Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring his  third goal in the World Cup Group B clash with Spain at the Fisht Stadium in Sochi. Photograph: Hannah McKay/Reuters

Portuguese star’s performance was beyond efficiency - it was alchemy

Julen Lopetegui:  he can now look forward to being called a traitor by the half of Spain that is not already laughing at him. Photograph: Emilio Naranjo/EPA

Real mess as Madrid end up with national pariah Julen Lopetegui at the helm

Brazil players celebrate  a goal during their 3-0 victory against Austria in an international friendly   on Sunday  in Vienna. Photograph:   Getty Images

This tournament may be first World Cup in while when pure talent makes the difference

Russian president Vladimir Putin  and then to Fifa president Sepp Blatter during the 2014 World Cup final between Germany and Argentina at the Maracana stadium in Rio. Photograph: Reuters/Dylan Martinez

Suspicions of Russia and its president means Western expectations are very low

  Sergio Ramos celebrates with the trophy after Real Madrid retained  the Champions League with victory over Liverpool in the Olympic Stadium in Kiev. Photograph: Gleb Garanich/Reuters

Salah’s injury and Karius’s disastrous display combine

Mohamed Salah, Dejan Lovren,   Virgil van Dijk and Emre Can of Liverpool during a training session ahead of the Uefa Champions League final against Real Madrid at NSC Olimpiyskiy Stadium in Kiev. Photograph: Michael Regan/Getty Images

Real Madrid may be the best team in the world, but Jürgen Klopp is the best manager

Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah arrives at Kiev in advance of Saturday’s Uefa Champions League final against Real Madrid at the NSC   Olimpiyskiy stadium. Photograph: Armando Babani/EPA

The Ukrainian city is in football mode, but reminders of the violence are always there

Manchester United missed the aerial presence of Romelu Lukaku and Marouane Fellaini in the FA Cup final. Photograph: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

United boss Jose Mourinho blames FA Cup defeat on Lukaku and Fellaini absence

Manchester City’s  manager Pep Guardiola with his goalkeeper Ederson after the match at St Mary’s Stadium. Photograph: Getty Images

Beware of the recent ‘defending your title’ curse, but City’s style means they could soar

Steven Gerrard at Ibrox: Rangers fans are ecstatic that someone with his profile is joining them when other, perhaps better-informed managers have turned them down. Photograph: Ian MacNicol/Getty

Liverpool’s match-winner plumps for possibly the worst opportunity in soccer

 Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger reacts during his team’s match against Manchester United  at Old Trafford on April 29th. Photograph: Nigel Roddis/EPA

Arsene Wenger’s side will get a lesson on what they lack when they face Atlético

Liverpool’s Sadio Mane after missing an early chance at Anfield. Photograph: Peter Byrne/PA

AS Roma’s early confidence rapidly dissolved at Anfield

Arsène Wenger: Match-going Arsenal fans,  paying  the top prices of any club in the world, have increasingly felt ripped off in recent years. Photograph: Toby Melville/Reuters

Club's strict financial model worked well for the manager and board, if not for supporters

Mo Salah: the season’s outstanding player. Photograph: Laurence Griffiths/Getty

De Bruyne’s the better all-rounder, but the Liverpool striker is astonishing

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola is the world’s best-paid manager because he is the only current manager who is commonly said to have changed the way we think about football.  Photograph: Paul Ellis/AFP/Getty Images

City coach’s high-minded approach sets him up for criticism but record speaks for itself

Christian Eriksen celebrates with Dele Alli after scoring their first goal during the English Premier League football match between Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur at Stamford Bridge. Photograph: Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP/Getty Images

Roman Abramovich needs to adopt a new outlook if no longer willing to spend big

The terrible and unnecessary new World Cup ball allows some people to complain about the game’s enslavement to capitalism; others take the chance to reminisce about their own favourite balls of times gone by

The narratives surrounding the country right now leave little room for organisers' attempts at positive spin

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho leaves the pitch alongside Paul Pogba after the FA Cup quarter-final win over Brighton at Old Trafford. Photo: Martin Rickett/PA

Might Lukaku’s good performances have more to do with style than with personal qualities?

