ThunderKlopp can clinch it

UNDERDOGS vs overdogs. A team vs individuals. Working class vs royalty! Hang on, Real Madrid have won the last two crowns and aren’t Liverpool also European royalty?

However the Champions League final is hyped, there is an overlap that doesn’t allow either side to be pigeon-holed – whatever Real think of themselves. Both clubs have an illustrious history and are mostly a rojak of imports, cheap and expensive.

But if we really have to separate them, it’s because of their managers: one a 22-carat, superstar who has won everything on and off the field, and the other a journeyman player who has won… very little.

Zinedine Zidane needs an aircraft hangar to store his trophies of which the Ballon d’Or (1997), World Cup (1998), Euros (2000) and European Cups (2002 as a player and 2016 and 2017 as a manager) are just the highlights.

Against that Jurgen Klopp can carry his two Bundesliga baubles in his rucksack and has been beaten in all his five finals. It says an awful lot then that Liverpool are far from alone in thinking they have the superior man in the dugout.

Great players are often accused of getting the top job because of their name. And this was certainly the case with Zizou after his apprenticeship stretched to nothing more than coaching Real’s kids.

Even now, two European Cups and one La Liga later, he is regarded as little more than a “clap yer hands manager”.

The champions have no discernible style of play and they’ve laboured through this season to third place in La Liga – a grave disappointment after the summer Barcelona had suggested the title was Real’s for the taking.

Zidane has failed to get the best out of the precocious Marco Asensio and Isco, let alone Gareth Bale. Tactically, he has often looked bereft and his selections can be mystifying. But he is still there. He is Zidane.

Klopp this week admitted that he was glad he didn’t have to face him on the field – as a journeyman defender at Mainz. But implicit in the compliment was that he didn’t mind facing him in the dugout.

This season, win or lose in Kiev, Klopp has emerged as an inspirational leader for the ages.

He has overcome transfer disappointments, a difficult start, the loss of Philippe Coutinho, injury disruptions and the loss of his right-hand man at the worst possible time, and still steered Liverpool from the qualifiers to the Champions League final.

He has come up the hard way and knew early doors that he would not be much of a player.

A striker-turned-defender for second division Mainz, he might have been forgotten but for being handed the top job.

But a judicious mix of inspiration, perspiration and tactical nous earned promotion and then a switch to Borussia Dortmund. Relishing the challenge of facing “F.C. Hollywood” Bayern, he mixed and matched kids and castoffs to win the Bundesliga twice in a row. It earned him the eternal gratitude of the Yellow Wall.

Burnt out, he took a brief sabbatical but couldn’t resist the lure of Liverpool, a similar, blue-collar club with a devoted following. And as at Dortmund, he is loved by players and fans alike.

Indeed his charisma and character suggest he could be the closest the Kop has seen to the immortal Bill Shankly.

He still has a way to go and Real can be formidable opponents on the big occasion, but Liverpool already have every confidence their manager can win the battle of the technical areas.

He will have had two weeks with his men – what he called “a perfect preparation” since the last Premier League game against Brighton when the Reds showed what one week’s rest can do.

That welcome return to form and fluency – especially of Mo Salah – was just the tonic they needed after looking drained in the preceding league games.

The Egyptian star had been running on empty and with Zeljko Buvac disappearing before the return leg at Roma, it briefly looked as if things might go awry.

But Klopp steadied the ship and a warm weather break in Marbella has them raring to go.

Real’s Tony Kroos, who knows a thing or two about facing Klopp’s teams from his Bayern days, says: “It will be like facing 11 animals, all really up for it.”

Facing Salah and Sadio Mane will certainly feel like facing a couple of gazelles and up front is where Liverpool boast their greatest strength – sheer blinding pace.

The only answer to it is to deny them space but that would mean Real’s own attack not getting their normal service.

Real are favourites but not overwhelmingly so as everyone has been mesmerised by the brilliant counter-attacking of the Fab Three.

Roberto Firmino has been the perfect foil to the two speed men and has grown in influence since his compatriot Coutinho left.

The biggest worry for Kopites is still defence and whether the improvement since Virgil van Dijk arrived can be sustained.

Cristiano Ronaldo may be fading but is still capable of magical moments. But then so is Salah – and his are more often.

As Klopp says, “It’s a football match – anything can happen.” There could be a few goals, it could be close and it could be down to the managers to swing it.

Divock Origi remembers the effect Klopp’s histrionics had in the Europa League comeback against Borussia Dortmund at Anfield. He told the players, 3-1 down at halftime, “to create something we can tell our grandchildren about”. They won 4-3.

Mats Hummels, then at Dortmund, recalls it too: “We started bricking ourselves at the sight of Klopp on the touchline.” On Sunday morning, Zidane may clap his hands but from Klopp, there will be a clap of thunder.

*Bob’s latest book Living the Dream is available at all major book stores.

It looks black for Blues if Roman can’t get in

“YOU ain’t got no ‘istry,” is an enemy chant that Chelsea fans turned into their own defiant battle cry. But as they celebrate a 15th trophy win in 15 years, they are now wondering if they have much of a future.

The FA Cup winners are in a mess. Their manager is begging for the sack. The star player is demanding better signings. Others are eyeing the exit. The stadium project is stalled. And the owner hasn’t got his visa.

Of course, Chelsea have been in a mess before. Many times. They thrive on the chaos theory. If turning a post-Fergie Man United around looks like refloating the Titanic, Chelsea can do it overnight.

From 10th place to champions; from a thrashing in Naples to kings of Europe; from Scolari refuseniks to FA Cup winners; from Champions League flops to Double winners. They write their own “istry”.

But as they woke up on Monday morning, Blues fans wouldn’t have been sure whether they were suffering the mother of all hangovers or their worst nightmare: could the Roman empire be about to fall?

It may be a blip, a bureaucratic bungle or a bit of misfiling. Nothing untoward. The delay just part of the chilling of relations between Britain and Russia following Spygate. He may have got it by the time you read this.

But for the first time since half the Soviet Union’s oil wealth became their transfer kitty, the unthinkable is being thought: he couldn’t, could be?

Even if Roman Abramovich is denied entry to Britain, it does not mean he would leave the club. There are plenty of absentee owners and he’s been absent quite a bit himself. But there’s already been an ominous feeling that he’s losing interest.

The slashing of spending, the frustrations over the stadium, another divorce and the fact that Chelsea have won everything anyway have all suggested he is no longer living the dream.

