In tough times people look to find inspiration in the strangest of places. Like the housewife from Dundee who discovered the face of Jesus on a potato from Aldi this week:
I was staring at it and it was just quite obvious it was Jesus’ face.
She then showed it to her husband who should have asked if she’d been taking crystal meth, but also agreed that it looked ‘just like Jesus’.
She went on:
I’ve seen stories before about people finding Jesus in their food but I can never usually see it. This was just so obviously him.
She added: ‘I’ve eaten it now.’
Well, that certainly inspired me, and no doubt the ‘suits’ that run Barcelona were reacting to a similar epiphany when they appointed ‘Big Ron’ Koeman to manage them out the mess they now find themselves in.
For to quote a technical term, Barcelona are in big doo-doos (‘Doo-doos masivo’ in Spanish) - they lost out on the league to Real, crashed out of the Champions League to Bayern with their biggest loss since 1946, shipping eight goals, two of which were scored by their own player – Philipe Coutinho, which has got to hurt, half of their directors resigned mid-season, and Lionel Messi is making noises about not signing a new contract.
The manager had to go of course, and I’ve lost track of whether this is the second or third one they’ve had this season, or if it was even the one that was sacked but then taken on again. Back in the day I spent a summer working at Lumley Brick Works, which was quite a tough gig for a scrawny teenager, especially one who’d never done hard physical labour before, but when I found myself getting down, I’d always cheer myself up by thinking, ‘well, at least I’m not managing Barcelona.’
Because apart from an inability to finish cathedrals, Barcelona’s problems are massive. They’ve spent oodles of dosh on players that never seem to play, the average age of the team is greater than the half-life of a spent fuel rod and rumour has it that they’re going to ditch Unicef in favour of Dignitas as the new shirt sponsor.
But is Big Ron the man to turn things around?
Six months ago they offered the job to club legend Xavi Hernandez:
I am clear that I want to return to Barcelona, I am very excited.
He said, just before turning the job down. He continued:
There can’t be anyone toxic in the dressing room.
Ah, the old ‘dark heart’ of a football club, we know all about that one, well, cheer up lads, that’s nothing a swift double relegation won’t solve.
It was then rumoured that Mauricio Pochettino was a shoo-in for the post, after he was seen having dinner with the president last week. Unfortunately a previous comment of his:
I would rather go home and work on the farm than manage Barcelona.
... may have counted against him and left him looking up the price of second-hand tractors.
So, Big Ron got the gig and the first problem he has to deal with are the egos in the dressing room. Well, I don’t think Big is too worried about being popular. I certainly never liked him and I don’t think he’s still on the Christmas card list from many of the Everton faithful.
However, he may not have long in the job if the former club president is successful in regaining his position in the elections due next year - his stated intention is to bring Pep Guardiola back to Barcelona.
Pep of course was famously successful there, winning his second Champions League with them in 2012. Since then he’s had a years’ sabbatical in New York, managed Bayern for three years, is just entering his fifth season in charge of Manchester City and has had three haircuts. Ironically the team he led to victory eight years ago is remarkably similar to the current line-up, which is a large part of the problem.
And he may have to go back to Barcelona to win the Champions League again because he’s doing a pretty lousy job of trying at Man City. Going out to the seventh best team in France, and universally blamed for screwing up his tactics, he’s going to have to ‘up’ his game next season because just winning the Carabao Cup every year won’t cut it with the money men behind City. Look what happened to Sarri when he did the same at Juventus – and at least he’d just won the league for them.
So, we’ve probably got the best final we could’ve hoped for with PSG against Bayern, both the in-form teams of the moment and so good to see Choupo-Moting score the winner for PSG in the quarter final. I remember him as the only good thing in a dreadful Stoke side that was relegated in 2018, and to see him pop up in the Champions League with PSG just reminds you what a funny game it can be.
Of course both teams play the same style as Man City with the emphasis on attack, high pressing, possible vulnerability at the back but with the confidence that they can always score more that they concede. And I got to thinking, this was Kevin Keegan’s mantra in the nineties at Newcastle – does that mean Keegan is the father of the modern game?