The Fiver | Raheem Sterling, Barcelona and gaming the transfer system

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The Guardian

WINDOW OF OPPORTUNITY

It’s another hot one in Fiver Towers. The smart-casual dress code has been updated to allow string vests and knotted hankies, and The Fiver is drinking a summer cocktail (Tin Top – two parts Tin, one part tap water) to stay hydrated. A window has been opened for the first time since 2004, and nobody’s seen The Man since he popped out for a Cornetto five days ago. And yet once again, football refuses to stop.

To be clear, The Fiver has no issue with yer actual football – whether it’s Germany and Spain playing exquisitely to type at Euro 2022, Manchester United getting fans overexcited with a 4-0 friendly win and ostentatious trophy lift, or Vikingur Reykjavik and Malmö serving up an 11-goal Big Cup classic. It’s the endless churn of the transfer window, as relentless as this ruddy heat, that has us in a sweat – pauses for sip of crisp, refreshing, room-temperature Tin Top.

We all know the cycle by now. Player makes noises about a “new challenge”, or manager waxes lyrical about “club legend” who is about to be unceremoniously booted through the Door Marked Do One. Talks are scheduled in a swish, air-conditioned office on neutral turf. Then: Fabrizio Romano sends here-we-go tweet, announcement of agreement in principle, thumbs-up from player dripping in electrodes at their medical, DONE DEAL – then a brief pause before player posts their #lovedmytime message to the fans on social media.

But what’s this? Raheem Sterling has gone rogue by posting a slickly produced farewell video to Manchester City fans before his £50m move to Chelsea has even been announced. Said fans may not be surprised to see Sterling failing to finish something properly. Like Gabriel Jesus, the England winger has been allowed to leave for another“big six” side, with Pep prepared to send out Kevin De Bruyne and Erling Haaland on their own to make things interesting.

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Sterling isn’t the only one apparently gaming the system. Barcelona are showing that a full-scale financial meltdown is no excuse to stop spending, and have scraped together £49m in coppers to sign Raphinha. “FC Barcelona and Leeds United Football Club have reached an agreement in principle for the transfer of Raphael Dias Belloli, better known as Raphinha,” droned a needlessly formal Barça statement. The Brazilian is now heading for a medical, despite being snapped in a state of undress more than six weeks ago.

It’s mid-July and close to £2bn has been spent already this summer, with eight-figure sums paid for several players even our hipster cousin has never heard of. Spare a thought amid the chaos for Darwin Nuñez, who is now being compared to Andy Carroll based on a couple of misses in a pre-season friendly. To be fair, big Andy would have buried this. If po’ potless Barça have run out of readies for Robert Lewandowski, they should give him a call.

LIVE ON BIG WEBSITE!

Join Sarah Rendell from 5pm BST for MBM coverage of Sweden 3-0 Switzerland at Euro 2022, before Niall McVeigh picks up the baton for Netherlands 2-2 Portugal from 8pm.

QUOTE OF THE DAY

“I think it is lazy. If you look at the big six, six of the biggest clubs in the world, none of them have gambling on their shirts. I don’t know a company that wouldn’t want to sponsor a Premier League club and I just think it is lazy, lazy work to just go out and get gambling advertising. Having it plastered on to the front of their shirts doesn’t send a good message” – Paul Merson, who has spoken candidly about his battles with gambling, alcohol and drug addiction, takes aim at the nine Premier League clubs who will sport betting firm sponsorship on either the front of their shirts or on the sleeve in the upcoming season.

RECOMMENDED LISTENING

It’s podcast heave. First up, here’s our latest Women’s Football Weekly show, while Football Weekly Extra is right here.

FIVER LETTERS

“Regarding peak giddiness [yesterday’s Fiver], can I be one of 1,057 pedants to point out that you really should have morris-danced your way into Eighter Towers wearing a St George eightsie?” – Tim Clarke.

“Having read Nottingham Forest boss Steve Cooper’s description of Neco Williams as having ‘an incredibly high ceiling’ [Monday’s Fiver], it spurred me to think about what other architectural features footballers might have. Raphinha is south facing, Cristiano Ronaldo is semi-detached and Harry Maguire appears to come with his own inbuilt fireplace” – David Lessiter.

“Following Gareth Bale’s arrival in LA, I am slightly concerned that he has taken the proximity of Hollywood too literally, by having what appears to be spotlights emanating from his underpants” – Nigel Sanders.

Shine on. Photograph: Caroline Brehman/EPA

“Can’t help noticing that Gareth Bale’s photo [yesterday’s Fiver] looks like he’s being “sold” at the Golf Club AGM auction rather than unveiled as a professional footballer. ‘A day polishing the clubhouse trophies with Gareth – Do I hear $50?’” – Rich Duff.

Send your letters to the.boss@theguardian.com. And you can always tweet The Fiver via @guardian_sport. Today’s winner of our prizeless letter o’ the day is … David Lessiter.

NEWS, BITS AND BOBS

Manchester United may have won the Bragging Rights World Cup, or something, against Liverpool but in the even-more-important Spending World Cup they still can’t get that Frenkie de Jong deal over the line. They are, however, intensifying their interest in Ajax’s Lisandro Martínez.

The report to the French Senate on the chaos at the Champions League final has concluded that Liverpool fans were unfairly blamed. Meanwhile it’s emerged that Tiago Brandão Rodrigues, the Portuguese politician tasked by Uefa to investigate the problems outside the Stade de France, has previous for fan-unfriendly politicking

Wayne Rooney’s DC United manager Wayne Rooney has hit back at suggestions that moving to the USA! USA!! USA!!! constitutes a step back. “I really found that a bit disrespectful to this league,” he scoffed.

Will the real Wayne Rooney please stand up. Photograph: Geoff Burke/USA Today Sports

STILL WANT MORE?

How many parkruns are in sight of football grounds around the UK? The Knowledge delves into all the big questions once more.

Can Toronto FC’s intake of Domenico Criscito, Lorenzo Insigne and Federico Bernardeschi mark a return to MLS glory? James Nalton (maple) leafs through the Canadian city’s Italian roots.

Down t’Mill: Robert Lewandowski to Chelsea? … and other speculative tabloid punts.

And if it’s your thing … you can follow Big Website on Big Social FaceSpace. And INSTACHAT, TOO!

July 13, 2022 at 10:36PM Niall McVeigh

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