This season in particular he’s not been the trigger-happy owner that managers feared to look in the eye. If he had been, Antonio Conte would have been sleeping with the fishes since September.

No one has tested the Russian’s patience more. Not even Jose Mourinho. Roberto di Matteo won the supreme prize but his face didn’t fit. Luis Felipe Scolari caused a dressing room revolt, AVB lacked authority. Carlo Ancelotti barely raised his left eyebrow. All got the thumbs down.

But Conte has questioned the competence of Abramovich’s chosen people as well as the club’s ambition. His sins have been cardinal yet he’s survived. For the owner to tolerate this level of insubordination just to avoiding paying him off could be telling.

If he’s not feeling the pinch – scraping by on his last £9 billion (RM48 billion) – it’s a new message he’s sending out: Chelsea no longer offer the most sumptuous buffet on the managerial gravy train.

He wants them to be self-sufficient and no longer dependent on his handouts. And the ace he once had in his hand has been trumped – Man City are richer. They also have Pep Guardiola, the manager he tried so desperately to woo.

Although he has enjoyed consistent success, there is still a gnawing sense of unfulfilment. His dream was not just to win but to win with style and Chelsea have for the most part been a bit too workaday for that.

And he’s not had the best of luck. He was denied the Holy Grail in his home town by John Terry’s slip and a year later in the semifinal against Barcelona there were those penalty claims. And when he did win it, it was with a manager he didn’t rate.

Off the field, it has been even more frustrating. Almost since he arrived in 2003, he’s wanted to move from Stamford Bridge. But a forensic search of central London produced only Battersea power station that was big and close enough.

But the chance of an iconic backdrop was lost when he was outbid by none other than a Malaysian consortium. So it was back to the drawing board and a rebuilt Bridge.

But the planning rules and rights of obstructive neighbours have driven him – a man who rode roughshod over the old Soviet Union – to distraction.

And now, when all that has been finally sorted, he finds that Wembley stadium, where they’ll have to play for at least two seasons while the new stadium is built, could be sold to the owner of Fulham, of all people.

The home of football may never be the same after Shahid Khan has done with it as he has big plans for gridiron among other desecrations. Slotting home games around them on a pitch that has been defiled the day before is not part of the master plan.

Abramovich loves the club too much to leave Chelsea in the lurch but the days of unlimited largesse – outbidding the rest – are already over. If he can’t come back, its days as a super club might be over too.

It would mean no more silly money – either for players or managers – no more ridiculous payoffs; some seasons in the Europa League and the top four would still be aspired to but not the default setting. It could also mean fewer trophies.

The new stadium? Only he knows. Whatever happens, at least the fans will be able to look back fondly – and even shout about – their “istry”. It wouldn’t be much consolation.

Conte on Chelsea to surprise

IT helps that they don’t like each other. The Special One and the Unappreciated One’s mutual hostility should ensure an appropriately feisty finale to England’s domestic season at tomorrow’s FA Cup final.

For this famous old trophy needs all the assistance it can get these days. Shoved to an after midnight kickoff (in Malaysia) and with not even a place in Europe for winning it, it’s a well-documented shadow of its former self.

This is just one reason no one is trying to hype this into a blockbuster occasion despite the pedigree of the heavyweight contestants. Indeed, both Manchester United and Chelsea are a bit like the Cup – in need of something more than a tin of Brasso to restore their lost lustre.

A curious element to this clash is that although both managers have endured disappointing seasons, one may want to win the thing (and boast about it) more than the other.

Jose Mourinho sees it as a golden opportunity to snare yet another trophy – a fourth in two years by his count, but just a third by anyone else’s. Yep, he includes the Community Shield…

Once a serial collector of high-class silverware, he is becoming more and more like a dodgy antique dealer no longer able to get hold of the genuine stuff. But that hasn’t stopped him from pretending otherwise or hitting below the belt.

Last week he again alluded to Antonio Conte being accused of match-fixing even though the Italian was completely exonerated. It suggests their rift has not been repaired.

Even after conceding the Premier League crown to Manchester City, he oozed defiance: “I know how to win titles, in case some of the new guys don’t know, I won eight championships in four different countries and three in this country. I know why you win and I know why you don’t win.”

This after finishing the length of the Manchester Ship Canal behind City who broke records for fun! It’s not as if he has to win the Cup to save his job, but he will know that only a massive improvement in both the Premier League and Champions League can extend it beyond next season.

For Conte, you feel the gig is up anyway and has been for a while. We may never know who has really been to blame and if we give the manager the benefit of the doubt over incoming transfers, he and he alone sent the fateful text to Diego Costa.

To swap that most awkward of customers, that indomitable powerhouse for the woeful weakling that is Alvaro Morata was probably the single biggest factor in their demise – Chelsea swapped a battering ram for a peashooter.

But the Italian also has to front up for tactics, team selections and substitutions, the last of which are often too little too late. His side for the Huddersfield match is being seen in some quarters as his suicide note; the performance at Newcastle the deed itself. Yet you wonder whether they were necessary.

The turnaround from the all-conquering title-winning first season is still nowhere near as bad as “the Mourinho season” yet still inexplicable with the quality at his disposal.

But given his transformation from manically combative to almost begging for the sack (and the millions in compensation) you feel his fate was sealed early doors.

Still, there have been moments when Chelsea have looked very good indeed: at Atletico and against Barcelona at home they were outstanding and in the league too there were spells when Eden Hazard and Willian looked unstoppable.

All of this suggests that Conte, while losing the boardroom, has not lost the dressing room. No manager who presided over such a brilliant first season in a new league and new country as Conte did can become a mug overnight.

And with the board culpable for much of what went on, he is unlikely to find that his standing has been seriously damaged in the eyes of his many suitors abroad. Indeed, most will shrug and repeat what Hazard said this week, when asked to explain their ups and downs: “This is Chelsea. You never know what you’re going to get.”

Indeed, you wouldn’t put it past them to produce a farewell performance – if that is what it is to be for the manager – worthy of last season when perhaps least expected. They defied most pundits in the 2017 final by failing to show up against Arsenal and it would be entirely in character – and their DNA – to do the opposite this time.

In Olivier Giroud they have found a target man worthy of the name and one that can trouble United’s central defenders. Noises coming out of the Bridge this week suggest that the senior players are up for it and Chelsea like nothing better than being cussed and contrary.

United are favourites mainly because of Mourinho’s record in finals and they also have a few players with something to prove. So there should be no lack of incentive even if one manager just wants to end the season by boosting a flagging reputation and the other just wants the money.

