Kurt Perleberg has decided to sum it all up for us: “Is it just me or that the club football season has been so wild?”
Drama at Chelsea
Arsenal throwing the title away
Fulham’s rapid rise
the World Cup
Newcastle’s rapid rise
Napoli’s rapid rise
Drama with Gregg Berhalter & the USMNT
Cristiano Ronaldo’s disastrous interview with Piers Morgan
Wolves in last place on Boxing Day
Ronaldo’s transfer to Al-Nassr
FC Barcelona winning La Liga under Xavi
Messi’s disastrous trip to Saudi Arabia
Drama at PSG
Juventus & its many scandals
Manchester United sale drama
Liverpool’s up and down season
Rise of Aston Villa
Downfall of Leicester City
Jamie Vardy’s MLS Next Pro team going defunct
Luton Town getting promoted to the Premier League
Saudi Arabia taking control of the top 4 clubs in that country
More Ronaldo drama in Saudi Arabia
Karin Benzema leaving Real Madrid
Jordi Alba & Sergio Busquets leaving FC Barcelona
Zlatan Ibrahimovic retiring
& Lionel Messi’s massive transfer to MLS side Inter Miami.
From 19 June, Sarina Wiegman will be able to call up her players, the only doubt being Georgia Stanway at Bayern Munich. More to follow but an FA Statement below:
‘We are grateful for the mutual understanding of the clubs, as we have collectively worked towards a solution with the wellbeing of players at the heart.
All parties recognise we are not only preparing them to be fresh and fit for the intensity of a World Cup, but that a thorough preparation phase, including vital downtime with family and friends, will also benefit the players after the finals.
We look forward to welcoming them to St. George’s Park when they return from a well-earned rest.
In the meantime, it is important the whole game comes together to address and solve the wider issues of the fixture calendar.
Bad news for the Fun88 admirers among the Toon Army but good news that this was such a competitive process to deliver a Saudi Arabian events company and £25m per season.
Handing over now, to my esteemed colleague John Brewin, who will take you through the afternoon while I grab a chicken wrap. The pre-Champions League final press conferences are coming up later today, I believe.
Over to you, John.
Shane Duffy has gone to Norwich from Fulham, in a transfer that feels entirely right. (Has he been there before? Answer: somehow not)
Manchester United takeover news, now. And, bing bong, this is an announcement for the attention of the Glazer family … Qatari banker Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad al-Thani’s final bid of no more than £6bn will stay live even if the Glazers fail to respond to it by the Qatari’s self-imposed deadline – which is today.
Jamie Jackson has the full story, the latest in what is becoming a protracted saga.
On that news that Konraid Laimer has joined Bayern … an email from Paulo Biriani:
It’s must be so depressing for fans of other German clubs. And it just makes their league even more boring.
Thank god it doesn’t happen in England.
Inter fans have descended on Istanbul. They’ll be viewing tomorrow night’s game as a shot to nothing, while secretly believing they can pull off an upset. They are the cup kings under Simone Inzaghi after all.
Some big transfer stories today from The Guardian’s team of dedicated football correspondents:
Tottenham and Newcastle are battling to sign James Maddison from Leicester, writes Fabrizio Romano
West Ham, meanwhile are targeting Ajax’s Edson Álvarez as a replacement for the outgoing Declan Rice, according to Jacob Steinberg
The Rumour Mill also includes speculation on Kalvin Phillips (West Ham), Riyad Mahrez (Saudi Arabia) as well as Harry Kane, Kim Min-Jae and Benjamin Pavard (all Manchester United, apparently)
Quiz time! How is your knowledge of Champions League and European Cup finals?
I tested this one out yesterday before it was published and scored a disgraceful 10/16. Some ropey answers in the pre-1992 questions. My colleague John Brewin fared much better with 15. Have a go and let us know your scores.
An email. This one comes from Kurt Perleberg and it’s hard to argue with, unless you’re a Manchester City or Inter fan of the Milan kind, of course.
As you and me all know the biggest story in not just football but all of sport this week is Lionel Messi’s shocking transfer to Major League Soccer (MLS) side Inter Miami.
Another Bundesliga related transfer titbit for you, here, with Konrad Laimer’s move from RB Leipzig to Bayern Munich confirmed. The 26-year-old joins on a free transfer.
Not like Bayern to sweep up all the talent from German football’s lesser lights, is it?
Incidentally, you can keep up to scratch on all this summer’s transfer deals from Europe’s big five leagues on The Guardian’s interactive transfer tracker.
Naby Keïta has a new club. After his release from Liverpool, the midfielder has returned to the Bundesliga and joined Werder Bremen. He should do well there.
Thanks Will. A nice busy pre-Champions League final day to get me going then.
