• Thomas also told us that his Valentine’s Day was pretty sad as his children and family are still in Paris where they are finishing the year at school and expressing his love for them had to be done by Zoom which he admitted was not particularly romantic.
• The financial mess at Barcelona is comforting to several big Premier League clubs because top players often eye a move to the Catalan capital.
What has gone so badly wrong at Liverpool? Manager Jurgen Klopp looked distraught as his side crashed to yet another defeat, this time against Leicester. When we asked Klopp if his side would not hold on to their title as Premier League champions he did not opt for a biting snap remark in the style of Jose Mourinho.
He was silent for about ten seconds, wiped a splat of mud from his face, looked at the floor and lifted his head with a sad look as he said: “Yes, I can’t believe it, but yes.”
Despite their well-earned 2-0 victory in the Champion’s League against Leipzig, Liverpool are now in the position of scrapping to fight for a place in the top four and a spot in next season’s competition.
With 14 games to go this season and a potential 42 points to play for, it is a telling reply from the manager which shows how far Liverpool have fallen from the heights of their remarkable season last year.
There has been speculation that Klopp realises Liverpool’s winning cycle has come to an end and he is looking for his next assignment which many say will be managing the German national team.
After speaking to my contacts at the club I can tell you that Klopp is not thinking of leaving and on Sunday supporters ignored the Covid-19 lockdown by gathering outside the Anfield stadium and erected a banner supporting the manager.
I have also heard that the Liverpool management, in order to keep their manager happy at the club, are thinking of spending approximately £90million to bring in Europe’s most exciting young striker Erling Haaland.
This week, following their Leipzig win, Klopp and the Liverpool team were training in preparation for the derby match against Everton this weekend.
Mr Nice Guy Tuchel can be Mr Nasty
Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel has had a dream start to his career at Stamford Bridge. Everything at the club, in the dressing room and on the training field has been like a player’s love-in with everyone ecstatically happy with the Blue’s performances and spirit.
Everything has been so good that it has forced Tuchel to issue a warning to his players. He said that he is Mr Nice Guy so that when he needs to have his first major row within the club, it will give him maximum impact. So Mr Nice Guy will turn Mr Nasty if things start to go wrong.
Tuchel told us: “Just because I am trying to be kind to you guys in the media, it does not mean I am trying too hard so that everybody loves me in the dressing room. At the moment I am happy so I can tell them I am pleased with their attitude and performance."
"But I can be a shouter, yes, if it is absolutely necessary. I can do totally emotional and be a shouter if I feel it is the moment to do it and to surprise them. If you do it all the time nobody would listen because it becomes a habit and everybody gets used to it. But if we have to point out things clearly I am a big, big fan of doing it in front of the whole group.”
Thomas also told us that his Valentine’s Day was pretty sad as his children and family are still in Paris where they are finishing the year at school and expressing his love for them had to be done by Zoom which he admitted was not particularly romantic.
Barcelona is no longer appealing
The financial mess at Barcelona is comforting to several big Premier League clubs because top players often eye a move to the Catalan capital. Barca have real money problems of their own making.
They are £725million in debt and owe £113million to other clubs for transfer fees. The world is in shock to learn that Lionel Messi is earning a staggering £492million over four years even if he is regarded as arguably football’s greatest player. (Oh no! He isn’t, shout the Cristiano Ronaldo fans).
Many Spanish supporters blame Messi for their financial problems but he is simply cashing in on what has been negotiated and one has to look at Barcelona paying £142million for Philippe Coutinho, who has hardly been a great success.
Ronald Koeman’s appointment was not exactly inspiring either and selling Luis Suarez to rivals Atletico Madrid for only £5.5million was a mistake. Suarez is currently La Liga’s top scorer and Atletico are 10 points clear at the top of the table.
Therefore, why would the likes of Harry Kane, Mo Salah (who is constantly being linked with a Barca move) Jamie Vardy, Sadio Mane etc be tempted to go to Barcelona and risk their futures?
