Everyone says that Daniel Levy likes a deal. This could be the summer to really test that.
What if Chelsea do not recruit Erling Haaland? What then for the club that have an even greater need for a striker than Manchester City? We all know the alternative. We know the other prime goalscorer who could be on the market, for a similarly extravagant price. But could Levy do a deal with London rivals Chelsea?
And could Harry Kane make the journey across the capital, knowing it will end his relationship with the club he loves? It has always been considered too outlandish a proposition, but circumstances are changing – for all parties.
This summer may be the time to test Tottenham chief Daniel Levy with an offer for Harry Kane
Chelsea appear increasingly likely to miss out on Haaland, particularly with the futures of Pep Guardiola and Kevin De Bruyne secure. Who would not want to be coached by one and supplied by the other? Manchester City is a perfect fit for Haaland. This leaves Chelsea without option A, but still in pressing need of a striker.
Thomas Tuchel cannot go into next season with a false nine system built around Kai Havertz who has scored five goals all season, four of which were against Barnsley and Morecambe. His only goal against Premier League opposition was at home to Southampton on October 17.
Chelsea’s false nine is not thriving like Guardiola’s in Manchester. It is born from necessity – from a lack of faith in the goalscorers, and a lack of goals in those afforded faith.
Then there is Kane’s predicament. If he has decided it is time to leave Tottenham, his options are increasingly limited.
Manchester City appear to be prioritising elsewhere. The Spanish and Italian giants do not have the money. It leaves a move within the Premier League.
Manchester United would surely be interested but are without a domestic title since 2013 or any form of silverware since 2017.
Levy is unlikely to sell him to a rival – and the move may be unpalatable at the Chelsea end
If trophies are Kane’s motivation, who is to say United would be the right career move? Since they were last champions, Chelsea have won two league titles, the FA Cup, League Cup and Europa League. This is the gratification he seeks.
This just leaves Levy. The pandemic has affected his business plan more than most. Tottenham were supposed to have a multi-sport, multi-event stadium bringing in significant revenue. Yet is the crisis so great he would sell Kane to a rival? It would be close to impossible to market such a move to Tottenham’s supporters, no matter the mitigations.
It might even be unpalatable at the Chelsea end. Carlton Cole claimed he was set to move from Chelsea to Tottenham in 2005 but Roman Abramovich intervened, claiming he wouldn’t do deals with them. The last player to switch from Tottenham to Chelsea, meanwhile, was goalkeeper Neil Sullivan on a free transfer in 2003.
So it’s a long shot. It’s hard to make happen. It’s Kauto Riko to win the Grand National. But £150million can open a lot of doors, change a lot of minds. And old rivalries aside, it rather makes sense.
JOSE WOULD HAVE BEEN HAMMERED IF HE’D LET LINGARD GO
Jesse Lingard is reborn at West Ham. Undoubtedly, it is helping him to play for a team who opponents do not try to smother with 10 men behind the ball.
Manchester United must cut through a forest to find goal while West Ham, even fourth in the league, get space. Lingard is exploiting that.
He’s probably never had this much room. Even so, imagine if it had been Jose Mourinho who let him go on loan. There would have been few of the excuses being made for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
It wouldn’t have been said that Lingard lost his way or needed to rebuild his career.
There would be scant rationalisation of the way his game is better suited to West Ham, few mentions of the loan making him a saleable asset for Manchester United again.
Had Mourinho released Lingard, it would be simply that he ignored another good player; like Kevin De Bruyne, like Mo Salah, the story shaped to fit a chosen narrative.
HOW CAN GAFFE-PRONE REFEREE EVER BE TRUSTED AGAIN?
Ovidiu Hategan, the referee in charge of Manchester City’s game with Dortmund, isn’t good enough. In the biggest games, he is prone to rash, impulsive decisions, such as the one that sent Switzerland to the 2018 World Cup.
That night in Belfast, Hategan gave a penalty against Corry Evans of Northern Ireland for flinching in the face of a close-range shot. Evans was powerless to get out of the way, the ball striking his back, shoulder, maybe a tiny bit of upper arm. Hategan’s verdict? Penalty. Switzerland scored and progressed 1-0 over the two-leg play-off.
