Messi | Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

So, the thought of Messi losing a cup final in what could possibly be his final chance for silverware at Camp Nou was simply unthinkable. Luckily, Saturday night would be the Argentine’s night, where he danced and frolicked from start to finish, reminding us all why we watch the beautiful game.

In fact, the whole Blaugrana team put in a display worthy of their talisman, and they stepped up to the incredibly high standards he sets every week, crushing Athletic Bilbao in an awe-inspiring 4-0 victory.

There was only one team playing in the first half.

Barcelona flew out of the blocks, stating their intent by carving out three or four fantastic early chances. Messi was in his element and playing with a smile on his face, rolling back the years to when he was alien and unplayable, not just extraterrestrial.

Lionel MessiLionel Messi
The very best | Soccrates Images/Getty Images

Frenkie de Jong should have hit the net when laid up inside the box, but his placed finish kissed the post on the full and bounced away. Messi fired wide from the right-hand side of the box and the forward wasted a good chance from a free-kick soon after.

Ronald Koeman’s side squeezed and suffocated Bilbao high up the pitch, Clement Lenglet was stepping into midfield and pinching any loose balls, and Gerard Pique was keeping a close eye on Inaki Williams’ movements.

Sergio Busquets played the role of washing machine in midfield, picking up any dirty loose balls in the middle, taking them under his control and turning them out clean for his teammates. It was as dominant a half as you could imagine, and the goal was coming.

And then, it wasn’t.

Bilbao plugged the gap, reorganised and got settled in for a long half of defending. Barça were a little disheartened not to have capitalised on their early chances, and although they ended the first half with 79% of possession, they struggled to test Unai Simon any further.

Koeman would have been keen to stress to his players the need for calm, but to maintain the intensity with which they attacked their opponents, and they didn’t disappoint. Antoine Griezmann should have broken the deadlock only three minutes into the second half, but he tapped the ball wide when sliding into the six-yard box.

But they did break Bilbao down on the hour-mark, and from that moment, they never looked back. Messi got the move going, feeding De Jong down the right flank, and his pinpoint cross found the feet of Griezmann, and this time, he made no mistake.

De Jong landed a second blow in three minutes on the rocking Bilbao, and then it was time for the main man to take centre stage. Messi picked up the ball deep inside his own half on the right flank, and set about weaving some classic magic.

He bounced the ball off De Jong and got it back, darted into the box, cut inside effortlessly onto his left foot, sent his marker into another postcode, and then rolled a perfect shot into the far corner.

It was devastatingly easy for Messi as he rounded off their third goal in eight minutes, but he wasn’t finished there. He then gave us a glimpse of a scene we’ve witnessed a thousand times, arriving onto a cutback pass on the edge of the box and slotting a precise finish into the bottom corner.

It was simply impossible to watch that game without a smile on your face. Messi was having fun on the pitch, and we were having fun with him. He deserved to soak up the applause of a full house as a last-minute substitute, leaving the field a hero, but that would mean missing out on extra seconds of inspiration.

Whether this victory will be tinged with sadness for the Argentine, who’ll ponder why his teammates can’t play like that consistently, we may never know.

But if it is to be Messi’s final dance at the ball and the final prize he lifts in a Barcelona jersey, then it was a pretty special way to do it.

Let’