Solskjaer still upbeat about winning the title
Ole Gunner Solskjaer has refused to admit that Manchester United cannot win the Premier title this season. In fact, he is confident that they can still win it despite failing to win for the fourth time in five games and are 10 points behind leaders Manchester City. He said, with grit and positivity: “We’re not going to settle for second. We are not going to let them run away with it. We are in there with every chance and we can win it.”
Jimenez could return this season
It has been a good week for Wolves and one which was badly needed after a string of poor performances. Beating Southampton away was a solid stride forward and then came the icing on the cake.
Manager Nuno Espirito Santo told us that star striker Raul Jimenez is back in training and after consultation with the club’s medical staff, there is a possibility he could be back for the end of the season. Jimenez is training on his own away from the first team and is continuing to rebuild his fitness following the horrendous collision of heads with Arsenal’s David Luiz which fractured his skull.
The power and skill of both Adama Traore and Pedro Neto were on display in the game against Southampton where both made excellent contributions and when Jimenez returns, their front three will be a threatening strike force.
Guardiola happy with his players
Manchester City’s Kevin de Bruyne travelled with the squad for their match against Everton in midweek after completing a day’s training. He sustained a hamstring injury in the match against Aston Villa on January 20but has made impressive progress.
City have also been working very hard behind the scenes to capture Lionel Messi and bring him to the Premier League. However, boss Pep Guardiola said this week: “I will be honest, I would like to have a player to score four goals every single game and run like these players can run. I would love it but I will not change any player we have right now."
"All of them have shown up in the bad moments. I’ve said many times how I prize my captain Fernandinho and how he helps us on and off the pitch to stick together in the bad moments."
High maintenance Fernandes is the best
We sometimes refer to people as high maintenance. They are simply demanding and often difficult to handle. United’s Bruno Fernandes is certainly one of those people.
If Fernandes is not getting enough of the ball, he complains, blames other players for not passing to him and if they do and he loses the ball, he blames them for not passing properly.
He whines and moans his way through matches if he is having a quiet game and ignores his manager’s calls from the technical area when he wanders into another player’s territory. And then there is the Fernandes who does magical things with the ball such as his remarkably skillful volley into the net from a Luke Shaw pass last Sunday against West Bromwich Albion.
Suddenly, for all his faults, Fernandes is forgiven and United fans thank the world that he is in their team.
Tuchel eyes the best in Bundesliga
Chelsea’s Thiago Silva has undoubtedly been one of the world’s best centre-halves. He is now approaching 37 years and manager Thomas Tuchel is planning for the future when the former Paris St-Germain player retires.
Tuchel has, I am told, identified one particular transfer target for this coming summer who can cover for Thiago. Niklas Sule plays for Bayern Munich in the German Bundesliga. The only problem with Sule is that Bayern are resigned to losing David Alaba this summer and it might be difficult for them to lose another key player.
Stones explains his return to form
To the delight of Manchester City fans, John Stones’ return to form has been spectacular. As a mark of the club’s respect for his improvement, they have informed him that new contract negotiations will start in the summer.
Stone’s current contract ends in the summer of 2022. This dates back to when he signed from Everton in 2016. With City sitting top of the league table, Pep Guardiola has been singing the praises of Stone’s defensive qualities alongside centre-back Ruben Dias.
When I posed the question of his improvement, Stones said: “I decided to return to basics,” and his example is a lesson for all of us to admire and reflect on in our own lives.
He said: “I put a lot of pressure on myself. I’m trying to improve all the time, building day by day on the training pitch, giving a platform for others to express themselves up the pitch and get some goals.”
Reflecting on his time out of the side he continued: “It’s always tough when you’re not playing and you don’t get a run of games and when you don’t perform, you ask yourself what you can do because maybe you have put too much pressure on yourself."
"I’ve looked at myself, looked at what I can improve on in every aspect. You need to look at yourself in the mirror and ask if you’re doing everything possible to improve. I keep working hard, keeping the faith and grinding away. I don’t think you ever stop improving yourself.”
Wise words from a young man who is now one of the first names on the weekly team-sheet.