Is Neymar the modern-day George Best? And the Prem should be grateful to Man City…

Is Neymar the modern-day George Best? And the Prem should be grateful to Man City…

The Mailbox bemoans the dearth of mavericks in a game that offers Neymar up as today’s George Best. Also: City should be applauded/ashamed; and which fans are doing their bit.

Get your views into


Neymar the Best?
Reading a mailbox question about who the 2023 George Best would be felt like I was living in the Matrix, as on the drive home today Hawksbee & Jacobs were talking to Tim Vickery on talkSport and Tim actually said Neymar reminded him of George Best, which was quite a double take quote at the time.

What does the mailbox think, Neymar as the 2023 George Best?
The Admin @ At The Bridge Pod


No mavericks among the men
You’re quite right – the maverick appears to have long disappeared from the game and I don’t enjoy Pep’s City either. But then his Barca and Bayern teams also bored the hell out of me – even if the aforementioned Catalans did boast one Lionel Messi in their ranks.

I think of the 1990s as the last great era for mavericks. Arsenal had Bergkamp, United Cantona, Southampton Le Tissier, Newcastle Ginola – even City had Kinkladze. And what players they were. I’d pay good money to watch every one of them. What we have now are a bunch of robots and amid the current march of the machines, why not just create football playing cyborgs controlled by AI? I need your clothes, boots and shin pads.

The Women’s Euros proved some mavericks remain in the game. But Men’s football? pah! Roll on next May and City’s cakewalk to their fourth title in a row.
Graham Simons, Gooner who is seriously thinking of giving next season a miss entirely, Norf London


Interesting topic from Adidasmufc. There are a few strands to it, your appreciation and dedication to football definitely changes over time. I loved the dynamism of wingers as a kid but as I got older, it was the effortless grace of the likes of Pirlo that had me enthralled. But the game has changed now compared to, say, the Premier leagues formative years. Many teams played through a maverick, a player who could conjure something from nothing. Jack Charlton’s philosophy when he took over Ireland was to take the game away from these players to shut teams down, because games turned on a moment of magic

Now it’s all about the percentages now, the tangible over the intangible.

Cantona is a good example. He could do, and often did, things that 99% of his contemporaries could not. Think of the chip against Sunderland. Memorable because it was exquisite and rare. You don’t see goals like that often for a few reasons; not a lot of players would think to do it, not a lot of players could actually do it, and it was not necessarily the best option. The greats make that shot 3/10 attempts. The good, 3/20 and it never even occurs to the rest. Messi is, as always, the outlier. He could lob Neuer in a phone box. But the point is, you remember the times it worked, not the times it didn’t. You remember because he tried it in the first place.

Now, we have detailed analysis of the game. Players work in systems designed to make the most of the players and play the smart, percentage play. Yes, Jack Grealish looked much more impactful for Villa, slaloming through games and winning some on his own. But I would wager that his contribution over the full season with Man City has been greater than any with Villa. Less room for magic but more successful, understated actions leading to goals. It’s not as flashy but it is more effective.

There is still space for the intangible, the game is just not as reliant on it. So we see it less. Maybe we’ll get lucky and the various systems will start to cancel each other out, meaning the best option to score is also the most astounding.
Kevin, yearning for mercurial 10s

Read more: If Man Utd are ‘better’ with Anthony Martial, Harry Maguire should be starting too… 


Thank God for Man City
The suggestion that City are somehow not worth their title(s) because they’ve spent a few quid is a load of bollocks and frankly insulting to a fine manager and group of players. I am gutted that Guardiola’s City exist in the same time and space as Klopp’s Liverpool because we’d have two more titles to our name in an alternate universe but you can’t deny how good City are. Never mind the actual football just the consistency and mentality to maintain their level is off the scale ridiculous and actually cannot be bought.

It’s important to remember money is only one ingredient and in football it’s a big one yes, but I believe F365 have City somewhere near the middle of the net spend table in the last few years (not way out in front spending 400 times the nearest challenger) and I’m pretty sure United and City are fairly equal in what they’ve spent in recent years but with vastly different results. Leicester also won the league spending sod all and City have spent much more money pre-Guardiola and came nowhere near this standard.

