Tales Black

It’s a curious time to be a football fan, isn’t it? We’re not really, officially, in ‘pre-season’ and yet everything is pre-season, once the previous one has ended.

In a world of increasing uncertainty, Europe has thrown up some interesting developments over the last week or so (nothing that Theresa can’t handle, of course, not with the DUP supporting her strong and stable government and, surely, a forthcoming trip to Windsor Park to watch ‘Norn Iron’ in the offing, while wondering if the Queen is in residence in that big house on the hill – the one with the nice biscuits and chintz cushions).

No footballer pays tax in Spain – that much has become clear. Jose Mourinho may have learned how to park the bus but you can bet that it started life as a hovercraft in some Iberian tax haven. Ronaldo is so upset at being found out at Real Madrid that he has created a bit of a scene in which he is, naturally, the aggrieved leading character, fighting injustice wherever he may discover it (apart from in his own wardrobe; Theresa could probably learn a lot from his political manoeuvrings).

Lionel Messi and his Dad put a deposit down to cover their own tax fraud at Barcelona but their chances of paying the rest over 38 weeks look a bit thin, given the catalogue of cases thrown against them (and not just from baggage handlers at airports around the world).

Former Milan catwalk legend, Paolo Maldini, has just lost a doubles match at tennis in full view of lots of expensive cameras. What kind of person does that at 49, apart from in the back garden of their villa? Presumably, Paolo’s ego is right off the court scale? Also in Italy, Torino have signed a proper goalkeeper – Salvatore Sirigu – who also keeps goal for his nation; sorry Joe!

Back at home, Manchester United seem to be chasing every midfielder who can run – something they collectively failed to do often on the pitch last season – and so will probably get Nemanja Matic, who will do the dull, dirty stuff while Paul Pogba flatters to deceive us all that he was worth the money.

Previously Labour government personnel have favoured Burnley (cue, sly laughter from Theresa, who believes it to be in Wales). This may be because of their lack of ambition beyond mere survival so that they can bemoan their lot against the ‘fancy Dans’ from the South? As if to prove this yet again, their big transfer target is seemingly Jon Walters who is now 33. Big Jon is frustrated at the lack of playtime and not enough sweets to go around.

Everyone seems to be wanting to sign Dick van Dijk from the comedy club, Southampton. Let him dance to the tune of pounds and pence but never, ever let him sing, would be my advice.

Liverpool still get defensive about their lack of defence and yet still cling to hairdressers like Alberto Moreno. At the same time, their PR team is linking them to every striker in the world. The latest rumour is that Toshack and Keegan may be making a comeback up-front. Meanwhile, Daniel Sturridge is already in serious pre-season training mode, apparently attending Khloe Kardashian’s 33rd birthday party while sticking to Coke.

Chelsea and Manchester City continue to do what they do at this time of year, which is to spend lots of their fans’ money, as though they had sunstroke. Meanwhile Arsenal personnel jet off to the sun on a regular basis but rarely come back with the duty frees. Don’t worry guys, Theresa will look after you as you travel around Europe unless things get even worse with the Brexit negotiations, in which case you might not be coming back to the country either (a bit like Ronaldo).

West Ham want to sign Olivier Giroud and Theo Walcott from Arsenal it seems. I cannot see many Irons fans jumping up and down in excitement over such prospects at the London Stadium but then I suppose safe seating does still have a purpose?

Still in Europe, England’s Under-21 team lost to Germany on penalties, obviously, in their European Championship semi-final such that Gareth Southgate is about to announce that real progress is being made. I think that must be in a Monopoly game he is playing with his children because, from where I’m looking, the foundations of houses we are building in football look flimsier by the hour and the hotels that the money-men are investing in look very unlikely to yield long-term returns – especially if you are young, British and penniless under Theresa’s blue moon.