(Bold & Italics) Bob’s latest book, Living the Dream, is available at all leading book stores. Bob will be signing copies at D’Legends, 24, Jalan Datuk Sulaiman, TTDI tomorrow night at the big in-house preview before the FA Cup final.

Fitting finale to mixed bag of a season

NO BANG but lots of interesting noise for our last buck. With precious little at stake, the Premier League season was never going to give us another “Aguero moment” yet still managed an eventful finale.

City reached their century of points with a late intervention from a man called Jesus. Mo Salah took the Golden Boot and ensured Liverpool will be in the Champions League. Spurs won from 4-1 down and Arsene Wenger quipped that he should retire every week!

So, as the sun shone and the goals rained down, what to make of the EPL’s 26th season?

City were simply too good. Too good for the rest as their monopoly of both ball and stats suggests, but too good for their own good at times. And for all their brilliance, they are not yet loved – they have too much money.

Having the most cash and the best coach seems unfair – City getting Pep Guardiola was like the governors of El Dorado hiring Midas.

Success seems inevitable and they appeared to be playing a different game to the rest. Most of their games were too one-sided to be contests – even those they lost.

Yet for all their superiority, the ultimate fantasies eluded them: those of lifting Old Big Ears and the once-in-a-lifetime clinching of the title against their neighbours in front of their own fans.

An inspired Liverpool and a cussed United managed to deny them both but we may never see another season like it – well, until next season perhaps. No one looks like getting close as long as Pep Guardiola stays and a dynasty appears his for the taking.

Still, football being football, you can’t see them having it quite so easy again. Defenders began to stifle them as the season wore on. But it only reduced their winning margins.

Pep predicts that the strongest challenge will come from Liverpool next time around and not just because the Reds beat them three times out of four. And Jurgen Klopp’s squad should be significantly stronger.

The dynamic Naby Keita is already coming but with the Philippe Coutinho money burning a hole in their pockets, expect at least a couple more marquee additions.

Having seen the improvement Virgil van Dijk has brought to the defence, the manager appears as good a judge of a player as he is motivator. Goalkeeper and another centre-back are the main areas of concern, but perhaps another striker is needed. After all, can we expect the magical Mo to score another 44 goals?

If City’s season was ending in anti-climax until Gabriel Jesus brought up the century in such dramatic fashion, Liverpool’s greatest moment may be still to come.

Victory over Real Madrid in Kiev would mark not just a remarkable turnaround in their campaign but would be a major landmark in the history of the club.

Liverpool have nowhere near the financial resources of City’s backers, but are still blessed with a pretty special combination – a similarly inspirational manager and a fan base that makes up for the cash shortfall by being worth their weight in gold.

How Manchester United fans must envy their two closest rivals! They managed to rain on City’s parade and got a win and a draw against Liverpool, but it was another season of dreary under-achievement that not even an FA Cup win over a disintegrating Chelsea would gloss over.

Just how a side that was as bad as any in the league at times managed to finish second is as great a mystery to Devils as it is to the rest of us. The Champions League loss to Seville was as lamentable any by a British club in Europe in living memory.

The recent draw with West Ham, the losses to Brighton and West Brom, earlier ones to Newcastle and Huddersfield, and, let’s face it, even many of their wins were stupefying in their dullness and negativity.

And now with Jose Mourinho publicly shaming several of his squad, only a massive summer spend can give United fans any cause for optimism. At least they know there can’t be another season like this.

With the consensus saying that Arsene Wenger began to lose the plot halfway through his reign at Arsenal, it is looking as if the same thing is happening before our eyes to Mourinho. He was once a great manager but since Inter Milan, his trajectory has been undeniably downward.

He’s caused chaos at Real and Chelsea and now finds himself playing second and third fiddle to Guardiola and Klopp. Not only are they getting more of a tune out of their players, they are playing with that priceless commodity that used to be in United’s DNA. Somewhere along the line, Mourinho left it on a bus.

The London challenge to the northern dominance is likely to depend on the managerial carousel. At Wembley, Mauricio Pochettino punctured the euphoria of a terrific fightback by putting a gun to his chairman’s head.

With Chelsea in disarray and Arsenal at the end of an era, the Cockerel could be throwing away their best chance in half a century to rule the capital’s roost – if they allow the Argentine to go.

He has demanded more money from Daniel Levy for new players, not to mention more wages for existing ones, but there’s no guarantee it will be forthcoming. The cost of the new stadium could do to Spurs what the Emirates did to Arsenal if Levy holds tight.

With Everton having blown their big chance of muscling into the Big Six, the elite will almost certainly be in place next year which presents its own huge problem for the competitiveness of the league.

The new money — both petrodollars and broadcasting — has basically created two divisions within the Premier League with all that that entails for future finances. Another story for another day, but suffice to say this column will be on the front row next season. Pep vs Klopp Round Two should not be missed.

GOOD, BAD, AND UGLY

GOOD – Manchester City

The elation at reaching the century of points was telling. City were in danger of ending their magnificent season in scoreless anticlimax. Until a spot of divine intervention. Pep doesn’t get the credit he deserves – he’s broken every record – points, goals, wins – and won by a street yet some still say it’s all down to money. It’s not. See rich club below.

BAD – Chelsea

Liverpool were more nervous about their last game than they let on. But they need not have been. They could have slipped up against Brighton and still qualified for the Champions League thanks to Chelsea’s abject no-show at Newcastle.

As it was, the Reds won 4-0. Chelsea’s millionaires lost 3-0 to a bunch of bargain buys from Mike Ashley’s sports shop. Shameful!

STUPID – Ernesto Valverde

This is a first. With two games to go to become the first club ever to go through an entire Spanish season unbeaten, the Barcelona boss decides to rest Lionel Messi at lowly Levante.

There was no big Champions League final coming up and the little maestro wasn’t even nursing a knock. What happens?

Little Levante race into a 5-1 lead. Barca hit the panic button and claw back to 5-4.

But without their talisman, they can’t conjure up an equaliser and the shot at history is lost. Senor Valverde has a lot of explaining to do.

Wenger must heed Fergie warning

IN a troubled world, we hardly need reminders about the fragility of life: rolling news has rendered us all but immune to the fallout from daily disasters.

Yet this weekend a retiree in his 77th year suffered an apparent stroke and still managed to cause much of mankind to stop in its tracks. It tells us everything about Alex Ferguson’s status as a seemingly indestructible colossus who transcended football.

