NOW THIS IS SOME TRANSFER BUSINESS
The Fiver can’t remember whether we ever got round to commissioning a Yaya Touré Award for Services to Diplomacy, but we’ve been meaning to do so ever since 2006. That was when the silver-tongued midfielder, then of Monaco, reacted to news that Laszlo Boloni had been sacked as the club’s manager by declaring: “Boloni’s departure gives me great satisfaction, I was more than fed up with him.” Boloni’s name has appeared in the world’s most tea-timely email several times since then, usually because for sausage-based puns it’s an absolute banger. But we bring it up again because the manager is involved in another exemplary piece of public relations, one for which Didier Lamkel Zé will always have a place in The Fiver’s heart.
Antwerp supporters used to love the Cameroonian striker, too, because he scored lots of goals for them under the management of Boloni. But Lamkel Zé’s relationship with the club’s big cheeses turned sour at the end of last season when he demanded a pay rise, less than a year after signing an improved contract. In September Boloni was sacked over a style of play deemed unpalatable. The beef between Lamkel Zé and Antwerp continued, with the new manager, Ivan Leko, demoting him to the reserves in October. Since then the striker has used Social Media Disgrace Instachat to trumpet his determination to leave the club, regularly posting photos and videos of himself with other teams, including Panathinaikos, whose manager, a certain Boloni, is said to be keen on a reunion.
With the transfer window having opened this week, and with Leko having surprised Antwerp by resigning in order to – well, whaddya know? – accept a massive pay rise in China, Lamkel Zé decided it was time to up the ante. So on Monday he sallied along to Antwerp’s training ground wearing a nonchalant expression and the shirt of rivals Anderlecht. Security staff reacted much like bouncers do when The Fiver rocks up in fashionably unwashed garb at The Discerning Publican, shutting the door and holding it closed despite attempts to gain entry. After a moment of unpleasantness, Lamkel Zé beat it. But he later promised on Instachat to return the next day in the shirt of another club, Beerschot.
Unlike The Fiver, Antwerp fans were not amused and impressed. On Wednesday, to our chagrin, Lamkel Zé opted for a radical change of strategy. “I sincerely apologise to the club and Antwerp supporters because they are magnificent and wonderful fans who have always supported me,” announced the 24-year-old on the club’s official Twitter abomination. “If I reacted like that, it is because my head was elsewhere with the transfer, it wasn’t easy for me. I’m so sorry for my actions. I’m available for the club if the new manager [Franky Vercauteren] needs me. I hope to be in front of the supporters very soon on the pitch.” The end? Maybe. But if a move to Panathinaikos doesn’t happen this month, and given who Antwerp face in the Big Vase next month, perhaps folks at the Pope’s Newc O’Rangers superstore should look out for an order from Belgium.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“Above all else, in 2021 football needs to build on the statements of intent from 2020 and commit time, energy and resources to convert that intent into action” – Sanjay Bhandari succinctly lays out what football needs to do to combat discrimination in 2021.
Football Weekly Extra is right here for you.
“Was Wednesday’s 2.55 race at Wolverhampton an omen for the Milk Cup final in April? Ridden by a jockey wearing sky blue silks, the favourite Cityzen Serg surged ahead of the field to win, leaving 50-1 shot Hotspur Harry in its wake. I should know, I was on at 4-1, which I reckon will be the score at Wembley. I am hoping to attend, although, being a senior ‘Cityzen’, this might well be jab-dependant” – Adrian Brodkin.
“With Wednesday’s Rumbelows Cup outcome, Manchester United’s manager continued his repeated quest to emulate the lead actor from the Die Hard film series. The latter lost one Demi Moore, the former lost one more semi” – Leigh Tadeusz.
“I don’t want to spoil everyone’s enjoyment with excessive pedantry, but I did raise an eyebrow at Alan Raybould’s mention of a Thai beer hall serving ‘German-style beer’ (yesterday’s letters). While I would guess it was probably a pilsner or lager labelled to be different from the very pale Thai beers that go well with spicy food, there are actually numerous distinct beer styles native to Germany. This is despite the Rheinheitsgebot permitting just four ingredients to be used in the production of beer (hops, malt, water, yeast). That said, an appreciation for the way an incredibly limiting range of things can be used over and over again to produce something slightly different is what keeps many of us reading The Fiver every day” – Ed Taylor.
NEWS, BITS AND BOBS
Aston Villa’s FA Cup tie with Liverpool on Friday has been plunged into doubt after their first-team squad was forced into self-isolation by a Covid outbreak at the club.
Shrewsbury face having to forfeit their place in the competition after a number of positive Covid tests forced the third-round tie against Southampton to be postponed.
The WSL is counting the cost of Christmas trips to Dubai made by three Arsenal internationals and four Manchester City players, after the clubs’ games against Aston Villa and West Ham, respectively, were forced off by positive tests.
Arsenal, meanwhile, have taken out a £120m loan from the Bank of England in an effort to ease cashflow issues that have mounted during the pandemic.
Eric Dier, Érik Lamela and former teammate Jan Vertonghen have all been prosecuted after being caught by new speed cameras on the A10 near Spurs’ training ground.
And Ajax are close to completing a deal to sign Sébastien Haller for £25m less than West Ham shelled out for him last year.
STILL WANT MORE?
“Mauricio Pochettinooooo, he’s magic, you kn …” – PSG drew their first game under the Argentinian, so Adam White and Eric Devin wrote this.
Enrico Chiesa had a knack of scoring goals against Milan and it seems his son, Federico, has picked up the trick. Nicky Bandini has more on a Juventus win that could be seismic for the title race.
“You can study all the data, watch all the videos, think and plot and cogitate, formulate your grand strategy, then it turns out the answer all along was John Stones.” Floating brain in a jar Jonathan Wilson on Manchester City.
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