For reasons unclear to most of us, there is another international break this week. Most of the games will be marginally useful friendlies, and qualifiers for tournaments that are too far away for us to care about. Really, this break is mostly useful two things: For players to get injured just in time to derail the end of their clubs’ seasons, and for them to give interviews to their local media from which they will soon have to distance themselves. Let’s dive into the dumpster.
Newcastle treats its players just like it treats its fans
At least Newcastle is consistent. Since Mike Ashley became owner, the club has become more concerned with turning a profit on player sales and promoting Ashley’s Sports Direct business than with actually winning games. The club is in serious danger of a second relegation in less than a decade, and its fanbase must rue the day their once proud club turned into nothing more than some rich douchebag’s side hustle (one that he admits to regretting, at that). But Newcastle’s firm organizational principle of not giving a shit about anything other than the bottom line doesn’t just apply to its fans. If you ask Jonas Gutiérrez, the club treats its employees with similar disdain.
Gutiérrez—now at Deportivo La Coruña—is suing Newcastle for disability discrimination, alleging that the club pushed him out over his battle with testicular cancer. Before his diagnosis, Gutiérrez was a key member of the Newcastle team, and often captained the side. According to the midfielder, Newcastle asked him to find a new club—presumably to get his wages off the books—just two months after his surgery. He also claims that he was made to pay for his own treatment, and that after he was cleared to return, Newcastle deliberately kept him out of the team so that he wouldn’t make enough appearances to trigger an automatic one-year contract extension.
Given that Gutiérrez broke down in tears during the proceedings, and that the financial claim isn’t even that high (in millionaire athlete terms, anyway), it’s hard not to side with Gutiérrez. If his claims are accurate, then Newcastle is a slimy, loathsome organization that deserves to go down. But we shouldn’t be surprised. Fans cry bloody murder at players for being “disloyal,” but we’ve seen time and again that the attitude of most clubs to players—even long-standing ones—is: What have you done for me lately?
Roberto Martínez: Managerial Charlatan of the Year
Although the official awards have yet to be announced for this year, Roberto Martínez is currently leading the polls for Managerial Charlatan of the Year. Louis van Gaal, who spends his weekends trolling the people who pay his wages through his increasingly bizarre decision-making, is perhaps the easy choice. After all, van Gaal was supposed to be a tactical innovator with a commitment to attacking soccer, and instead has turned out to be a stubborn and out-of-touch former great. But at least van Gaal was genuinely impressive once, even if it’s now agonizingly clear that his best days are long behind him.
Martínez, on the other hand, has arguably never been good. If van Gaal’s lustre is the light from a star that died millions of years ago, then Martínez’s lustre is sparks from a cheap firework reflected in a box of mirrors that isn’t even made out of real glass. The closer you look, the more obvious it becomes: there’s nothing there. His Wigan team was cute, and occasionally pleasing on the eye. Their FA Cup win was a wonderful achievement. But that team was also staggeringly incompetent, and eventually relegated. At Everton, his job was to build on the solidity of the David Moyes years, while adding flair and sophistication. While he’s done okay at the latter, his Everton team is about as solid as a bridge made of toothpicks.
After Martínez was given time to get his ideas across and money to spend in the transfer market, Everton was meant to be challenging for European qualification this season. Instead, the Toffees find themselves closer to the relegation zone than the top four. Just like his Wigan team, Martínez’s Everton can’t defend worth a shit, and is largely spineless. Last weekend’s capitulation to Arsenal—itself a Hall of Fame bottle job—summed up this version of Everton quite nicely. They can get a good result every now and again, but they don’t have the guts to put together a worthwhile campaign. And after every unexpected, demoralizing loss, Martínez will find someone else to blame in his post-match remarks.
He’s had his chance to prove that there was substance beneath the style, and he’s failed. He’s nothing more than an off-brand Mauricio Pochettino. The real deal is out here challenging for the league title, while the pretender is just making excuses. Again.