He bestrode the game like one. And even in retirement he has been more active, more robust and more driven than many a young turk barely out of the starting blocks.

It is that inner strength, that love of life and that absolute refusal to give up when all seems lost, which gives us hope that he can pull off one more fight back against the odds. Yes, in Fergie time.

It was a weekend of rare poignancy. Also overshadowing some dramatic late twists on the field was the farewell of Arsene Wenger at the house he built. In the event, it was a classy and moving climax to another stellar career.

Typical of the self-effacing Frenchman – and to his immense credit – he did not wallow in the warm glow of a grateful stadium but remembered his erstwhile foe-turned-friend in his hour of greatest need.

You can bet Fergie’s plight is occupying his thoughts just as much as his own future as, like many of the great sporting rivalries, their destinies seem inextricably linked.

Only last week, Wenger’s first domestic away game after announcing his departure was at Old Trafford, of all places, and the then sprightly-looking Scot seized the opportunity to make a heartfelt pre-match tribute.

Ferguson and Wenger, Wenger and Ferguson. It doesn’t matter which way round you say it. Although non-combatants, their names and their rivalry will surely echo down the ages like those other immortal duels in other arenas: Ali-Frazier, Prost-Senna, Coe-Ovett, Borg-McEnroe, Palmer-Nicklaus, Federer-Nadal.

And like the above, what added spice to a genuine toe-to-toe rivalry (for a few years anyway) was the contrast in their characters and styles. Polar opposites in many ways yet equals in manic determination to win. And now, sadly, this will take on added piquancy as Wenger contemplates his next move.

It is an oft-stated fact that the pair’s initial enmity lessened only when Arsenal ceased to be a threat to Manchester United. But just as Fergie eventually prevailed in their hunt for trophies, the Scot was just as clear a winner even after he’d retired.

As decisive as Wenger has been dithering, Fergie quit while he was ahead. He’d just won his 13th Premier League title and launched himself into the last phase of his life as if it was a new career. In contrast, Wenger struggled on, fighting a losing battle as he desperately tried to right a slowly sinking ship.

And now, for all the kind words and gestures, he has been removed against his will with the fans almost unanimous in wishing it had come sooner. The only debate is over when – 2015? 2016? Or even 2010?

By his own admission, retirement scares the Frenchman. “I don’t have horses,” he memorably said, referring to one of Fergie’s myriad interests. Fergie’s bucket list included world travel and visits to sporting and cultural events such as the US Masters, the Melbourne Cup and Hollywood’s Oscars night. He also still made a lucrative living by giving lectures on leadership to places such as Harvard, no less.

For all his devotion to United, Fergie still had a life outside the club and knows far more people and has far more interests than the man who was for so long his rival.

Wenger became obsessed by Arsenal to the point that his wife and daughter left him and went back to France. He called the club “the love of my life” which is why the breaking up has been so hard to do.

Now, he will not be short of offers – top European jobs and perhaps the French national team after the World Cup could be his for the taking. But he has to face one unpalatable fact: has he lost it as a top-flight manager?

The majority of Gooners believe he has – and has for some time – but his famously blinkered vision does not allow him to see evidence that is right in front of him. And now – at least for a while anyway – he won’t have Fergie to tell him a few home truths.

Fergie has been as big a success in retirement as he was in work – and many an old fogey will confirm that it is not a straightforward task. He balanced having fun with a purpose – and enjoyed the best of both worlds.

In contrast, we just know that Wenger will be desperate to find success at another club so he can say to everyone that he can still do it. But if he fails, it is likely to be a sorry denou-ement.

He has hung on far too long at Arsenal and may feel he no longer has the option of quitting while he’s ahead. But if that ship has sailed perhaps Fergie’s plight will remind him that he, too, is a mere mortal.

And when he looks back to his unpromising arrival with those “Arsene Who?” headlines he can reflect on the Invincibles, two doubles and a magnificent addition to the London skyline that he built. Even Fergie doesn’t have that.

Like the rest of us, he has to hope that Fergie recovers well enough to offer advice. If he wants to carry on in management the approach will surely have to be different – he cannot be the great panjandrum and needs a younger second in command who can sort out the defence.

He may be eight years younger than his old foe but the referee in the sky is already looking at his watch. Come on, Arsene – its Wenger time. Sadly, it just doesn’t have the same ring.

*Bob’s latest book, Living the Dream, is available at all major bookstores and Bob will be signing copies at the grand final of Be Bodog’s Best Pundit contest on Sunday May 13 before the Premier League season final games kick off at Rock Bottom, 3 & 5, Jalan Telawi 2, Bangsar Baru, Kuala Lumpur.

** theSundaily and Sunway Lagoon is giving away FREE passes worth RM180 to Sunway Lagoon. For more details, please visit our Facebook page for CONTEST DETAILS

GOOD
Neil Warnock
A record eighth promotion for the manager and his best yet. Cardiff were 33-1 outsiders even to make the play-offs before the season began – and he hasn’t spent much money! But a few shrewd signings, canny tactics and a great team spirit have ensured a return to the Premier League.
BAD
Stoke City
So, we won’t be able to say “can they do it on a wet Wednesday night at Stoke” any more when referring to the ultimate test of a visiting team’s mettle. The Potters were relegated after a 10-year stay when they went down to Crystal Palace. They’ve long since lost their fearsome reputation and neither Tony Pulis nor Paul Lambert could keep them up.
UGLY
El Clasico
It started with Real Madrid’s petty refusal to afford Barca a guard of honour – “because they didn’t give us one,” said the European champions. And went downhill from there. Lots of diving, hassling the referee and general aggro besmirched what is supposed to be a great occasion.
STUPID
VAR again!
Another country, another VAR-CE. The loss of feed at Australia’s grand final prevented the system from being used – just when it was needed. Melbourne Victory’s James Donachie appeared to be in an offside position from a freekick before heading back across goal to set up Kosta Barbarouses’ ninth-minute winner against Newcastle Jets. But officials couldn’t show it so the goal stood. Should be fun at the World Cup.

Reds deserve to be back among royalty

THERE were a few derisive chuckles when the “European Royalty” banners first popped up back in August. After all, Liverpool were suffering the indignity of having to qualify for the group phase and it’s only their second Champions League appearance in eight seasons.

“Typical Scousers,” came the comments from elsewhere. “Getting ahead of themselves.” And it was true, Liverpool were way ahead of even their own estimates just by being in it.

Few at FSG and even on the Kop had predicted top four last season, what more a top two in the next in the great tournament that has come to define this club.

