In his exclusive column for CaughtOffside, former Liverpool attacker Stan Collymore discusses some of football’s biggest talking points, including reports Barcelona are under investigation for alleged bribery, Hannibal’s impressive Carabao Cup performance and why Sandro Tonali needs time to settle into life at Newcastle, plus much more.
If they’re guilty, throw the book at Barca…
The biggest story this week has been the Spanish police raiding the Spanish Soccer Federation’s office after payments totalling €7.3 million were allegedly made between 2001 and 2018 from Barcelona to the referee’s association, as per AP News.
If this turns out to be true, and it is a big if, because let’s not forget, while there is never any smoke without fire, there is also innocent until proven guilty, so if these shocking allegations turn out to be true, I hope the book gets thrown at them; not just Barcelona either, but the whole of Spanish football.
Barcelona should obviously receive the strictest punishments, but Spain’s male and female national teams should also be thrown out of all international tournaments for at least five years.
The same applies to any footballing nation that thinks they can use their financial power to undermine the sport’s integrity.
Hannibal deserves more Man United chances…
Manchester United and Erik Ten Hag are under pressure, and although they beat Crystal Palace 3-0 in the Carabao Cup mid-week, a cup win isn’t going to do much to ease that pressure. They’ve got to go again in the Premier League, and as it happens, their next game is against the same opponents.
I do expect Ten Hag to name a much-changed starting lineup but I think Hannibal is one player who deserves to keep his spot. We haven’t seen a lot from him yet but from what I have seen so far, particularly on Tuesday night in the cup, I thought he was excellent. He played a really good game and looks to have the energy and tenacity Ten Hag has been demanding.
I would like to see him start alongside Bruno Fernandes and Casemiro. I think Hannibal is certainly a better option than Scott McTominay and Christian Eriksen in midfield. The only question mark is over whether Ten Hag will stick with Mason Mount or not.
In my view, Mount is a jack of all trades, master of none type of player. It’s about time managers dropped the rose-tinted glasses and saw him for what he is. He’s a squad player who will give you average performances across multiple positions. He’s never going to be THE difference.
So stick with Hannibal and give him a run of games to really show us what he’s all about. If his form drops and he struggles to meet expectations, then rotate him out and that’s when Mount should be given a chance to come in, but as I have said, based on his recent performances, Hannibal at least deserves the chance to continue.
Sandro Tonali needs a full season to show his true ability…
Sandro Tonali started life at Newcastle United with a bang. He scored a few minutes into his competitive debut against Aston Villa on the Premier League’s opening day and everybody thought ‘Wow, this guy is going to be the signing of the summer’ but things have since dried up a bit.
I’ve seen he has received some criticism, but I think he’s a classic example of a player who needs time, perhaps the whole of his first season, to settle into life at St. James’ Park, as well as into the demands of the Premier League.
I feel like if he was honest and explained, in his own thoughts, why he has struggled in his first seven or eight games, he’d say the pace and physicality of the English league is getting the better of him a bit. He is more than capable of being one of the country’s best midfielders, but he is going to need time to adapt to how the game is played here. Once he does that, which may not be until his second season, I think we’ll see the player Eddie Howe saw when he decided to sign him from AC Milan in the summer.
Patience. He’ll come good and it’ll be worth it, I’m sure.
Goals galore in Spurs vs. Liverpool…
I can’t wait for this one – it should be a great game. I think there will be goals, and lots of them, when Spurs host Liverpool at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Saturday evening.
There is no denying it – Spurs are in great form and they’re definitely re-energised under Ange Postecoglou but I am not sure they can beat Liverpool. I know both teams are within touching distance of Manchester City at the top of the table, but I think this weekend’s game will show exactly why Liverpool will finish higher than Spurs come the end of the season.
For what it’s worth, I think both of these teams are fighting for second when it comes to wrestling the title away from Pep Guardiola’s side, but they’re certainly two of the best of the rest; I just don’t think Spurs have the depth, nor the experience, to really challenge just yet. Hopefully that changes over time but I can see Jurgen Klopp delivering a bit of a tactical masterclass and the Reds coming away 3-2 winners.