In Manchester this week, Hategan cancelled a perfectly good Dortmund goal by blowing before the ball was tapped into an empty net, meaning VAR could not intervene when he was found to be mistaken.
Fortunately, justice had been done earlier when Rodri fell clutching his face after a supposed high boot from Emre Can, and Hategan gave a penalty.
Replays showed the contact was nearer Rodri’s knees than his nose, and the decision was overturned.
Ovidiu Hategan, the referee for Manchester City’s game against Dortmund, isn’t good enough
Completing a calamitous night, one of Hategan’s assistants, Octavian Sovre, was then seen seeking Erling Haaland’s signature after the game. He wanted him to sign his spare red and yellow cards. It was for charity but still inappropriate, in full view of the other players.
There is a suggestion UEFA’s refereeing officer Roberto Rosetti will investigate Sovre’s actions but surely there is a wider issue. It was a Romanian officiating team, including Sovre, who were embroiled in a clumsy race controversy when Paris Saint-Germain played Istanbul Basaksehir before Christmas.
With two officials, Hategan and Istvan Kovacs, operating at the highest UEFA level, one might imagine Romania was a centre of refereeing excellence. Possibly not.
TERRIERS AND THE CHOSEN ONE GOING IN ONE DIRECTION
Another triumph for new Huddersfield owner Phil Hodgkinson and his chosen one, Carlos Corberan. The 7-0 defeat at Norwich is the club’s worst result since losing 10-1 to Manchester City on November 7, 1987.
Even during their two seasons in the Premier League, the Terriers never went down as badly as that.
Just as well Hodgkinson got rid of Danny Cowley, who kept the club up against all odds last season and may yet get Portsmouth into the Championship.
Hodgkinson wanted to take Huddersfield in a different direction. Passing Cowley going the opposite way would be some detour.
WE’LL NEVER KNOW WHO IS TRULY THE FASTEST
Beth Potter, the Scottish triathlete who ran the fastest 5km in history, is surprised that so much credit has been given to her new shoes.
As Potter divides her time between cycling, swimming and running, it was considered rather curious that she ran faster than world-record holder Beatrice Chepkoech or Paula Radcliffe, the fastest Briton.
Not least because in a 37-strong field in the women’s 10,000 metres at the 2016 Olympics, she came 34th.
‘It’s been difficult seeing negative comments,’ said Potter. ‘I train really hard. The shoes help, but everyone has access to them.’
No, they don’t. Radcliffe retired from competitive running in 2015. The shoes in which Potter ran 14.41min – Asics’ MetaSpeed Sky – only came out last week.
No wonder there is increasing pressure for athletics to recognise records from before and after technology took hold.
For let’s face it, now science has changed the sport, we’ll never know who was truly the fastest. Although we can have a guess.
Beth Potter (pictured above) was surprised that so much credit has been given to her shoes
ALL-ENGLISH CHAMPIONS LEAGUE FINAL ON THE CARDS
Anyone for a Chelsea v Manchester City Champions League final?
Both clubs have reached the midway point in the last eight having conceded just two goals – the first time this has been achieved by multiple clubs since the competition was played in its present format, 2003-04.
The only other teams to have got this far with such a miserly defensive record were Arsenal (2005-06), Manchester United (2010-11) and Juventus (2016-17) – all beaten finalists.
To put City and Chelsea’s run into perspective, the next best defence of this season’s quarter-finalists belongs to Liverpool, with six conceded.
Porto have let in nine, Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich 10, Dortmund and Real Madrid 11. There are many ways to win a European trophy. This is most certainly one.
NO EASY RESOLUTION TO RACISM CLAIMS
Mouctar Diakhaby, of Valencia, is certain he was racially abused.
The man he accuses, Juan Cala of Cadiz, is equally convinced of a misunderstanding. Cala says he has been the victim of a public lynching. Diakhaby feels understandably aggrieved.
Both clubs support their players. What to do? Without independent witnesses, it is close to impossible to resolve cases such as this happily.