Yet the final in Kiev does feel like a proper royal occasion between two genuine heavyweights – a week after the other one involving a lowly sixth in line for the British throne.

Real Madrid, undisputed kings with a dozen wins already, against Liverpool, bidding for a sixth and outright third place on the pantheon is a mouthwatering climax in so many ways.

No one dispute’s Zinedine Zidane’s claim the competition is in Real’s DNA but so, too, it is for the Reds who have won eight of their 10 semifinals and whose players and fans seem to attach a turbocharger whenever the anthem is played.

All that said, this week’s progress to the final was a bit too frantic to be described as regal. Liverpool’s second leg was more comfortable than the 7-6 aggregate scoreline suggests but not as comfortable as it should have been with a 5-2 lead from the first.

As at Anfield, two late goals gave a false impression – and those eight days ago had given Roma false hope.

What made Liverpool fans nervy was not the strength of the home side’s comeback but their own side’s nerves, natural enough when so tantalisingly close to such a massive prize.

The arrival of Virgil van Dijk has been the anticipated cure for defensive shakiness but mad moments have not been totally eradicated. And fear of an untimely relapse only added to the angst of a strangely fraught build-up. Nope, after all the euphoria the portents for the return were bad enough to cause concern.

It had started before the first leg finished – and from an all-too-familiar source: when Dejan Lovren allowed Edin Dzeko to score, to be precise. The harsh pen awarded against James Milner that followed was bad luck but was enough to bring Roma back to life after the last rites had been given.

Then came the news that Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain would be out for the long-term; then the news about the savage attack on the Liverpool supporter provoked fears among fans travelling to Rome.

The dire draw with Stoke raised fears about a top-four finish and even Mo Salah missed a sitter. Was he distracted by his rights row with the Egyptian FA? If so, it paled to another row that had blown up.

Jurgen Klopp’s trusty right-hand man Zeljko Buvac had gone. Described as “the brain” by his manager, the Bosnian was an ever-present at Klopp’s side for 17 years and the official word was “personal reasons”.

It smacked of a cover-up for a row serious enough to make him quit just when he was needed most.

We wondered just what effect it would have on the players, on Klopp and on the tactics. Then came the news that Buvac could be going to Arsenal!

Whatever the reason, the break-up was the last thing a band of brothers needed on the cusp of making history.

So Klopp was facing his biggest game since arriving at Liverpool – and perhaps his biggest crisis.

Thankfully for Liverpool he did not flinch, did not compromise his beliefs by parking the bus and found the right words to rally the troops. “We’ll fight for our dreams,” was the phrase he coined.

Like the great Bill Shankly before him, he’s an inspirational figure and even if there were moments when Liverpool appeared to be missing their “brain”, they should take nothing from the magnitude of Klopp’s achievement.

Think back to the early encounter with Hoffenheim and how far away Kiev seemed then. Think of those humiliations at Man City and Spurs, the second half collapse in Seville, the sale of Coutinho that was supposed to mean the end of the Fab Four…

Think of the improvements he has wrought among individuals. Andrew Robertson, a £8 million (RM44m) leftback from relegated Hull not deemed ready to even start for three months; the Ox, a revelation from an Arsenal reject; the tyro midfielders Giorginio Wijnaldum, Jordan Henderson and Milner; and the Fab Three, now all-time record scorers in the competition. Just as Liverpool are.

Now only a misfiring Real side stands before them and the supreme accolade. Like Liverpool, the Spaniards weren’t entirely convincing in their semi.

Indeed, Gary Lineker’s old phrase about 22 men kicking a ball around and the Germans ending up winning might have to be changed to Real Madrid instead.

No one knows how they’ve made it to their third final in a row but we know how Liverpool have.

It’s heavy metal, full-throttle football and if Ronaldo & Co were encouraged by wobbles in the Reds’ rearguard, ditto Klopp & Co when looking at them.

Besides being shaky at the back, they have no discernible pattern of play, no real identity.

You fancy Liverpool have the pace and firepower to beat them. Some of the Reds’ players may have been commoners but now no one disputes that the team belong among “European Royalty”.

Bob’s latest book, Living the Dream, is available at all major bookstores and Bob will be signing copies at the Be Bodog’s Best Pundit event at Home & Away, Plaza Crystal Ville Centre, Desa Sri Hartamas tomorrow evening.

If Mo is Messi, Klopp is Shanks

THEY are impossible to imitate: the Argentine “dwarf” genius, who is the greatest club player of all time, and the long-deceased Scottish manager who turned a second-tier club into a global empire.

It is not just the magnitude of their achievements that makes Lionel Messi and Bill Shankly unique, it’s the way they did it: original, idiosyncratic and far-fetched enough to ensure they could never have come out of a factory mould.

So when an Egyptian and a German are suggested as the unlikely replicants, you fear the feelgood factor at Anfield has reached intoxicating levels. Yet such is the impact that both Mo Salah and Jurgen Klopp are making, the comparisons demand scrutiny.

Salah’s left foot certainly bears a resemblance to that of the Barcelona superstar. As we saw against Roma, it has the accuracy of a laser, the delicacy of a heart surgeon and the loft of Phil Mickelson’s lob wedge on a tight green at Augusta.

This season it has brought him more goals than Messi who, while still scoring consistently and a major reason Barca remain unbeaten in La Liga, has not had the impact that Salah has. But then Salah has hit the Premier League like a country-sized asteroid.

Similarly, in guiding Liverpool to the brink of a Champions League final and another almost certain top four finish in the league, Klopp is beginning to emulate the lofty feats of his most celebrated predecessor. And as with Salah and Messi, the stats do scant justice to the affinity in styles.

The Egyptian is rightly being touted as a candidate to break the decade-long Ballon d’Or duopoly of Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. Winning the English Player of the Year award is not often a stepping stone to such global recognition, but he’s probably in pole position.

The World Cup may play a part and with Salah’s Egypt not expected to go any distance, he may be overtaken. But if he can be even half as good again for Liverpool next season, he will surely be in with a shout.

As stunning as his performances have been, they don’t match the sheer scale of his improvement. Even though he got change from £40m (Rm219 million), Liverpool owner John Henry complained that he’d paid too much.

After all, Salah’s record at Roma was decent but well short of sensational and he had been famously cast off by Jose Mourinho at Chelsea. To many observers, he seemed worth a punt as he had pace and goals in him, but even his grandma wouldn’t have said he was world-class.

Enter Klopp. After a few games and a few misses, the misses became less and the goals more. Klopp had worked on his confidence – that and the ideal formation were all that were missing.

