Once a day my wife and I take our newborn daughter, go to our local track and work out. I dribble my soccer ball, sprint on the field, run on the track and jump on the stairs. She does stretching, walking and calisthenics. We take turns watching our daughter, who is covered up and usually asleep the whole time in her stroller. One day, a man about twenty meters away signaled for the ball, and next thing I knew we were having a kickabout. It was great fun, but my wife kept glaring at me from the track, where she was pushing the stroller. The man and I kept our distance while we kicked the ball to each other and I wiped it down with an antibacterial wipe afterwards. Still, I have to admit that it felt a little weird. Which is why the news that some global soccer teams have resumed training also feels strange to me.
That said, let’s talk about the upcoming soccer season — whenever it occurs — and my tongue-in-cheek predictions:
- Of course, Jose Mourinho was always going to be the Premier League manager who gets outed for training his players in the midst of a lockdown. This was inevitable. Also inevitable: when soccer resumes and Tottenham Hotspur starts losing again, he is somehow going to blame the pandemic and resulting lockdown, as if he were the only manager dealing with it, and as if it only affected his team — and as if he hadn’t been caught flouting the lockdown rules.
- Led by Bruno Fernandes and the return of Paul Pogba, Manchester United is going to win or draw in impressive fashion a small sample of games, perhaps five or six. Ed Woodward will then prematurely extend manager Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s contract, bolstering his salary and buyout figures when there is absolutely no need to do so. And, of course, right at that point, Solskjær and Man United will promptly go back to their mediocre ways. Solskjær will eventually be fired, but will be due a ridiculous buyout figure. And then… the return of Jose Mourinho! (Who will have just been fired from Tottenham Hotspur.)
- Pep Guardiola will recover from the specter of the looming Champions League ban. He will continue to win and win big. Having an impressive war chest, he will then go on to sign some of the top young wingers and forwards on the market, maybe Jonathan David, Erling Braut Haaland, Lautaro Martinez, Timo Werner, or Jadon Sancho redux. Just so they can sit on the bench. But, of course, he’ll opt against signing any fullbacks or centerbacks and Man City’s next season will come crashing down due to the mistake-prone and injury-prone backline of Benjamin Mendy, Aymeric LaPorte and Nicolás Otamendi. Why not just sign David Luiz and complete the comedy of errors?
Speaking of Jadon Sancho, the Bundesliga has clearly become the breeding ground for top young talent from around the world. Sancho, Ousmane Dembele, Serge Gnabry, Christian Pulisic, Alphonso Davis and others honed their skills there and have become global phenomena. National teams would do well to note this and encourage their young talents to ply their trade there. For instance, the Wales national team would benefit greatly if Rabbi Matondo (Schalke 04) and Ethan Ampadu (on loan at RB Leipzig from Chelsea) remained there. The Scottish national team would benefit if Billy Gilmour went on loan in Germany rather than revert back to sitting on Chelsea’s bench when their starting midfielders are fully fit. The England national team would benefit if players such as Dominic Solanke and Ruben Loftus-Cheek went to Germany, instead of sitting on the bench of their Premier League teams or going on loan to a lower league. And finally, the US men’s national team would benefit greatly from adhering to the trail blazed by Pulisic, Weston McKinnie, Tyler Adams, Josh Sargent and most recently Giovanni Reyna. Message to Timothy Weah, Matt Miazga and Cameron Carter-Vickers: start taking German lessons!
Next I’ll review future pandemic-themed movies. And of course, it goes without saying that when soccer leagues and new movies resume is the least of any of our concerns and just a pleasant distraction. Stay safe and stay distant!