Spurs vs. Man City doesn’t mean much yet, Barcelona win without Messi, RIP Gerd Muller

The only thing that really matters in the first leg of the Champions League semifinals is whether or not we beat Man City. But that’s not how it feels. It feels like we let our city down, like we lost the city’s confidence. How do I know? Because Barça fans didn’t have anything really to cheer about after they won against Liverpool on Wednesday. And I’m not just talking about the fact that Messi didn’t play, either. It’s been a week since this team has really played for anyone but themselves.

The Spurs vs. Man City game is the most anticipated Premier League game this weekend, but it doesn’t mean much. The Spurs have been looking mediocre this year, and City have had some injuries, so there is no guarantee the game will be a good one. It’s not that it will be boring, but it won’t be anything special.

The first half of the Premier League season is in the books, but there are still plenty of storylines to keep fans interested. Here are our picks for the biggest stories of the year so far.. Read more about messi to man city and let us know what you think.

What a soccer weekend in Europe! The 2021-22 seasons of three of the top five leagues (English Premier League, German Bundesliga, and Spanish LaLiga) have begun, and the games have not disappointed. Manchester City’s title defense got off to a rocky (but predictable) start against Tottenham, Barcelona began their post-Lionel Messi era with a big win, and Liverpool, Man United, Real Madrid, Chelsea, and Borussia Dortmund all won their season openers, providing impressive results and lessons learned.

– LaLiga, Bundesliga, MLS, FA Cup, and more on ESPN+ – Watch ESPN FC every day on ESPN+ (U.S. only) – If you don’t have ESPN, you’re out of luck. Get immediate access

Gab Marcotti responds to the greatest events in football from the previous weekend in Europe on Monday.

Jump to: Spurs’ statement win? | Barcelona’s concentration | RIP, Gerd Muller | PSG’s new stars | Benzema, Real romp | Greenwood, Pogba shine | Liverpool questions | Haaland eager for Dortmund

Man City will face Tottenham for the second time this season… but does it matter?

Harry Kane was allegedly there at Tottenham Hotspur’s match against Manchester City on Sunday, but he was clearly not in the matchday squad and no one has captured him on video as far as we know. It wasn’t as if it made a difference. His aura would have been all over this game, at least before start, even if he’d been at home watching his possible past and future battle it out.

When the game started, it wasn’t so much about Kane as it was about a script we’d seen before: Man City having a lot of possession but doing nothing with it after an early flurry, Spurs defending tenaciously and trying to score on the break. And it came to an end with Pep Guardiola’s fourth consecutive away loss to Tottenham Hotspur.

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Takeaways? Opening and foremost, let us remember that this is the first week of the season, that it is already mid-August, and that the transfer window is still open for two more weeks. Week 1 matters as much as Week 10 or Week 30, when teams really become, you know, teams, since there are missing players, players who haven’t yet signed, players who are unfit, and players who have zero chemistry because they haven’t exercised together.

Is Man City still the same team without Kevin De Bruyne, Rodri, Kyle Walker, and John Stones? Is it still Spurs without Kane, Cristian Romero, Serge Aurier, and Moussa Sissoko (for the time being)? Yes, in some ways, but there’s a risk of reading too much into it since, chances are, these teams will look a lot different in a month or two.

– Olley: Spurs and Man City are both in Kane’s shadow.

However, there are a few apparent points to be made. With De Bruyne on the field, City are much more incisive, and Benjamin Mendy hasn’t suddenly improved. On the other hand, Nuno Espirito Santo has maintained a strong defensive structure, Dele Alli (who has been a passenger for the last few seasons) may be a valuable addition this season, and Son Heung-Min can be a difference-maker in terms of work rate and finishing. (By the way, although I’m not a big supporter of handing players long-term contracts well into their 30s, Son’s contract extension until 2025 is a major win for the club.) If Kane departs, Son may not be able to fill Kane’s shoes, but a healthy and rested Son in the middle offers Spurs a stronger center-forward option than all but a few Premier League teams.

Man City looked flustered and frustrated vs. Tottenham on Sunday, though it’s hard to read too much into the first game of the season given some notable absences — in particular, Harry Kane. Michael Regan/Getty Images

Now it’s Kane’s turn. Spurs are standing firm, according to the Sunday Times, and City has only made one offer, for £100 million. As I’ve already said, Kane has very little clout unless he wants to transform into a supervillain and go on strike. And, from City’s viewpoint, pushing far over £100 million makes little sense because at those prices, you have a genuine chance of landing Kylian Mbappe or Erling Haaland, both of whom are much younger than Kane, who is 28 years old. That’s why I said I didn’t believe he was moving, but that was before I learned how far City seemed prepared to push the boat.