Burnley’s English striker Ashley Barnes trips up a pitch invader during the Premier League clash between West Ham United and Burnley at The London Stadium. Photo: Ben Stansall/Getty Images

Disillusioned fans vent ire at rich owners who lack a coherent strategy on the game

Borussia Dortmund: the club aren’t selling half-and-half scarves for their Europa League match against Red Bull Salzburg. Photograph: TF-Images via Getty

Dortmund will not produce half-and-half Red Bull scarves, cash killing Premier League

Jose Mourinho and Antonio Conte shake hands after the Premier League match between Manchester United and Chelsea at Old Trafford on Sunday. Photograph: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Contrast between Lukaku and Morata’s performance was the story of the match

Real Madrid’s  Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates at the end of the last 16  first leg victory over Paris Saint-Germain. Photograph: Christophe Simon/AFP/Getty

Engrained culture of battling for a ‘cause’ familiar to Real Madrid and Barcelona

Jose Mourinho  issues instructions to Paul Pogba during the recent defeat to Tottenham Hotspur. Photograph: Ian Kingston/AFP/Getty

Gifted Frenchman’s natural position is clearly not as a shield in front of back four

Liverpool’s  Georginio Wijnaldum and Virgil van Dijk in action with Tottenham’s Fernando Llorente at Anfield on Sunday. Photograph: Andrew Yates/ Reuters

Klopp and Pochettino disagreed on penalties, but game was example of where top level football is going

 Craig Pawson, match referee, watches the VAR screen before awarding a penalty to Liverpool during The Emirates FA Cup Fourth Round match against West Brom at Anfield. Photograph: Alex Livesey/Getty

NFL system would prevent the new practice from being too finicky and overbearing

 Manchester United manager José Mourinho and Henrikh Mkhitaryan: Despite scoring United’s last goal of the 2017 season as they won the Europa League against Ajax in Stockholm, Mkhitaryan never really seemed to win Mourinho’s trust. Photograph: Jan Kruger/Getty Images

Armenian will thrive at Arsenal while Sánchez can show his creativity at United

Ireland manager Martin O’Neill : “Painful series of bad home performances ended in the disaster of the playoff against Denmark, which was, quite simply, one of the worst defeats in the history of Irish football.” Photograph: Lee Smith/Reuters

Most supporters were happy to draw a line under manager’s time in charge

Barcelona present new signing   Philippe Coutinho. “If Liverpool were prepared to pay their best players more than €20 million a year, as Barcelona and Real Madrid do, then they would find their stars suddenly become resistant to the lure.” Photograph: Albert Gea/Reuters

There was a lot more at stake than a childhood dream in Coutinho’s move to Catalonia

Floyd Mayweather Jr backs Conor McGregor up against the ropes during the 10th round of their fight in Las Vegas. Photograph: Bridget Bennett/The New York Times

Cash is king for the Notorious but he now needs a new dream to chase

Manchester City players celebrate after the fourth goal in their 4-1 Premier League win over Tottenham Hotspur. Photo: Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Pep Guardiola’s side are quickly becoming the best team the league has ever seen

José Mourinho and Pep Guardiola issue instructions to their respective teams during the Manchester derby at Old Trafford. Photograph: Nigel Roddis/EPA

Despite Mourinho’s protestations, City’s clear superiority is now plain for all to see

Construction workers on Khalifa International Stadium ahead of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. Photograph: Warren Little/Getty Images

The Workers’ Cup, a film about the hard lives of stadium labourers, is sad and revealing

Wide strikers such as Mohamed Salah of Liverpool, above, rarely cross and they shoot at goal as often as traditional centre-forwards. Photograph: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

He’s not a winger at all – football terminology needs to catch up with changes in the game

West Brom manager  Tony Pulis during Saturday’s  match  against Chelsea at The Hawthorns.  West Brom lost 4-0. Photograph:   Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

A criticism of the West Brom manager is the way his teams tend to switch off after 40 points

Denmark’s Christian Eriksen  scores his second goal and Denmark’s third during the World Cup playoff second leg against the Republic of Ireland at the Aviva stadium. Photograph:  Aidan Crawley

Irish passion no match for Danish brains as lack of a plan is shown up in Dublin

Wes Hoolahan takes a selfie with a fan after the first leg in Copenhagen. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/ Inpho