We’ve heard about teams ‘buying’ the league before. It was said about Jack Walker’s Blackburn and more recently Abramovich’s Chelsea but underneath the criticism is a strange and flawed argument; if you believe Blackburn, Chelsea and now City’s titles are basically corrupt because the clubs spent more than they made due to having wealthy owners, then you’re okay with Manchester United winning the league until the end of civilization.

Before Chelsea’s millions, United won the league 8 times in 12 seasons. Really it was only Arsenal who could keep the league vaguely interesting. Then came Chelsea then later on City. Yes United had a great manager, but they also had the most money and the biggest stadium and with it the ability to buy the best player from every other team. United were paying £30million transfer fees in an era when literally no other club could afford that.

Guess what; United still make the most money today. Imagine if they were the best team we had in England now? My god the league would be shit.

FFP as a concept comes from the same place as Super League – the established elite wanting a closed shop where nobody can rise up against them. Indeed it was a big selling point for John W Henry who saw Liverpool’s potential to make a lot more money commercially and the plan was FFP would cut the legs off Chelsea and City.

The reality is better teams create a better league – the United 2007-09 team was their best ever team and wouldn’t have happened if it weren’t for Chelsea forcing them to get better. City raised the bar again, Liverpool met it and forced City to go further, but even this spell of dominance will end eventually because everything does, then we get to watch City spunk uber billions up the wall to win a Carling Cup in the decade which follows.
Martin (YNWA)


City, Toon holding back Brighton
City fans keep writing in claiming people are just jealous of City’s stolen success.

That the morality expressed is hollow and everyone would be happy if it were their club.

It’s horseshit.

Without City and Newcastle whoring their souls for shiny trinkets, this vibrant wonderful exciting Brighton side are in the Champions League next season, and all the work and creative building Brighton have done is rewarded.

But because City cheated, Brighton don’t get what they deserve. No club in the Premier League gets what they deserve, because City and Newcastle stole their way ahead.

That’s why you’re so despised.

Not jealousy. Despised.
Tim Sutton


Numbers game
9, 16, 8, 15, 14, 9, 10. These aren’t next week’s Lotto numbers, well they could be but there’s one too many so just do #9 once, these are the league finishing positions of Man City since they came back to the PL in 2002/03 up to and including the first season of their takeover (which was in August 2008). A gentle reminder that they were playing first division/league 1 football early this century.

5, 3, 1, 2, 1, 2, 4, 3, 1, 1, 2, 1, 1. Presumably you can guess that these are their league positions since the takeover money kicked in, and include seasons under Mancini and Pelligrini. There was no real gradual climb up the table, it was a pretty emphatic jump into the upper echelons of the hallowed league we follow.

I appreciate Pep is a great coach, and I don’t even begrudge City’s newfound money and success. It happens, it’s up to others to up their game. But the numbers and impact of financial doping are as plain as the nose on your face. Good luck to them and their fans, let them enjoy the good times. But let’s not pretend they are some bastion of how to run a football club, either within or illegally beyond its means.

Money never sleeps, pal.
Garey Vance, MUFC


Twelfth man
Not claiming this to be an exact science but there seems to be some added value in a raucous positive home support these days. Certainly seems like the teams who’s support is above the norm are elevating their team an extra 10% above their usual standards – Brentford, Forest, Newcastle, even Arsenal performance has improved as the crowd gets more behind them.

Sure you could argue its the performances that raise the crowd but first thing Klopp did was get Anfield rocking even if the drew a game and its worked well for them over 5yrs.

As I say just a theory but what could that kind of support to do West Ham (soul less ground) Southampton, Wolves, Leicester.

Worth a few extra points a season no?
Small Kenny.


Stop the cynicism
The close season often brings about changes in the laws that the governing bodies think will improve the game, in reality they rarely get it right, but at least they try!

Often these are not actual changes but changes in how they are applied or how certain situations are to be dealt with. I’ve long advocated 25 penalties a game for the grappling at free kicks and corners until people stop doing it and watching Brighton v City tonight got me re-visiting another pet hate (or is it Pep hate?), the cynical foul.

Fouls are a part of the game, the laws forbid these, but often the “last man” scenario results in a player being sent off despite a genuine attempt to win the ball. The cynical foul however has no intention of winning the ball, just a deliberate decision to enable your team to avoid a possible dangerous position.