There is clearly a price at which Spurs should sell, assuming they have a successor in mind. I believe we’ve already beyond that price (although what Daniel Levy thinks counts more, and he might well be thinking £150m), so you have to ask whether it’s just an issue of Spurs finding a replacement.

Whether City do not sign Kane, it will be fascinating to see if they feel they need another striker. Given how far they went last season with Aguero providing practically nothing, I’m inclined to believe that Gabriel Jesus, Grealish, Ferran Torres, and De Bruyne can eventually handle the burden.

Barcelona maintains its focus as pressure mounts on the club.



Barcelona’s 4-2 victory against Real Sociedad in their first encounter without Lionel Messi is dissected by Frank Leboeuf.

Regular readers would know that I don’t consider Ronald Koeman as a God-given talent in the field of tactics. But one thing he excels at, as he demonstrated both last season and on Sunday night against Real Sociedad, is psychologically preparing his team. With banners slamming club president Joan Laporta and the weight of Lionel Messi’s painful departure on their shoulders, Gerard Pique led his teammates out for a difficult match and got the job done.

– Barcelona ratings: Braithwaite and De Jong lead the way after Messi’s departure – Barcelona ratings: Braithwaite and De Jong lead the way after Messi’s departure – Hunter: Pique’s presidential composure elevates him to the top of Barca’s hierarchy.

Not only that, but they performed very well for more than an hour. Pedri acknowledged that he is the Energizer Bunny, having appeared in 73 games for Spain in 2020-21, including the Euros and Olympics. The back line was strong, and Martin Braithwaite was in the right position at the right moment. They were unaffected and focused, which was exactly what Barcelona supporters needed right now.

Depay’s ability to play through the center suggests that Koeman envisions him in the midst of a fluid front three that includes Ansu Fati (when he returns) and Antoine Griezmann. When those “fluid front threes” work, they look fantastic, but when they don’t, they’re an unorganized jumble that provides no pressure off the ball and puts a burden on the midfield, so you may not trust Koeman to make it work. But it doesn’t matter. For the first time in a long time, he has a concept that isn’t Messi-dependent.

Pique, who, like his colleagues, accepted a salary cut to help sign Depay and Garcia, said it was the least he could do after all the club had done for him over the years. Over the following year, his stature is expected to rise.

Barcelona supporters continue to demand answers even as Laporta rattles out more horror-show statistics (salaries at 103 percent of sales, a negative net value of almost half a billion dollars). It’s also not simply a case of a horde of fans enraged over Messi’s leaving. There are serious questions to be asked about financial oversight — yes, Laporta took over an economic disaster from his predecessor Jose Maria Bartomeu, but it’s also important to know what he knew and when he knew it — as well as his plan to get Barcelona out of its mess and how this relates to the SuperLeague and CVC debates. (One of the harshest insults you can throw at a “Cule” is to call him Florentino Perez’s lapdog, as one banner at Sunday’s game put it.)

The good news for Barcelona supporters is that the truth will eventually out; the club’s mechanisms almost ensure it. The only issue is when that will happen. But the fact that it isn’t only about Laporta is promising. There are people who are inextricably linked to this club who, one thinks, will hold Laporta accountable, beginning with Pique.

‘Der Bomber,’ rest in peace.



Gab Marcotti comments on Gerd Muller’s career, which ended with his death at the age of 75.

I only met Gerd Muller once, during a visit to Bayern’s headquarters in Sabener Strasse, many years ago. It wasn’t much of a conversation: he was leaving, I was arriving, the man I was with quickly introduced us, he nodded, smiled briefly, and then slipped away. He was dressed in a leather jacket and trousers, in that somewhat uncomfortable manner that guys of a certain age — he was in his 60s — dress when clothed like that.

– Muller, a legendary goal scorer for Bayern Munich and Germany, dies at the age of 75 – Tributes flood in for Muller, an iconic goal scorer.

I bring this up because, in real life, Muller, dressed in civilian clothes, seemed ordinary, just as he did on the field. Until the ball got anywhere near him, that is. He lived far before my time, and perhaps yours, so you’ll have to depend on statistics and YouTube clips (like this one from the 1974 European Cup final) to piece together a picture. The latter allows you to get a feel of his acceleration, space finding abilities, touch, and, of course, finishing. The former has an uncanny quality to it.

