20 May 19
The Scottish Sun
ENGLISH football has rarely been stronger.
Four Premier League clubs will contest the two major European finals.
PSG striker Kylian Mbappe has sparked speculation over his future – and it would put the seal on the Premier League’s stature if he moved to England
A fifth — Manchester City — have won the mother of all title races in free-wheeling fashion.
The world is watching, the football is pulsating, the money is off the scale and most of the world’s greatest managers are on board.
And, despite the dominance of foreign talent in English clubs, Gareth Southgate’s national team are even preparing for a second semi-final in as many years, with young English talent now sought-after across the continent.
This is where it’s at. This is Boomtown.
And so where are the world’s very best players? They’re in Barcelona, Madrid, Paris and Turin.
Since Cristiano Ronaldo left Manchester United for Real Madrid in 2008, there has not been a single English-based player on the Ballon d’Or podium.
While Ronaldo and Lionel Messi have clearly dominated those World Player of the Year honours, there has not been so much as a single third-place finish for Premier League stars in ten years.
This, despite all the ‘greatest league in the world’ spiel and the ‘stupid English money’ slurs.
So when Kylian Mbappe collected France’s Ligue One Player of the Year award on Sunday, and suggested he wanted more responsibility either at Paris Saint-Germain ‘or elsewhere’, where was he envisaging that ‘elsewhere’ being?
[bc_video video_id=”6038652405001″ account_id=”5067014667001″ player_id=”default” embed=”in-page” padding_top=”56%” autoplay=”” min_width=”0px” max_width=”640px” width=”100%” height=”100%” caption=”Kylian Mbappe says his future may lie ‘somewhere else’ and that he is at ‘turning point in career’ as PSG star is named Ligue 1 Player of the Year”]
Barcelona, where his fellow French World Cup-winning forward Antoine Griezmann is already heading this summer?
Real Madrid, who are preparing to sign Eden Hazard and do not have endless funds?
Bayern Munich, who will certainly strengthen? Or as a Ronaldo sidekick at Juventus perhaps?
Or, with his career at a ‘turning point’ after scoring 32 times in the fish-in-a-barrel French league, why not England?
The 20-year-old Mbappe is a thrilling watch — part Usain Bolt, part youthful Pele. Trying to defend against him is lightning-in-a-bottle stuff.
Mbappe is the heir apparent whenever Ronaldo and Messi depart the stage.
So could an English club turn the tide and sign one of the world’s leading players as he approaches his peak?
If not we may end up welcoming back Gareth Bale as the most exciting ‘import’ of the summer.
Bale is certainly being treated with disrespect by Zinedine Zidane at Real.
It is as if his magnificent scissors-kick to effectively settle last year’s Champions League final had never happened.
Yet however much the Welshman is determined to dig in his heels, he looks destined to leave the Bernabeu with a Premier League return the most obvious option.
But Bale turns 30 in July, is a decade older than Mbappe, and whatever the rights and wrongs, he’d be another of those ‘premium’ Premier League signings deemed not quite good enough to be centre stage at Real — a Mesut Ozil, Angel Di Maria or Alvaro Morata.
Mbappe, though, represents the future and the Premier League’s marketeers would love to see him arrive.
If Kylian Mbappe does not move to England, then Real Madrid flop Gareth Bale looks likely to be the biggest signing of the summer for the Premier League
Although, if you’d like to see the League become more and not less competitive, you have to fear the outcome if Manchester City get their mitts on world football’s hottest prospect.
Where else? Liverpool might just make it happen. Manchester United would love to do it, from a footballing as well as a commercial viewpoint, but does Mbappe really imagine his next challenge as the Europa League?
Tottenham and Arsenal couldn’t afford him, especially not his PSG wages approaching £300,000 per week, but Chelsea could be intriguing.
If the Blues are granted at least a stay of execution from their transfer ban then Mbappe would be the man to ensure Hazard is not missed and prove that the absent Roman Abramovich was still fully committed at Stamford Bridge.
The lure of City, and of Pep Guardiola, would surely be Mbappe’s most tempting option.
Yet despite all their wealth, City haven’t gone all out for such a leading star since their failed bid for Kaka in the earliest days of Abu Dhabi ownership.#
It would take a major upgrade on City’s record signing, £60m Riyad Mahrez, and the stretching of a wage structure which has never previously allowed for one player to earn vast amounts more than his peers.
Of course individual talent isn’t everything.
Guardiola, Liverpool’s Jurgen Klopp and Mauricio Pochettino of Tottenham, are all zealous about their team ethic.
But Mbappe in the Premier League would be a symbol of a dominance that’s set to last.
Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp and Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino have different approaches to training ahead of the Champions League final
IT’S R&R vs ‘ARD WORK
WHILE Liverpool’s players have been scattered around the world, relaxing on luxury holidays after being given five days off by Jurgen Klopp, Tottenham have been training at their state-of-the-art sweat shop in North London.
This is a unique situation for both clubs — a 20-day break between their last Premier League fixtures and one of the biggest games of their lives, the Champions League final in Madrid on Saturday, June 1.
And it’s fascinating that two managers famed for working their players hard, have taken such different approaches.
Klopp opts for R & R followed by a warm-weather training camp in Marbella, while Mauricio Pochettino demands business as usual.
Poch trained his players every day between Wednesday and Saturday last week, with only Sunday off before they were back to the grindstone yesterday.
As often happens with Poch’s teams, Spurs’ league form faded in the final months of this season and the squad is thin.
His players are said to be uncomplaining and trusting of their manager’s methods — but that doesn’t mean the lack of a proper break isn’t a high-risk strategy.
THERE could be no greater testament to football’s rapidly changing culture than the Royal Team Talk documentary aired on BBC1 on Sunday.
A frank, open discussion on mental health between Prince William, Gareth Southgate, Danny Rose, Peter Crouch, Thierry Henry and Jermaine Jenas was compelling and touching television.
The future King speaking to six past and present pros about ‘normalising’ talk of mental fitness showed just how far the game, and society, have come.
It ought to be shown to every teenage boy — and girl — in the country.
And it would be if our schools could see beyond their role as exam-grade sausage factories.
CLASSY KOMP IS PIPPED
VINNY KOMPANY was an outstanding captain of Manchester City — and his exit was as classy as you’d expect.
He bowed out after lifting the FA Cup and following a spectacular winner against Leicester at the business end of the title race.
But greatest centre-half of the Premier League era? It’s not him, nor John Terry, Nemanja Vidic or Rio Ferdinand.
It’s Ricardo Carvalho — the prince of darkness, the centre-half’s centre-half.
TIGER WOODS is not exactly the greatest bloke in the world, so did you ever wonder why everyone in the golfing world was so euphoric about his comeback win at last month’s Masters?
Well, Brooks Koepka has won four golfing Majors in the last two years.
Yet if he walked into your local pub, how many people would recognise him?
That’s why anyone who makes money out of golf needs Tiger so badly.
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PARTING SHOT IS SCUD MISSILE
ARSENAL v Chelsea in Baku, Azerbaijan, and Liverpool v Tottenham in Madrid, with precious few English supporters at either match.
It almost feels as if Richard Scudamore has been granted his wish of a 39th round of Premier League fixtures played around the globe just as he bows out as executive chairman.
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