I realise that City are not the only ones who do this (Fabinho is an expert) but it’s no co-incidence that all Pep Guardiola teams consider this an acceptable tactic, Busquets was a master but the current City team are all drilled to use this “tactic”. In the 41st minute, Enciso performs a marvellous turn and Bernado Silva, without a moments thought, brings him down by tripping him, no attempt to play the ball, just a kick at the players legs, the referee quite rightly issues a yellow card, this time it was Silva but it could just as easily been Walker, Stones or Rodri. But what if the punishment was a RED card?, This is blatant cheating and a total dis-regard for the spirit of the game, shouldn’t that be punishable by something more than the opportunity to re-group and re-organise?

We all want to watch fast, flowing football, more goals, more excitement, in fact, more teams like City but without the “we’ll stop you playing every chance we get”.

Introduce an automatic red card and it’ll stop, maybe not overnight but not long after.

And don’t get me started on shirt pulling (Alf, I’m looking at you)!
Howard (it’s like improving your lie in golf) Jones

Guardiola to gift Arsenal signing

Arsenal optimism
I’m a little surprised about the lack of optimism surrounding coverage of Arsenal. Admittedly, we fumbled pretty alarmingly in the final stretch of the season, but with a game to play we are already13 points better off than last season, back in the CL for the first time in years and the key players who helped us do it are all signing new contracts so we avoid repeats of the Ozil/Sanchez debacles of years gone by…

I also keep hearing about how it was our best chance, but I’m by no means certain that any of Liverpool, United or Chelsea are about to overtake us. Newcastle are certainly shaping up for another step in their sportswashing evolution, but who knows how the new signings will bed in. Then, of course, there is the 115 FFP rule breaking elephant in the room* that no one can compete with.

With rumours of bids for Rice and others in the papers too, I can’t think of a better time to be an Arsenal fan since peak Wenger years. Of course, this might all blow up in our face when we lose our opening three games in August, but until that actually happens (and history tells us it definitely can happen), I think we should just enjoy where we are now and where we might go.

The only slightly irksome point a friend raised to me yesterday is that it’s a bit strange that we’ve chosen now to sell Xhaka, given the season he just had and that we need strength in depth to compete with City. He’s only 30 and certainly worth more than 15mil. Odd one.
Harry, AFC, Brussels (*accused, innocent until proven guilty or time barred….)


Stick to the rules
I rarely mail in, but felt driven to in response to Andy, THFC, Eire’s letter of 24/5. The whole point of the rules is that everyone adheres to them. And while I agree that one charge might be worthy of a slap on the wrist, 115 of them suggests a cynical, contrived effort to game the system! And doubly so if this was just back-office share price inflation, the likes of which is rife across the stock markets of the world.

However it isn’t, and it directly affects what happens on the pitch. It results in City buying players that they realistically shouldn’t be able to afford, or at least afford within the rules they and every other club signed up to. Every single one of their current squad has been signed during a period that appears to be when they were already bending the rules.

So while I agree Pep probably is their greatest weapon – he identifies and then coaches the players – I still believe that their alleged ‘flexible’ approach to the FFP rules is why they’re so far ahead of everyone else. I should say that even as a Liverpool supporter since 1978, City’s dismantling of Real Madrid last week might be the best performance I’ve ever watched, by any side. But as per other comments, I reckon at least one or two of those players wouldn’t have been in sky blue that night had the rules been adhered to.

Michael, LFC


Pep and prayers
So Pep wants the PL to speed it up. Ok, I’ll bite. Manchester City “obfuscated” the charges brought against them by the Court of Arbitration for Sport. They failed to cooperate with the investigation, and refused to provide UEFA with access to documents and information. They purposely delayed the process by making a number of procedural applications. They lied outright, making a number of false claims about their financial situation. They attacked the credibility of the witnesses who gave evidence against them, and they also tried to cast doubt on the reliability of the documents that UEFA had obtained. And it worked. Two-year ban from European football from UEFA overturned, all for the meagre price of a €10 million fine for their misconduct. Laughable.

I imagine Pep made his comments after his usual morning prayers to Saint Dismas. It’s a bold strategy, Cotton. Let’s see if it pays off for them (spoiler, it probably will)

Video Micah Richards is "not sure" about Man City winning the UCL