The Fiver | Mourinho and the golden value of a top-quality retriever
THE CONTINUING ADVENTURES OF HUMILITY MAN™
How did Liverpool turn around a three-goal deficit against Barcelona last season? That’s what Barça fans keep asking themselves every single day, as they wake up with a start, regular as clockwork, pyjamas soaked through, for their 3am scream. You’ll get no sensible answers out of them, as they sit there, shivering, in their puddle. Poor dears. But The Fiver would boil it down to a couple of things: Andrew Robertson clipping good-time charlie Lionel Messi upside the head, and the quick-thinking ballboy who efficiently gave Trent Alexander-Arnold the chance to make some fast calculations of his own. Either or.
The Fiver prefers Robertson’s lug-cuff, which in comedic terms could only have been improved had the Liverpool full-back been wielding an oversize frying pan. Messi’s affronted coupon! But at the time, out-of-proper-work pundit José Mourinho thought otherwise, and on BT Sport was effusive in his praise of the ballboy’s brisk intervention. “The kid is very intelligent, very bright, he knew what Alexander-Arnold was going to do,” he cooed. “In a good structure, ballboys can play a part. I had a club where [they] never understood how important the ballboys are.” Which one’s he having a pop at there, do you think? It could be any or all of them, couldn’t it.
Whatever, Mourinho now has a club that clearly realises the golden value of a top-quality retriever. On Tuesday night, Spurs were in danger of making a proper show of themselves against Olympiakos, until a sprightly witted ballboy fed Serge Aurier at great speed. One throw and one cross later, Spurs were level and on their way to an eventually comprehensive 4-2 victory. “This kid was brilliant,” trilled Mourinho, revisiting old tropes. “He reads the game, understands the game, and made an important assist. I love intelligent ballboys like I was. I was a brilliant ballboy as a kid.”
Just as the mask began to slip, the all-new all-humble manager suddenly remembered what he was taught in PR School last week, and made an ostentatious song and dance of apologising to Eric Dier, cruelly hooked midway through the first half. “I hurt the player but hurt myself,” wailed Humility Man™. “It wasn’t about his performance. He’s a very intelligent boy who has a good understanding of what a team is.” So there’s nice. All of which leaves us with three questions. Will Dier have it made up to him with a starting berth against Bournemouth at the weekend? Will Spurs, like Liverpool before them, build on ballboy smarts by going on to win Big Cup? And how long can Humility Man™ keep this up? For what it’s worth, our answers are: maybe; possibly; we’re giving it two months, three tops.
LIVE ON BIG WEBSITE
Join Scott Murray from 5.55pm GMT for hot MBM coverage of Valencia 2-2 Chelsea, while Ben Fisher will be on hand for Liverpool 2-1 Napoli from 8pm.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“I understand that he worked hard to be there, to have that opportunity, and that he is ambitious, but for me it was disloyal, and I would never do that. I do not want anyone with that personality on my staff. Ambition is a virtue but over-ambition is not: it is a great defect” – returning Spain manager Luis Enrique tells a press conference, in no uncertain terms, why he sacked
his PA Lynn caretaker Robert Moreno.
“Imagine how excited the players at the Southeast Asian Games must have been to have heard that their plight was being reported in the European football press … only to discover it was just the lead story in yesterday’s Fiver. Say what you want about Philippines president Rodrigo Duterte, he sure knows how to bury bad news when he needs to” – Justin Kavanagh.
“Fascinated by Noble Francis’ information on 1996 transfers (yesterday’s Fiver letters), I obviously threw myself into the period and read it while listening to Everything Must Go, wearing Adidas Poppers, and drinking Hooch. The main thing I took away from it is that Alan Shearer was roughly 4.7 times better than Zinedine Zidane. The numbers don’t lie. Flip, I miss the 90s” – Matt Dony.
“Re: yesterday’s last line. Anyone else think Vincent Adultman looks like this Manchester United youngster?” – Christopher Smith.
“Hi Fiver, you may remember we ventured into a business agreement together, based around a dating app for five-o’clock-football-email-fan-romantics – Finder – with a 70/30% split arrangement (Fiver letters-definitely-not-agreements passim). Unfortunately, the project has not been as successful as I hoped, and I have incurred significant losses. Therefore, I must regrettably inform you that you now owe me £1,452 (30% of total losses). I am, however, willing to accept a copy of An A to Z of Football Collectibles in full, complete and final settlement of all existing claims and causes of action. Alternatively, some office bric-a-brac would also be fine – stapler, tape holder, that sort of thing. Yours in sport and love” – Jacklin O’Riordan.
Send your letters to email@example.com. And you can always tweet The Fiver via @guardian_sport. Today’s winner of our letter o’the day is … Matt Dony, who bags a copy of An A to Z of Football Collectibles. We’ve got more prizes to give away, so get scribbling.
BITS AND BOBS
City Football Group, the owner of Manchester City, has trousered $500m (£389.4m) for selling a stake of just over 10% to American private equity firm Silver Lake.
It’s surely moving towards endgame time for Unai Emery, but the Arsenal manager is still going through some motions. “Our confidence depends on how we can feel in our stadium with our supporters,” he tooted. “Teams are coming here and playing fearless against us. That is the first thing we need to change.”
Jürgen Klinsmann has dived right in to replace Ante Covic as Hertha Berlin head coach.
Club Brugge are probably still partying, despite having two players – including goalscorer Krépin Diatta – sent off for second bookings during their celebrations of an injury-time equaliser in the 1-1 Big Cup draw at Galatasaray. “It was an excess of euphoria,” cheered Diatta.
And Zlatan Ibrahimovic is now a part-owner of Hammarby, which is apparently why his statue outside Malmö’s ground has been defaced with a toilet seat.
STILL WANT MORE?
Michael Knighton gets his chat on with Paul Wilson about all things Manchester United.
Max Rushden suggests Pep’s talk of it being OK to lose rings untrue alongside other footballing fibs.
New Fiver colleague Jonathan Liew on Spurs salvaging Humility Man™’s welcome party.
Lucas Moura could be a big winner from the Tottenham shake-up, writes David Hytner.
Which footballers have restaurants named after them? The Knowledge knows!
Liverpool are living up to their promise of giving rivals 100 reasons to be afraid, explains Paul Wilson.
Oh, and if it’s your thing … you can follow Big Website on Big Social FaceSpace. And INSTACHAT, TOO!