Ireland’s most creative player likely to feature against Denmark only if Plan A is failing

Denmark’s Christian Eriksen in action in Saturday’s World Cup play-off first leg match against Ireland in Copenhagen. Photograph: Lars Moeller/Reuters

Everyone knows the top-level football is elsewhere, but it’s not about that anymore

United manager José Mourinho during the match against Chelsea. Photograph: EPA

United surely haven’t spent £322m to be history’s most expensive long-ball team

 Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino: “When he senses the players are getting a little stale, he likes to remind them that they all started playing the sport not for money or fame, but for love.” Photograph: Armando Babani/EPA

Manager just needs trophies now to reinforce the real progress he has made at Tottenham

Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp: “I really don’t want to blame players, and Dejan to be honest was not worse than others.” Photograph: Facundo Arrizabalaga/EPA

The managers showed how to avoid blaming the players while blaming the players

Jose Mourinho: “For me, the second half was a bit of chess, but my opponent didn’t open the door for me to win the game.” Photograph: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Anfield draw exposes gulf between respective managers’ footballing philosophy

Ireland’s David Meyler and James McClean tackle Joe Allen of Wales resulting in  the Welsh midfielder  leaving the pitch through injury in Cardiff. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Martin O’Neill’s side again proved why they are such a hard team to kill off

Martin O’Neill: has managed to coax a big performance from his side on previous occasions when the chips were down. Photograph: John Sibley/Reuters

Republic manager to start with his most physically powerful line-up against Wales

  Callum O’Dowda could become a big player for this team in the near future. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

Callum O’Dowda’s composure could keep James McClean out in Cardiff

Ireland manager Martin O’Neill agreed a new deal to stay on as manager until the 2020 European Championships. Photo: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Striking to hear O’Neill cite the number of season tickets sold during his time in charge

Empty seats: Barcelona played Las Palmas at  Camp Nou, Barcelona, Spain.  Photograph: Reuters/Albert Gea

Many on the board believed it was wrong to play on the day of the Catalan referendum

 Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp celebrates after the victory over Leicester City. Photograph: Darren Staples/Reuters

Liverpool have a better chance of success if they keep taking the game to the opposition

Morgan Schneiderlin, Gylfi Sigurdsson and Kevin Mirallas after losing at Old Trafford. Everton’s new-look attack is dismally short on speed and power. Photograph: Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Filling the void left by a man who scored 40 per cent of their league goals a real problem

 Arsene Wenger: One of the reasons we will miss Wenger when he is gone is that he is one of the only people in football who tries to make connections between what happens in the game and what happens in the rest of the world.  Photograph:  Anthony Devlin/AFP/Getty Images

Arsenal manager looks to have given up the fight in this era of nine figure transfer fees

Wes Hoolahan is replaced by Daryl Murphy as Ireland chase an equaliser against Serbia at the Aviva Stadium. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Hoolahan’s absence felt in final quarter as O’Neill’s men fail to capitalise on red card

Martin O’Neill says the Serbs are technically better than Ireland but that his players will put their “heart and soul” into it. Photograph:  David Mdzinarishvili/Reuters

Ken Early: With a solid game plan, smaller countries can overcome more talented opposition

Harry Arter shoots during Ireland’s match against Austria in Dublin in June. Photograph: Inpho

Arter, Hendrick and McCarthy can form Ireland’s midfield unit for next few seasons

Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich. When an oligarch-owned club like Chelsea sets new benchmarks for fees and wages, the other clubs are forced to “get rich or die trying” if they want to compete. Photograph:  Clive Mason/Getty Images

Most takeovers by wealthy owners end in failure and it simply adds to fans’ alienation

Floyd Mayweather Jr. lands a punch against Conor McGregor during the 10th round of their fight. Mayweather wore down McGregor to set up a punishing end with a 10th-round TKO. Photograph: Bridget Bennett/The New York Times

Even in defeat McGregor will continue to polarise opinion and nowhere more than his homeland

Conor McGregor takes a punch to the face from Floyd Mayweather during their bout in Las Vegas. Photo: John Gurzinski/Getty Images

Dubliner never stood a chance against the master but comes away with $100m in the bank