Although Salah starts on the right wing, he’s encouraged to cut inside on his favoured left peg. Liverpool’s counter-attacking style opened up the ideal avenues for Salah’s pace to exploit. And with a cooler more confident head, he invariably finishes the job.

It is to Klopp that immense credit has to be given. For having faith in a Premier League reject and giving him the perfect stage on which to perform. And for finding unselfish colleagues who are only too willing to pass to him.

It is the emphasis on the team where the German evokes further comparison with the ethos of the great Shanks. The Scot was not just a father figure to Liverpool, he was a father to generations of players – and you see the paternal instinct in Klopp today.

So many have improved under him and Salah is not the only one who has done so out of all recognition. Almost all of them have from the teenage Trent Alexander-Arnold to the bargain buys Andrew Robertson £8 million (RM44 million) and Loris Karius £4.5 million (RM25 million) to £30 million (RM164 million) somethings, Roberto Firmino and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

Yes, he has bought the world’s most expensive defender in Virgil van Dijk, but what a difference he’s made! And Naby Keita is coming for a not cheap £47million (RM257 million) but it’s this knack of mixing and matching stars, rejects and kids, and creating a great team spirit that bears the Shankly hallmark.

Even with a few expensive recruits, he is relying on his own ability to make up for the shortfall Liverpool have in funding compared to the Manchester and London clubs. Ability to improve and infuse – what coaching is all about when you get down to it.

Salah is the shining example of this but the unfortunate Oxlade-Chamberlain was an excellent example of what careful man-management can do. The midfielder felt he was wasting away at Arsenal.

Some of Shankly’s finest signings were from smaller clubs – Emlyn Hughes from Blackpool, Kevin Keegan and Ray Clemence from Scunthorpe, Ron Yeats from Dundee United. All would become giants.

Klopp recently revealed he spent three hours speaking to Salah – “about life, about the world, family and even about football” before signing him: Shankly also delved into a player’s character.

Where perhaps they are most similar is their charisma. Both have it in spades, have tempers also and kick every ball. They also love a laugh and are pretty decent with words. Klopp may be more profound, Shanks was pure genius.

The two men are Scottish granite and German Emmanthaler in many ways: Klopp, a university-educated liberal man of the world to Shanks, a man of his time Socialist who wasn’t keen on foreigners.

But Shanks was born in 1913 when the world was a very different place. He would have hated much about today’s game – agents, headphones, haircuts, diving – yet his values have never resonated more loudly than in a game that could be about to eat itself.

Klopp, who claims he has “the gene for helping people” and connects with the fans, gets what Shankly created and what Liverpool is all about. And just as Salah is the nearest thing to Messi right now, the German is the nearest thing to Shanks that Liverpool are ever likely to see.

Bob’s latest book, Living the Dream, is available at all major bookstores and Bob will be signing copies at the Be Bodog’s Best Pundit event at the Dugout, Lot G-35, Oasis Village, Retail Mall, Oasis Village, Jln PJU 1A/7A, Ara Damansara on Saturday evening, April 28 after the Liverpool vs Stoke game.

Wen it’s over

ALL things come to an end: empires, geological ages and the reigns of managers with blinkers, deaf ears and skin made of tungsten carbide. Breaking the habit of a lifetime, Arsene Wenger finally saw his coming.

The Frenchman had ignored the rumblings for years and barricaded himself into his own private “Bastille”. Only when he spotted the guillotine in the boardroom did he act.

The phrase “I didn’t see it” may still adorn his tombstone but in the nick of time he has ensured himself a decent sendoff. No matter that he’d overstayed by a decade, it was imperative for both his legacy and Arsenal’s future that the mob were not seen to have the final say on one of the game’s managerial giants.

Sunday’s game against West Ham did not produce the unified bounce the club had hoped Friday’s announcement would engender, but at least there was no booing and the empty seats were not counted in tens of thousands.

A 4-1 win was flattering but it lifts the mood for Thursday’s Europa League clash with Atletico Madrid. That once-derided trophy is now something Arsenal could badly do with winning if they are to attract the kind of manager and players they want.

The ambivalence of the fans contrasted sharply with the unanimity of the media reaction that might have made the board think they’d killed Bambi. Except that they were no dissenting voices as to it being the right decision.

Death, they say, is the ultimate leveller but, in sport, resigning can be a handy substitute. Not only can it bring an immediate halt to criticism, it can turn it into gushing praise.

This is what happened with Wenger, who has often equated retiring from Arsenal to the arrival of the Grim Reaper, and the weekend eulogies amounted to a kind of requiem.

At a stroke, or more precisely, the 115 well-crafted words of his resignation statement, he has gone from being hung from the lampposts back to football’s Mount Rushmore.

He was, of course, already there. He’s been there for more than a decade after dragging English football out of the dark ages and having the audacity and wherewithal to take on and beat — albeit briefly — Alex Ferguson.

The tragedy was that he was chipping away at his own image on that granite outcrop he shared with the Washingtons, Jeffersons and Lincolns of British football – namely, the Shanklys, Cloughs and Fergusons.

Every failure was a chip that disfigured the sculpture, every trophy-less season turning that once-proud head into a gargoyle. And every dud he bought set off a mini-avalanche that threatened to bring down the whole edifice. Even for his critics, it was sad to see.

His first decade compares with any in football history and was more profound than most because of the sheer scale of the challenge and the seismic shift in the game that he brought about.

Convincing Tony Adams to eat broccoli was the first step in a dramatic leap for the English game: for its preparation, conditioning and most of all its thinking. He was ahead of his time which makes it so hard to understand that he then allowed himself to stand still.

He is one of the game’s great Jekyll and Hydes: a visionary with blinkers, an out-of-the-box thinker yet stick-in-the-mud, an eminently reasonable man on other matters yet a hypocrite in the heat of battle.

He railed against the new money coming into the game yet refused to spend the not inconsiderable sums he had. He was still applying the economics he learned at Strasbourg University in a changed world of heady global finance. At times he was applying the economics of Mr Micawber.

When his one-eyed views on penalties saw him rage about a conspiracy against him and his team even the FA were shocked and some said he was losing the plot.

And when he said nothing about his own players blatantly diving, respect for him was seriously eroded. All managers do this but none had ever made such a fuss. It was also a sign the pressure was telling on him and the board saw it.