Muller scored 68 goals in 62 appearances for Germany, with whom he won both the 1972 Euros and the 1974 World Cup. In the past 60 years, nobody else has managed more than a goal a game at international level while scoring at least 50 goals. He notched 365 Bundesliga goals (plus another 289 in various other competitions, including the old NASL), putting him 76 goals ahead of Robert Lewandowski. In 1972, he scored a shocking 85 goals in a calendar year, a record that stood until Lionel Messi broke it a decade ago.

He dominated both individually and with Bayern and Germany when measured against the background of his own period (the 1970s). Alternatively, you may evaluate him throughout the span of history and he will still rank among the best.

As a result, he is known as “Bomber der Nation” or simply “Der Bomber.” He’s the standard by which center-forwards are measured.

PSG triumph after revealing their stars, but Mbappe is booed.



PSG supporters erupted in applause as Lionel Messi was revealed to them before of their match against Strasbourg.

For the first time in 18 months, the Parc des Princes reopened to fans, and those in attendance watched Mauricio Pochettino’s team defeat Strasbourg 4-2. They also got to watch the new signings revealed, which was a lot of fun. Lionel Messi and Gianluigi Donnarumma were in the stands alongside Neymar and Angel Di Maria, while Achraf Hakimi and Georginio Wijnaldum were on the field.

PSG had much too much early on and raced to a 3-0 lead before allowing Strasbourg back into the game, ultimately winning 4-2. Mbappe was receiving applause at that time, but it’s a sticky subject that won’t go away. The club’s contract offer remains unsigned, and he is set to become a free agent in June.

– The inside tale of Messi’s last days at Barcelona and his transfer to PSG – Messi’s emotional goodbye on a day unlike any other for Barcelona – Messi’s Barcelona career chronology is complete.

Supporters can rage at him all they like, but he holds all the cards and understandably, he’s in no rush. He gets a year of playing with Lionel Messi and, whichever way things work out, he will have the option of going wherever he likes, unencumbered by a transfer fee. That would be the nightmare scenario for PSG, especially within the context of the Messi deal.

If Mbappe leaves, they’ll be down to a 35-year-old Messi, a 36-year-old Sergio Ramos, and a 35-year-old Keylor Navas by June. Meanwhile, Neymar, Pablo Sarabia, Wijnaldum, Ander Herrera, and Idrissa Gueye will all be 30 years old or older by the end of the season.

Nasser Al-Khelaifi, the club’s president, maintains that they would follow the new Financial Fair Play regulations (which he’ll have a hand in drafting, given his dual position on the UEFA executive committee and the European Club Association). However, it seems like PSG is taking a big risk by putting all of its chips in the center of the table now more than ever. And if they lose a key player like Mbappe for nothing, it will be a costly reconstruction.

Real Madrid’s ‘Galactico Whisperer’ had a field day. Ancelotti goes about his business.



Craig Burley discusses Real Madrid’s 4-1 victory against Alaves in their season-opening match.

Carlo Ancelotti’s second start in LaLiga saw him prepare Real Madrid for the trip to Alaves in the manner you’d anticipate. In the absence of Ferland Mendy, David Alaba returned to his former stomping ground at left-back, Nacho teamed Eder Militao in the center, Fede Valverde replaced Toni Kroos in midfield, and Eden Hazard and Gareth Bale joined Karim Benzema up forward.

– Real Madrid ratings: Benzema shines in a resounding victory

It took a while for Real Madrid to break down Alaves, but they eventually won 4-1, and, perhaps more significantly, Bale and Hazard put in great performances that we hadn’t seen in a Madrid jersey in a long time. There’s no denying that Florentino’s confidence that he can rehabilitate Hazard and get something out of Bale (because he won’t go) is a major reason for his return. After the interval, though, there was room for Vinicius (who even scored), and Valverde was back to his pre-injury form, which was crucial considering how narrow the midfield looked last season.

Of course, Alaves isn’t much of a challenge (though they did beat Real Madrid away last year), but it was crucial to get off to a good start. Getting production from veterans who have gone through the media meat grinder was also crucial.

Greenwood and Pogba of Manchester United stand out. Are they the club’s future and soon-to-be-past?



Erling Haaland, according to Shaka Hislop, is playing at a forward level well above his years.