 Floyd Mayweather  and  Conor McGregor face off during a news conference at the KA Theatre at MGM Grand Hotel & Casino  in Las Vegas ahead of their  super welterweight fight on Saturday. Photograph:   Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Mayweather will try to make his opponent feel lost and lonely in the boxing ring

 Antonio Conte celebrates victory after the Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea at Wembley Stadium yesterday. Photograph:  Justin Setterfield/Getty Images

Current Chelsea manager wants players who are tactically flexible – and he won’t tolerate slacking

Tottenham Hotspur’s Danny Rose: Spurs’ revenues have increased by 50 per cent, thanks to the efforts of players like Rose, but very little of this increase has been passed on to the players. Photograph:  John Walton/PA Wire.

This is the premiership, not ‘Oliver Twist’, and Rose was right to ask for more money

Paris Saint-Germain’s Brazilian forward Neymar arrives on the pitch during his presentation to the fans at the Parc des Princes stadium. Photograph:  Alain Jocardalain/AFP/Getty Images

Brazilian not moving to PSG for the challenge – money remains his bottom line

Hitting the ground: Robbie Brady and Martin Hinteregger in Sunday’s World Cup qualifier between Ireland and Austria. Photograph: Aidan Crawley/EPA Ireland’s Robbie Brady is tackled by Austria’s Martin Hinterregger during the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifier. Photo: Aidan crawley/EPA

Ireland struggled to get going in a game they would have been expecting to win at home

Jon Walters scored a peach and then missed a golden opportunity in Ireland’s friendly win over Uruguay. Photograph: Ian Walton/Getty

Aviva treated to a fun evening as Martin O’Neill’s men warm-up nicely for Austria

 Manchester United’s  Paul Pogba and Ajax Amsterdam’s Hakim Ziyech vie for the ball during the Uefa Europa League final  at the Friends Arena in Stockholm. Photograph: Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP/Getty Images

Criticism of Paul Pogba ignores context – no one can run the game in Mourinho’s United

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho leads the celebrations after the Europa League win over Ajax  celebrate winning the Europa League at the  Friends Arena in Stockholm. Photograph:  Andrew Couldridge/Reuters/Livepic

Jose Mourinho’s side back in Champions League after win over Ajax in Stockholm

Wayne Rooney stands with his Manchester United team-mates as they observe a minute’s silence yesterday for the victims of Monday night’s terror attack at the Ariana Grande concert in Manchester.  Photograph: Paul Ellis/AFP/Getty Images

Game takes on symbolic and emotional importance for Manchester United players

Arsène Wenger: as the years passed some fans would shout at Wenger to “spend some f*cking money”. You don’t hear that any more because Wenger does spend money now. Photograph: Clive Mason/Getty Images

There has always been a clear time to say goodbye even for the best managers

Football agent Mino Raiola made €49 million from the transfer of Paul Pogba to Manchester United. Photo: Getty Images

Mino Raiola made €49 million from Paul Pogba’s transfer due to inconsistent system

Liverpool fans hold up a banner with Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn before the game against Southampton. Photograph:  Phil Noble/Reuters

Shankly’s club along with the rest of the Premier League are the ultimate neoliberalists

Joey Barton has been banned for 18 months for breaking the English FA’s rules on gambling. Photograph: Martin Rickett/PA

Banned Burnley midfielder right to highlight the link between the media and gambling

Kyle Walker and Christian Eriksen applaud the Tottenham fans at Wembley. Photograph: Andy Rain/EPA

Being praised will be no consolation to Tottenham if they keep missing out on trophies

Chelsea manager Antonio Conte and Manchester United manager José Mourinho during the Premier League match at Old Trafford. Photograph: Nick Potts/PA Wire

Manchester United manager’s tactics were once again devoted to nullifying opposition

Lilian Thuram holds up the Euro 2000 trophy two years after  he and his team-mates won the  World Cup for France, a victory that was portrayed in the media as white, black and brown Frenchmen coming together to conquer the world. Photograph: Philippe Huguen/AFP/Getty Images

Racial unity symbolised by France’s World Cup winners did not survive in post-9/11 world

Sócrates: “I never think about what might happen tomorrow, man, never”

Brazil captain was a self-styled free spirit who fell victim to his own contradictions