Chief executive officer Ivan Gazidis began preparing a succession plan. He brought in a chief scout and a football relations manager to relieve Wenger of the burden. He was the master of all he surveyed at Arsenal – from choosing the team to choosing the colour of the curtains in the players’ lounge. He’d become too powerful for the club’s and his own good.

Excluding him from transfer discussions was the signal that he was being eased out. It was a belated awakening by a board that had been content to make a profit for absentee owner Stan Kroenke.

But Arsenal’s steady slide down the table and missing the gravy train of the Champions League was the final straw. Wenger’s going ends an era that began in the most unlikely circumstances. Arsenal fan and Fever Pitch author Nick Hornby recalls the occasion.

“When Bruce Rioch was sacked, one of the papers had three or four names. Venables, Cruyff and then, at the end, Arsène Wenger. I remember thinking as a fan: ‘I bet it’s f***ing Arsène Wenger … trust Arsenal to appoint the one you haven’t heard of.”

Arsenal fans will have to trust the club once more with his successor. And thank the man whom they’d never heard of but will never forget. It’s just a pity he stayed too long. Not even three FA Cups in the last five years can gloss over the drought elsewhere.

Jose Mourinho’s “specialist in failure” jibe is a cruel and outrageous oversimplification, but in that time he certainly hasn’t been a success. It really was a reign of two halves and we should all be grateful that he, too, could see it in the end.

** Bob’s latest book, Living the Dream, is available at all major bookstores and Bob will be signing copies at the Be Bodog’s Best Pundit event at The Dugout, Lot G-35, Oasis Village Retail Mall, Oasis Village, Jln PJU 1A/7A, Ara Damansara on Saturday evening, April 28.

Good, Bad, Ugly and Stupid

GOOD – Mo Salah

Congrats to Mo, the players’ Player of the Season, leading scorer and talisman in Liverpool’s resurgence. Kevin de Bruyne had been the front runner and came a worthy second, but in the end the sheer weight and quality of the Egyptian’s goals won out. And some thought him overpriced at £36.5m!

BAD – Spurs

Alright, Spurs are not bad – they are a very good side in fact – but something is wrong with a team that loses eight cup semifinals in a row. They took the lead on Saturday but bottled it as they did last season against Chelsea. It was enough for Poch to blame himself. But it’s his players – we just hope they don’t all leave now.

UGLY & STUPID – VAR at halftime!

VAR reached a new level of stupidity last week when players were dragged back from the dressing room at halftime for a penalty. The VAR in the Mainz vs Freiburg game insisted on the kick being taken even though the halftime whistle had long gone. It was duly dispatched by Mainz midfielder Pablo di Blasis who said afterwards: “VAR is not football.”

EPoch-making game for Spurs?

AT RISK of sounding quaint and old-fashioned, Saturday night’s FA Cup semifinal between Spurs and Manchester United actually matters.

The shamefully-denigrated old trophy doesn’t seem to these days but this is a clash between a manager with a bus-load of silverware and a young pretender who has yet to win any; between yesterday’s man and the coming man.

Both Jose Mourinho and Mauricio Pochettino could use a win that would see them favourites for the final against either Chelsea or Southampton who meet on Sunday. And both could use the trophy – albeit for very different reasons.

Another pot would be a mere consolation prize for the United boss – and scant consolation at that. But for his opposite number it would mark an overdue breakthrough: for all the praise showered on the Argentinian, his cupboard is still bare.

It is not critical yet, but in a “winning is everything” age, he needs success somewhere to ensure he’s not a nearly man. And to ensure Spurs are not a nearly team.

It’s a decade since their last triumph – a League Cup win under Juande Ramos (remember him?) – and there have been a few more false dawns since. But they’ve never been this close to glory.

Their football is universally acclaimed. They’ve hammered Dortmund and Real Madrid, and held Juventus in Turin. They are doing things the right way. They give kids a chance.

Next season they will have a spanking new stadium that will be the second biggest in the country and bring on new revenue streams. They already have a core of outstanding players. They just need to hold on to them.

Pochettino is seen as the best means of doing this and winning a trophy is the best way of holding on to him. Not that the world’s oldest cup strikes much of a chord with a man brought up in South America.

Its romance is something of a mystery to him and he said this week: “It doesn’t offer a place in the Champions League.” But winning it would be a start – and a reward for their long-suffering fans. Indeed, what better way of ensuring 61,000 sell-outs in the new White Hart Lane.

You get the feeling Poch is trying to build something here – something like a dynasty. Like Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool, only more quietly. Yes, there are similarities in where the two clubs and two managers find themselves.

Neither have sovereign wealth funds behind them but they do have billionaires and they’re trying to bridge the gap with their shrewdness and motivational powers. And so far the players have bought into it.

Harry Kane could double his £100k a week as most players could but they sense they are part of something big. Another trophyless, “nearly” season might persuade a few that they’re never going to make it.

One or two could look to cash in elsewhere as Toby Alderweireld seems destined to do. Even Kane has not ruled out one day going to Real Madrid. Nor, you feel, has Poch.

He’s biding his time while building. Any aspiring Real manager knows they need something to fall back on when the inevitable happens. Sometimes even the Double isn’t enough as Vincente del Bosque discovered.

If Pochettino can establish Spurs as a top four club with a near-permanent place in the Champions League, he will confirm the promise he showed initially at Espanyol and then at Southampton.

Like Klopp, he seems immensely likeable which is not how he first came to our attention. He was the lanky Argentina centre-back who tripped England’s Michael Owen at the 2002 World Cup. David Beckham put away the penalty to win 1-0.

In England it was seen as another example of Argie dirty tricks and that it was the peerless Pierluigi Collina who awarded the kick appeared to remove any doubt. Yet Poch still insists he never touched him and that it was the choirboy-faced Owen, “who jumped like he was in a swimming pool. Come on. I didn’t touch him. I promise you. It’s true.”

He said that when his very own Michael Owen, Dele Alli, was first accused of diving, adding: “I think today football is more global. England is more like European football. Now we have the influence of the Latin people that try to cheat always. Maybe you were more pure 20, 25, 30 years ago. Now you are like us.”

It’s a measure of how the standing of the two has changed in that today we are more likely to believe Poch than Owen, whose stock plummeted when he became a mercenary as well as a diver.

Pochettino will need all his wits about him if he is to prevail against Mourinho who, for all his well-documented woes, does know how to win these things.

Winning the cup would be one more bauble to add to the pair the Portuguese won last season. “Three trophies in two years,” you can hear him say and with a shot at the Community Shield to come!