The question many are asking is: do Inter have any chance whatsoever in Istanbul? Our resident Italian football expert Nicky Bandini picks out five players in Simone Inzaghi’s team who could cause Manchester City some problems.
(And I for one am shocked that Romelu Lukaku hasn’t made the cut).
Right, that’s yer lot from me. I’m handing over to Dominic Booth, who’s making his debut on the blog. Remember to be kind online, please.
Speaking to BBC Radio Manchester, Kyle Walker has reiterated his desire to match the United side which overcame Bayern Munich at the Camp Nou 24 years ago to secure an unprecedented Treble. “I think when we won the Premier League we didn’t want to talk about the Treble because you’ve still got a game at Wembley against your arch rivals,” he said.
“Now, when that win came, you can’t beat about the bush – it’s there. If us players want to go and be associated with the team of Manchester United [in 1999] we need to take this opportunity. Hopefully we can do it, walk out from Istanbul with a beer in our hands celebrating and be Treble winners.”
You can never have too much Jonathan Wilson, can you? Here he is with the tactical lowdown on Inter, whose front two, back three, attacking wing-backs and muscular midfield could all cause problems for City.
Back to the Champions League final, then. City fans have started to arrive in Istanbul and they’ve brought their giant banners with them.
Here’s a little reminder of Foster’s heroics as Wrexham clinched the National League title, thanks in no small part to his penalty save to deny Cedwyn Scott as the Welsh side won 3-2 against their nearest rivals, Notts County, at the Racecourse Ground.
Let’s take our tatty old Champions League hat off for a second, and replace it with the shimmering tiara of League Two. In news that will come as sweet music to the ears of Wrexham fans, Ben Foster has signed a one-year contract extension and will stick with the newly promoted side for their first season in the Football League for 15 years. “At the end of last season it was obvious that I enjoyed being at the club, I loved being part of the team and everything that Wrexham stands for,” he said. “I’d decided before the end of last season I wanted to do it, because it feels like home. I’ve never joined a football club and felt at ease so quickly.”
More transfer news? Oh, go on then. Over in the WSL, Chelsea have signed Catarina Macario from Lyon on a three-year contract. “I can’t wait to get started here,” the USA forward told the club website. “I’m really happy to sign for Chelsea and I hope to represent the jersey well over the next few years.”
Some transfer news for you now. Having moved to France last September, Ross Barkley has been released by Nice and is now a free agent. Nicolas Pépé and Joe Bryan will also depart the club, having spent the season on loan from Arsenal and Fulham respectively.
Speaking to BBC Radio 5 Live before making the trip to Turkey, Erling Haaland has raised the terrifying prospect of getting better at football. “I am still young and can improve a lot,” he said. “There are a lot of things I can do as there is a lot to improve.
“But I am in the perfect place, working with the best coach and the best players in the world. Pep is a details freak and all about developing them.”
Here’s one more to be going on with: John Stones on his standout season and how he has turned things around under Guardiola’s guidance.
Phil Mongredien isn’t as impressed by City’s relentless onwards march. “Many football fans actively loathe the way that City’s financial muscle has distorted the English game over the past 15 years,” he notes. “Having succeeded in making the Premier League so boringly predictable, extending that chokehold to Europe by beating Inter on Saturday would hardly be something to celebrate.
“And that’s before we even get to the more than 100 financial doping charges brought against the club by the Premier League earlier this year – which they vociferously deny. As long as this enormous question mark is hanging over whether they reached their position of dominance by effectively cheating, why would any neutral want them to (further) prosper?”
Karen Carney feels City’s success is symptomatic of the strength of the Premier League more broadly. “The competitive nature of the Premier League is helping its clubs in Europe,” she writes. “City rarely had an easy weekend this season and had to fight for their points, regardless of who they were playing. There is strength throughout the league, which means the best teams have to push themselves … the need to maintain standards benefits a club such as City when they face quality opposition in the Champions League.”
Jonathan Wilson has dipped into the 15th anniversary edition of Inverting the Pyramid, charting the rise of superclubs, mega-spending, celebrity players and modern managers. Contains added Guardiola.
Let’s kick off with some of our coverage from the past week, building up to the big game in Istanbul. First up, here’s what Kyle Walker had to say when asked about City’s ambition of emulating Manchester United’s 1999 Treble winners.
The countdown to the Champions League final has begun, with Manchester City and Inter fans no doubt veering between excitement, anxiety and deep, gut-wrenching nausea. This is it: the Big One, the Grand Finale, the Golden Goblet, the Destroyer of Worlds. Pep Guardiola laid out what’s at stake earlier this week when he said: “We must accept that if we want to make a definitive step as a big club, we must win in Europe. We have to win the Champions [League] – that’s something you can’t avoid.” No pressure, then, lads. Not that pressure has been much of a problem this season, given City have already won the Double and utterly crushed all challengers to their imperial dominance.
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