Bruno Fernandes may have scored a triple trick, but Mason Greenwood and Paul Pogba, in my opinion, were Manchester United’s two best players in the 5-1 thrashing of Leeds United. The former is a marvel of elegance, skill, and intellect who, if he continues to improve, may be the club’s long-term front-line future. He won’t be 20 until October, and although many people are still campaigning for Erling Haaland, if he keeps going in the same direction, he’s not a terrible Plan B.

– Dawson: Manchester United are off to a great start

Pogba’s contract expires at the end of June, and he’ll have to make some major choices. It seems that he has found his niche in the hybrid-left position, and considering how well he gets along with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, extending his contract seems like a no-brainer.

Of course, with just a few months remaining on his contract, Pogba (and his agent, Mino Raiola) may have different ideas, putting his future in jeopardy. United have, without a doubt, painted themselves into a corner, and not for the first time…

Van Dijk has returned to Liverpool, and the Reds have won, but there are still some unanswered issues.



After a one-goal, two-assist day for Liverpool, Shaka Hislop praises the striker.

Liverpool celebrated the return of Virgil Van Dijk by defeating Norwich City 3-0. A good win and a strong performance: Van Dijk looked smart at the back, while the front three of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane, and Jota (Roberto Firmino would come off the substitute and score) looked sharp as well.

The issue remains in midfield, and it isn’t one that will be addressed against newly promoted Norwich. Wijnaldum, who started all 38 Premier League games last season, is no longer with the club. Jurgen Klopp’s starting lineup included James Milner (35), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (two league starts in 2020-21), and Naby Keita (who has blown hot and, mostly, cold in his three seasons at the club). On paper, it doesn’t seem to be a championship contender.

– Liverpool vs. Norwich: Salah and Van Dijk are outstanding

Fabinho can now play in midfield as a result of Van Dijk’s comeback (he played substantially more at the back than in the middle of the park last year due to the many injuries). Then there’s Jordan Henderson and Thiago Alcantara, although both are in their 30s, with Henderson coming off an injury and Thiago having only made 20 league appearances in each of the previous two seasons.

Klopp wants someone else to emerge as a dependable midfield rotation player capable of filling in for Wijnaldum when he is out. Getting to where he wants to go would be much more difficult without it, whether it’s one of the three that began Saturday or Curtis Jones (who is still just 20).

In the season opener, Haaland and Dortmund both seem eager.



Christian Pulisic, according to Shaka Hislop, has a key role to play in Chelsea’s team this season, despite the club’s depth.

Maybe it was the fact that Erling Haaland had little to play for for the previous three months — Norway wasn’t at the Euros, and his season pretty much ended the week Borussia Dortmund won the German Cup and clinched their place in the Champions League — but Erling Haaland came out firing in Borussia Dortmund’s 5-2 thrashing of Eintracht Frankfurt.

Dortmund played with the sort of ferocity that managers love — not only Haaland, but Marco Reus and Gio Reyna as well — and it’s possible that it was motivated by a desire to impress new manager Marco Rose. He still has a lot of work ahead of them, as they showed the typical defensive flaws (and not just because Axel Witsel had to fill in at center-back for Mats Hummels).

But if you wanted to make a statement right away against a strong club — at least on paper — you got it.

Chelsea adds to its depth as the lengthy season starts.

Chelsea’s 3-0 victory against Crystal Palace on the first day of the season proved two things. One is that Palace are very much in rebuilding mode; the other is that having one of the finest academies in Europe allows them to source players in-house, which is a big asset. So, if Kurt Zouma or Thiago Silva aren’t quite up to speed, Thomas Tuchel has no qualms about bringing in Trevoh Chalobah, who not only put in a great performance but also scored a beautiful goal on Saturday.

Chelsea’s habit of loaning away young players has been questioned, but Chalobah, 22, had been a starter in each of the previous three seasons, working his way up the pecking order. He played for a poor Championship team (Ipswich), a good Championship club (Huddersfield), and a Ligue 1 club last year (Lorient). Who knows, he could go on loan again. But he’s a valuable asset who can be monetized or thrown into the fight if the management has faith in him.

Even though Chelsea’s website boasts no less than 38 first-team players, it’s one method of doing business that works for them. Some of them are former Chelsea loanees who will most likely go out on loan again (Matt Miazga, Michy Batshuayi, Kenedy, Baba Rahman, etc. ), which means Chelsea will be searching for their “loan army” to put once again, as they do every August.

It’s a controversial method of conducting business, but if you find enough diamonds, it pays for itself. It’s also completely legal until the rules change.

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