Is the international break over yet? This one felt like it lasted for an eternity, and we should all be happy to see the back of it. Sport fandom is hysterical enough as it is without the added dangers of fervent nationalism. Mexico beat U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A! in the Border Wall Cup, the Netherlands joined Vatican City as literally the only countries in Europe not to qualify for the newly-expanded Euro 2016, and your favorite club’s best player probably picked up an injury. What a time to be alive.
Let’s dive into the dumpster, shall we?
Free political prisoner Victor Valdés
If there’s one thing that Louis van Gaal has demonstrated so far in his time at Manchester United, it’s that he’s much better at alienating his own players than he is at getting his team to play a brand of soccer that isn’t mind-numbingly shit. The most obvious victim of Van Gaal’s spite: Victor Valdés.
Valdés has fallen out so spectacularly with his manager that he has been forced to train on his own, and isn’t even allowed to be present at the training ground at the same time as the first team. Valdés doesn’t have a club suit, never mind a squad number. There’s a certain begrudging respect you have to pay to the lengths Van Gaal has gone to prove his point (whatever it is), but it’s hard not to see Valdés’ situation as a sorry waste.
The former Barcelona goalkeeper is not blameless in the situation, and may very well have mishandled what was not an unreasonable request to be promoted out of the reserves. But now he’s stuck in a weird sort of purgatory: training without a hope of ever playing, and posting the world’s saddest Instagram photos. The fact that United’s current number two is the hapless sack of buffalo dung known as Sergio Romero makes it even more of a shame that Valdés—who was easily one of the best ‘keepers in the world just a couple of years ago—is wasting away doing nothing.
Gareth Bale’s agent sounds like a massive tool
In a shocking turn of events, an agent (a member of that revered profession usually known for class and restraint) has said something arrogant.
Gareth Bale’s agent, Jonathan Barnett, was in the news this week, having given a Guardian interview in which he bigs up his client, slyly takes digs at Cristiano Ronaldo, and induces several cringes from the reading public. Barnett bemoans how misunderstood agents are, all the while confirming the stereotype that most people have of agents by generally coming off as a raging douche.
Who the hell does Allardyce think he is?
Arsène Wenger may be one of my favorite targets, but I am a celebrated and well-respected sports journalist and therefore entitled to belittle and ridicule highly successful managers. Sam Allardyce, on the other hand, is best known for referring to himself as “Big Sam.” So it was more than a little bemusing to see Allardyce taking shots at Wenger in excerpts from the Sunderland manager’s new book.
Allardyce has gotten a few good results against Arsenal over the years and he’s within his rights to revel in his record against a superior team. Wenger may be washed up now, but at his peak, he legitimately revolutionized soccer in England. He built one of the best teams the English top flight has ever seen, and will ultimately be remembered as one of the greatest managers in the history of the sport. Sam Allardyce has produced boring long-ball soccer at half a dozen mediocre teams, and frankly, isn’t fit to zip Wenger’s bubble coat.
Djbril Cissé was reportedly questioned by police about a plot to blackmail Mathieu Valbuena over a sex tape
Jesus H. Tap-Dancing Christ. There’s so much to unpack here, and most of it wouldn’t get past legal. Let’s just agree to leave this one alone. This is the sort of lunacy that makes headlines when there is no proper soccer to keep our attention. Therefore, I can only come to one conclusion: ban the international break.