At the weekend, during the match between the clubs, Diakhaby walked off in protest, Cala remained playing until half-time. That seemed wrong, too.
Yet had Cala also left the field it would have appeared an admission of guilt and if he didn’t feel guilty, why do it?
Valencia’s Mouctar Diakhaby (above) has accused Juan Cala of Cadiz of racially abusing him
The problem as always with incidents of alleged racism is that it is often the word of one man against another.
Frequently there is an impasse. ‘To remain silent is to be an accomplice,’ Diakhaby insisted, but that isn’t true, either. Resolution is rarely straightforward. This isn’t the movies; justice doesn’t come conveniently parcelled in the final reel.
WHAT COULD GO WRONG WITH DERBY TAKEOVER?
The new owner of Derby is 29, claims to be a world champion boxer — 15 rounds fought and five wins — and held an advisory role at Sheffield Wednesday, who began the season with a 12-point deduction.
He calls his company No Limits Sports Limited. And again we ask: what could possibly go wrong?
FOLLY OF VOWING GAMES MEANS IT MUST GO ON
It is not encouraging that, with four months to go, the Tokyo Olympics is still suffering the cancellation of test events and qualifiers.
FINA, the International Swimming Federation, is the latest to withdraw, postponing the Diving World Cup, and qualifying events for the artistic swimming and marathon due to take place in the Japanese capital. The torch relay through Osaka has been abandoned and a water polo test event scrapped.
FINA’s explanation is ominous. It said Tokyo’s Covid plan ‘will not properly ensure health and protection guarantees to participants’.
Throughout, it has been felt IOC president Thomas Bach will do whatever it takes to get the Games on. The moment Tokyo said it was 2021 or never, a further postponement was not an option. No wonder locals are worried. This is an Olympics that is going ahead because it has to, not because it should.
DAVID DE GEA WOULD BE FIRST CHOICE AROUND EUROPE
Hard to imagine David de Gea will be happy to remain understudy to Dean Henderson, if that is Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s preference. Hard to imagine, either, that too many clubs will be happy to match his £375,000 weekly wage.
If a compromise can be reached, however, there is still a very good goalkeeper on the market. Not what he was, perhaps, and not about to walk into the team at Liverpool or Manchester City, even Leicester or West Ham.
Yet at Chelsea, Arsenal, Tottenham and many of the leading clubs in Europe, De Gea could still be first-choice. He is no longer the best in the world, but still better than most.
It is hard to imagine David de Gea will be happy to remain No 2 choice at Manchester United
FINANCIAL RULES ARE JUST NOT FAIR
If almost half the clubs in the Championship are under transfer embargo it means only one thing: the rules are wrong.
‘Financial Armageddon’ was the prediction from inside one club, not on the list — but is that true? The same was promised after Bury went and, despite the global pandemic, clubs have survived.
The EFL’s financial fair play regulations have never struck the balance between ambition and prudence. Investment has always been made to seem a dirtier practice than asset-stripping.
Coventry even claim they were punished for being late to file their accounts, in line with the Government’s offer of an extension for businesses. Luton cite similar mitigating circumstances.
Yet if 10 clubs are going to be further limited, it will only heighten the clamour to get out of the EFL.
If clubs are spending ever greater sums to reach the Premier League, it is because crackpot plans like wage caps would make the gulf between the top two divisions calamitously wide. Financial misdemeanour is then a self-fulfilling prophecy.
BRIAN BARWICK SUCCESSOR SET FOR NEAR-IMPOSSIBLE JOB
Brian Barwick is standing down as chairman of the National League.
As impossible jobs go, trying to keep semi-professional clubs afloat in a pandemic is certainly up there. The decision to distribute bail-out money equally, however, rather than in proportion to lost revenue and gate receipts was disastrous.
Some clubs made almost double what they usually would, others lost thousands. It was never going to end well.
TOTTENHAM AND ERIC CAUGHT OUT BY DIER DEFENCE AGAIN
Eric Dier says he wants his ashes scattered at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. Even if the wind catches them, they still won’t be as all over the place as the Spurs defence last Sunday.
Eric Dier bizarrely said that he wants his ashes scattered at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium