The strongest idea in football, but with one weakness
As the Euro 2022 performances showed, there probably isn’t a national football identity as strong as Spain’s. The approaches and patterns are so similar, across all age groups and levels. Amid so many strengths and advantages, though, that does come with some weaknesses. One is cutting edge. Spain dominate virtually every match through superior technique, possession and pressing, but a significant quantity of those matches involve patience and frustration as they struggle to convert against opposition sides who inevitably sit back against them. This, naturally, is no coincidence. As the country who effectively created the modern academy era, from 2008 and Barcelona, it stands to reason they have the most chronic issue in producing an abundance of midfield passers and creators - with the exquisite Aitana the latest, to go with Pedri and Gavi - but no finishers. That reflects a wider problem in the game, but is something some figures within Spanish football are now getting concerned about. Luis Enrique is obsessed with it. It’s why David Villa, even more than Xavi or Andres Iniesta, was probably the most important player to Spain’s era of dominance. He actually put the ball in the net rather than to the feet of another teammate. Spain, like a few nations but to a more acute degree than anyone else, need to figure out how to create some successors.
Elland Road may soon have a new young star
Leeds United’s deal for Paris Saint Germain’s Arnaud Kalimuendo, which the Independent reported a few weeks ago, is still on. Those close to the situation consider it likely. A €20m bid remains under consideration, as the striker himself has been assessing his situation and seeking to ensure he makes the best decision for his future. That naturally involves seeing what else comes in, but Leeds look increasingly attractive.
A club with almost everything get something most lack
PSG have meanwhile quietly ensured that they have secured perhaps the best striker of the next generation. Industry figures within football were actually surprised that the main competition for Hugo Ekitike came from Newcastle United, because the widespread belief is that he is one of the few guarantees as a No.9 around. As it is, with relatively little fanfare, the Qatari-owned French champions have just gone and bought a player who could soon generate a lot of buzz. He’s not Kylian Mbappe, sure, but it says much that even needs to be clarified. Ekitike is an immensely exciting prospect.
Stamford Bridge enduring a few early stumbles
Chelsea are enduring some of the teething problems that were written about here a few weeks ago, and that were anticipated. The new regime knew they would make some mistakes, as they have lost out on some players. Among them have been Raphinha, Matthijs de Ligt and still potentially Jules Kounde. The Sevilla defender's future remains up in the air, deciding between the Blues and Barcelona, a club who of course have their own issues. They still have considerable market nous, though, which has seen them step ahead of the new Chelsea regime. Kounde prefers the Camp Nou move, but they are not paying the full rate requested.
So much controversy, so little accommodation
Accommodation is so sparse in Qatar for the World Cup that even the England players’ families may not be able to get them. The current plan that is being shared among a few of them is to travel from Dubai, which involves either a short flight or a six-hour drive. It is likely to be the same with some corporates.