Valverde Pays The Price: 5 Talking Points
Barcelona sack their manager, as we look at the five talking points from football this week.
24 Feb 2020
#1 - VALVERDE PAYS THE PRICE
Ernesto Valverde paid the ultimate price for giving the Supercopa de Espana as little regard as every other sane person out there, resulting in the manager being sacked by Barcelona this week.
Though being knocked out by Atletico in the semi-final wasn’t Valverde's only failure; there were consecutive collapses in the Champions League against both Liverpool and Roma, the shock loss to Valencia in last season's Copa del Rey Final, and even in this season’s La Liga - despite being on top - the Blaugrana’s inconsistency and lack of flair produced murmurs of his sacking a number of months ago.
It isn’t fair, but it is understandable. Although choosing the relatively unknown former Real Betis boss Quique Setien to replace him, is certainly less so.
#2 - REAL CELEBRATE SUPERCOPA
For evidence that the Supercopa de Espana means little, look no further than Real Madrid’s celebrations after getting their hands on the cup after beating Atletico 4-1 on penalties. The players were hardly full of exuberance after getting their hands on the cup.
But tell that to Real defender Federico Valverde, whose red card-earning professional foul on Alvaro Morata saved Los Blancos from near-certain defeat - an understanding Atleti manager Diego Simeone admitting as much post-match:
It was the most important play of the match, it could have been a goal for us. I told him 'Don't worry, anybody would have done the same in your place'. He did what he had to do.
With Valverde picking up the man of the match, Real Madrid fans are now calling for a statue of Federico Valverde to be built. But that’s probably a bit much… it is just the Supercopa after all!
#3 - LIVERPOOL ON MOST POINTS EVER
Liverpool’s season just keeps getting better and better.
Their 1-0 win over Tottenham leaves them on 61 points after 21 games - the most ever at this point of the season, not just England’s Premier League, but across the Spanish, Italian, German and French leagues too. Not that manager Jurgen Klopp is feeling it:
When somebody told me, I didn't feel anything. It's just not like that. And I have been in football for 50 years or so. And, if somebody would have told me that it would ever happen, I probably would have said it is not possible. Now it has happened and it doesn't feel. So I don't know exactly what is wrong with me. But it is really cool and exceptional.
Klopp is clearly just keeping his eyes on the prize, but at the current rate the Reds are collecting points, he won’t have to for much longer, as they’re set to smash the earliest title win record by a whole month.
After 30 years without one, it’s the sooner the better as far as fans from Anfield are concerned.
#4 - AGUERO’S DOUBLE RECORD
Neither Dean Smith nor Pep Guardiola would’ve taken too much away from Manchester City’s 6-1 rout at Villa Park, but Sergio Aguero certainly did.
The striker netted a hat-trick to take him to 177 goals in the Premier League, giving him the record for the most goals scored by an overseas player in league history. It was also Aguero's 12th Premier League hat-trick in all, breaking the record for the most trebles in league history too.
But what the Argentine didn’t take from Villa Park on Sunday, was the knowledge he’s the best striker his manager has ever coached:
The best is (Lionel) Messi and after that… Messi is number nine, number 10, number 11, number seven, number six, number five, number four. But Sergio is absolutely one of them.
Well, you can’t argue with that.
#5 - INTER RELINQUISH TOP SPOT
Internazionale relinquished top spot in Serie A owing to their 1-1 draw with Atalanta, while Juventus picked up all three points at Roma.
Sitting just two points behind the Old Lady, it isn’t the end of the world for manager Antonio Conte, though his reaction to being questioned on why he left Alexis Sanchez on the bench as his team struggled against Atalanta suggested otherwise:
Well, gentlemen, players must be fit to play. I am not crazy. So, either I am a moron, or I want to hurt myself. If I put someone out of our line-up, it is for a reason. It is not about performing hara-kiri or because I am demented.”
To go on such a rant, after such an innocuous question, doesn’t exactly help Conte’s case, but he did fall short of the passion displayed when defending match-fixing allegations a few years ago, so we can probably give Conte the benefit of the doubt.