It’s one reason the cheers would be louder for a Spurs win which, for the respective managers, may have more lasting significance. The FA Cup isn’t going to keep Mourinho at Old Trafford beyond next season – only vast improvements in both Premier League and Champions League can achieve that.

Whereas for Poch it would be a stepping stone, the moment the coming man arrives – and eclipses yesterday’s. And it is not just Real Madrid who have their eyes on him – United do too.

Fergie has sung his praises and even taken him to dinner, and outfoxing the old fox that is the current manager would be a useful audition for the United job too. Who said the FA Cup didn’t matter?

Bob’s latest book, Living the Dream, is available at all major book stores and Bob will be signing copies at D’Legends Bar, 24 Jalan Datuk Sulaiman, TTDI, KL, on Saturday evening, April 21st between the Liverpool vs WBA game and Spurs vs Manchester United FA Cup semifinal.

City set for a blast

A CITY cynic might say: “Typical United! They spoil our party and then hand us the prize when we’re not looking.” Welcome to Manchester.

If that’s a niggardly-neighbour wrap of the previous week, there is a much wider significance.

City’s immediate crowning as Premier League champions reaffirms that those three defeats amounted to a blip and not a derailment. And instead of a sabbatical, all Pep Guardiola needed was a round of golf.

He will be well aware of the portents of being out on a Cheshire course when the deal was sealed. For that is where, 25 years ago, Alex Ferguson found himself when a club member came rushing across a fairway with the news that United had clinched the title to end their 26-year drought.

Sunday’s loss to West Brom was a shock, but their performance suggests the gap between the two Manchester rivals is every bit as wide as 16 points suggests. It’s amazing what dodgy refereeing and bad luck can do and, yes, it was United’s turn to be denied a pen yesterday.

So congratulations to Pep for landing a trophy that, he reckons, is harder to win than the Champions League. Old Big Ears will still be there next year and if he learns as much from this season as he did from the last one, City will surely be serious contenders.

It is almost a decade since City were transformed by the Abu Dhabi billions. Back then, chairman Khaldoon Al-Mubarak uttered these prophetic words: “I think we have a dynasty in the making. The next 10 years there’s going to be a tremendous period for Manchester City and for us. I think we’re going to have a blast doing it.”

Well, they have not disappointed. Three Premier League titles, three League Cups and one FA Cup is a decent enough haul given added lustre by the manner in which it has been achieved.

Even under Roberto Mancini and Manuel Pellegrini, they played attractive, stylish football driven by the power of Yaya Toure and magic of David Silva. Under Pep, marks for artistic impression have gone up several notches.

But to fulfil the ambitions of his paymasters, it is Europe that he has to conquer with City, a prize that has eluded him since his peerless Barcelona team outclassed United at Wembley in 2011.

That was peak Pep and there have been doubts as to whether he can reach those dizzy heights again. But this season represents the establishment of a base camp that looks in need of just a couple more quality additions to make it.

Indeed after this weekend, you’d say that City are an awful lot closer to the summit than United (or Spurs for that matter). Several individual performances against West Brom were a disgrace – and it’s not just this column that thought so.

Paul Pogba was once again the headline act in going from hero to leading zero and getting hooked! He deserves a slap much harder than the one he gave the ball in that shameful attempt to find the net.

From his cameo of last week, he’s back in Instagram mode and Jose Mourinho looked less than impressed by the Hand of Pog. Maybe Mino Raiola should offer him to the NBA!

With only David de Gea looking anywhere near like a United player and youngsters yet again demoted to the bench, there was no surprise in seeing a fire drill well before the end.

Could it be that Jose Mourinho’s pre-match fear about being outspent by City was a case of getting his excuses in early?

United fans admit they need far more new recruits than City and with Arsenal also showing their weaknesses, the 34th round of matches reinforced the view that only Liverpool look like providing City with any competition next season.

Spurs are building slowly but were not in City’s league and with Harry Kane looking like the flak he’s taking for his extra “goal” was weighing him down, they lacked their usual thrust.

If Sergio Aguero stays, all Pep needs is another centreback as there are quibbles about all the incumbents, and a defensive midfielder to help Fernandinho. Attacking left-back Benjamin Mendy will seem like a new player next season and Pep will no doubt work his magic on a few others.

He’s worked wonders with Raheem Sterling but still needs to work a few more – on his finishing. He’s bagged 20 goals but if he’d taken even half his chances, he’d have more than Mo Salah.

City also need a better second keeper than Claudio Bravo. Young loanee Angus Gunn might be ready to be recalled. But with unlimited funds and Pep showing that he learned from the harsh lessons of a disappointing debut season, it is hard not to see City taking more giant strides towards that dynasty.

He needs to rotate a little more and rest the overworked Fernandinho and Kevin de Bruyne to keep them fresh. But the outlook is bright – looking around Europe, even Real Madrid need more new players than City do. The blast is very much on.

GOOD:

Manchester City

It’s easy to say they have the cash but only oiks would dismiss the affect Pep Guardiola has had as well as the brilliance of the likes of David Silva, Kevin de Bruyne, Sergio Aguero and Leroy Sane. They have to be one of the best English champions of modern times and are a delight to watch.

BAD:

Paul Pogba

Mourinho said he could smell a bad performance coming but no one had more of a stinker than the £89 million (RM495 million) man. Last week, briefly, he sparked into life. This week, he didn’t even last an hour. And did a Hand of God impression. Listless didn’t describe his no-show and it is no wonder his agent is hawking him around.

UGLY:

Gigi Buffon

We never thought we’d see the Italian legend (and erstwhile gentleman) here, but his reaction to an excruciatingly-timed but legitimate penalty was way over-the-top. Yes, he deserves sympathy for missing out on a possible CL medal, but there’s a long way to go and it’s no reason to drag the ref’s wife into it. Lucy Oliver, herself a referee, has received death threats. Enough is enough! Come on, Gigi, apologise.

STUPID:

Harry Kane

Against City the Spurs striker played as if something was weighing him down. His conscience maybe? We don’t know the truth but his desperate attempt to claim another goal in the race for the Golden Boot has been successful yet has turned into an own goal in terms of bad publicity. A strand of his hair may or may not have made contact with the ball but at the price of becoming a laughing stock?

Bob’s latest book, Living the Dream, is available at all major book stores and Bob will be signing copies at D’Legends Bar, 24 Jalan Datuk Sulaiman, TTDI, KL, on Saturday evening, April 21st between the Liverpool vs WBA game and Spurs vs Man U FA Cup semifinal.