In his exclusive column for CaughtOffside, former Liverpool attacker Stan Collymore discusses some of football’s biggest talking points, including how Jude Bellingham can become world class, what Sir Jim Ratcliffe is likely to do at Man United if results don’t improve, how Everton’s potential 12-point deduction spells trouble for Man City, plus much more.
European Super League isn’t the way forward
No, I don’t think a European Super League is the way forward. UEFA particularly have bent over backwards, with concessions, more games, more money. If you have a European Super League what’s it going to be predicated on?
It’s gonna be very, very difficult for clubs such as Villa and Forest, who have won European Cups in the past, Celtic too, to get into if it’s invite only. That will have a massive impact.
I could certainly see an example of clubs already owned by oil states or oligarchs or hedge funds, that are now spending €400m on players and are mopping up their domestic league, will just give a cursory nod to the league that they come from whilst going on and playing in the Super League.
Any attempt to start to be able to get momentum, however, should see supporters put their clubs under the greatest pressure to say their clubs must not, under any circumstances, enter a European Super League.
I think that particularly with the English clubs, if they were to say no again, we will never join the ESL because the whole idea would be dead in the water. There would be no European Super League that would be worthy of the name.
Saudi Arabia, big American banks… the groundwork has already been laid in some respects. The pre-season International Champions Cup in America is their attempt at giving English and European clubs an insight into what potentially is possible.
Come to America and play in front of 100,000 at the University of Michigan and we can make you richer than than you ever imagined. I could see a situation whereby the Saudis and the Americans, maybe even countries like India or China may want a little foothold.
Several entities will be needed to make it possible but just imagine if Manchester United are offered a billion pounds a season to play in any competition. The odds are that their owners are going to go absolutely yes because they then wouldn’t have to worry about whatever money comes into their club.
It’s a very persuasive argument.
If you’re trying to recruit players like Mo Salah for £30/40m and somebody all of a sudden says we will give you a billion pounds, or half a billion pounds a season to play in this league…
The Premier League and the FA, instead of having the boll**ks to say we’re kicking you out and you’re never coming back will look at it and say the clubs can have their cake and eat it.
Do I want ESL to happen now? Absolutely not.
But ultimately, countries like Saudi Arabia and some of the big banks and hedge funds in America could offer the kind of money at the moment that even the Premier League can only dream of, so one will more than likely make it happen in some form or another at some point in the next decade.
Man United’s recruitment has been abysmal
Antony, Jadon Sancho, Casemiro… there hasn’t been one Manchester United player that you would say has been a consistent eight out of 10 over the past couple of seasons.
In terms of a comparison with Liverpool or in particular Manchester City, United’s recruitment has been abysmal. You’ve always got to have an 80% strike rate with the players that you bring into your football club.
They have to be an eight out of 10 to be able to push you forward. Look at Manchester City; Haaland comes in and does the job, Grealish comes in but the Doku arrives and takes his place and all of a sudden it’s ‘now you’ve got to be a nine out of 10, Jack…’
I don’t see anybody at Manchester United that’s anywhere near that level, and their transfers haven’t been above a five out of 10.
That means Erik ten Hag is under major pressure, no doubt. I don’t think at the moment he’s got the kind of credibility he needs, having come from Ajax, to be able to survive a full season of mediocrity.
He got out of jail winning the Carabao Cup last season, but if Jim Ratcliffe comes in, and is ruthless as he has been in his business dealings, then you’re looking at who potentially could replace ten Hag.
The obvious answer will be somebody like Roberto De Zerbi who has done very well at Sassuolo and Brighton. He plays an aggressive attacking style of football that Manchester United fans would like, and he’s taken a team up to Old Trafford twice and played them off the park.
Ten Hag’s demeanour and personality isn’t exactly endearing either and he comes across as a little bit of an automaton, a bit of a robot.
For me, Jim Ratcliffe would probably look at it and go ‘I’ll give him to the end of the season and see what he does.’
Everton charge would be a pre-cursor to complete meltdown at Man City
I think it’s really simple. The Premier League are quite prevalent at briefing journalists and if they’re throwing a 12 point deduction at Everton, which is a significant sanction against one club, for the 114/115 charges that are facing Man City, they’re effectively saying ‘we’re ready, our lawyers are across all of this now, and as an organisation we will not accept it.’
Manchester City’s lawyers have tried to kick things into the long grass for quite a number of years now and these aren’t fresh charges.
The Premier League are almost prepping the footballing public as to the severity. Most people would look at Everton and say they feel a little bit for them. They’ve had a shaky time and they’ve never offended anybody, and they come from a great footballing city.
If the Premier League can go straight away bang 12 points that might relegate them for the first time in I think 70 years, they would have no qualms whatsoever in throwing the book at Man City. Even if just a quarter of those charges were proven, there is a situation where Manchester City will not only be bounced out of the Premier League, but thrown towards the bottom of the pyramid.
The stakes are so great now it could mean an absolute meltdown for Man City, to the kind of proportions that Rangers suffered in Scotland when they fell foul of paying players via elaborate schemes.
The Premier League only have the remit to be able to kick them out of the Premier League of course, but the Football Association and the Football League won’t want them in the top divisions of their competition either. City will go to the very bottom of the pile.
Messi is a worthy Ballon d’Or winner… but so are Haaland and Alvarez
I’m not a big fan of individual awards because they’re so subjective and almost pointless. What’s the criteria? Goals scored? Assists given? Influence over your team or any other metric you ascribe to?
Then you get people like Pep Guardiola coming out and saying Messi should have his own award, and that will have weighed heavily on the minds of journalists and the people that vote for things like that.
If you’re looking for the fairy tale and the guy that’s come in and almost single-handedly won a World Cup then Messi is a worthy winner.
However, if you’re looking in terms of numbers, Erling Haaland comes in and breaks the Premier League record – which is very difficult to do – in his first season, then he has a valid shout.
What about Julian Alvarez, who won the World Cup and scored goals, and provided assists for Haaland and his team-mates?
Brand Messi and brand Ronaldo have been very, very strong for a long time, but in years to come I would like to see some kind of criteria attached to the award in the same way that you would judge the Golden Gloves or similar.
Bellingham could edge further to world-class status with El Clasico winner
El Clasico, because of the political relevance; Real Madrid still very much seen as the club of the Spanish state and Barcelona, the standard bearers for their semi autonomous region, is still the biggest club game in the world.
There’s political elements that perhaps only the Celtic v Rangers games can compare with. If they had the kind of money and the kind of exposure that La Liga has, I think that would be the biggest game because it would be effectively split because of the religious rivalry. It’s very nasty and they very much don’t like each other.
If you are looking at the historical relevance, Europe’s most successful team are Real Madrid, and Barcelona bring a huge amount of relevance to modern football fans and youngsters because ever since the Ronaldo’s and Messi’s, the Ronaldinho’s and the rest, they are still a huge club in most people’s eyes.
There’s no reason why Bellingham couldn’t dominate Saturday’s match because this isn’t a good Barcelona side by any means.
As a defensive midfielder that has the ability to be able to get forward and who has already scored 12 goals I think… to be in that position before the clocks go back, I think most people would say he’s on his way to becoming world class.
I think with 20+ goals this season, 10+ assists and a great Euros where he perhaps comes up with an iconic Bryan Robson type goal, there will be no arguments.
The jack of all trades will be the master of all of them.