Everton’s Ross Barkley pleads his innocence after committing a dangerous foul on Liverpool’s Dejan Lovren at Anfield. Photograph: Phil Noble/Reuters

Everton manager’s comments on Ross Barkley reflect reality of Premier League football

 Aiden McGeady battles for the ball with Iceland’s  Aron Einar Gunnarsson during the friendly international at the Aviva Stadium. Photograph:  Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Martin O’Neill knows he will need his frontliners back for Austria qualifier

Republic of Ireland’s Seamus Coleman holds his shattered leg after a reckless challenge by Wales’s Neil Taylor at the Aviva Stadium. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Referee did not send off Bale because he would have been accused of ruining the game

Protesters on their way to Trump Tower: understanding the past, writes Timothy Snyder, gives us the chance “to be responsible: not for everything, but for something”. Photograph: Michael Nigro/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty

American democracy is in crisis, and Timothy Snyder’s book is a call to fight back

Wales’ Gareth Bale is booked by referee Nicola Rizzoli after a tackle on  Ireland’s John O’Shea during the World Cup qualifier at the Aviva Stadium. Photograph:  Matthew Childs/Action Images via Reuters

Referee Nicola Rizzoli could also have sent off Gareth Bale for tackle on John O’Shea

Wales player Gareth Bale in action during a Wales open training session ahead of their World Cup Qualifier against the Republic of Ireland. Photograph: Stu Forster/Getty Images

Not a personality leader, but it’s obvious he really cares about playing for his country

All grown up: Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola praised some of Liverpool’s players as “outstanding”. Photograph: Paul Ellis/AFP/Getty Images

Dignified, sophisticated play in Man City v Liverpool light years ahead of United’s form

Deportivo La Coruna’s  goalkeeper Germán Dario Lux punches clear in  his side’s victory over  Barcelona on Sunday. Photograph:  Miguel Riopa/AFP/Getty

Barcelona will be lucky to meet another team that self-destructs like Paris Saint-Germain did

Arsenal’s Alexis Sanchez warms up during the English Premier League match at Liverpool on Saturday. Photograph: EPA.

Arsène Wenger dropping his lead striker at Liverpool is not giving off a good impression

Manchester United’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic celebrates opening the scoring yesterday: Few players in English football can match his presence and his competitive temperament. Photograph: Glyn Kirk/AFP/Getty Images

For many years, Zlatan and English football regarded each other with mutual scorn

If Andres Iniesta had spent his career in teams that required him to run 50 metres on a regular basis, most of us would never have heard of him. Photograph: Christian Hartmann/Reuters

Coach’s system was brutally exposed as world-class individuals were overrun in Paris

Leicester’s Jamie Vardy has failed to replicate last season’s form  . Photograph: Stu Forster/Getty Images

Ranieri had best team last season, not the best players – this time he has neither

Chelsea’s Marcos Alonso scores at Stamford Bridge on Saturday, heading into the net after he elbowed Arsenal’s Héctor Bellerín in the jaw as the two players vied for a loose ball. Photograph: Clive Rose/Getty Images

Arsenal fans endure the widest gap between what they want and what they have

 Wycombe Wanderers’ Garry Thompson celebrates scoring his side’s third goal against Tottenham at White Hart Lane in the FA Cup fourth round. Photograph:  Darren Staples/Reuters

Premier League has become so rich that domestic cups have shrunk into irrelevance

After the game  Guardiola and Pochettino were  invited to give their views on the   pivotal refereeing decision. They said the same thing, but in very different ways. Photograph: Andrew Yates Livepic/Reuters

Most managers would have looked to shut Spurs down; Pep decided to try to outplay them

Manchester United manager José Mourinho talks to Marouane Fellaini ahead of his introduction  in the game against Liverpool yesterday. Photograph: Martin Rickett/PA Wire.

For all talk of United’s return to former style, in crunch manager opts for brawn over skill

Fifa president Gianni Infantino: His original idea was to expand from 32 to 40 teams, but since then he has decided that 48 teams would work even better. Photograph: Roman Kruchinin/AFP/Getty Images

Mourinho’s reasons for backing 2026 Fifa plans reveal true status of international game

 Georginio Wijnaldum’s spectacular headed  goal against Manchester City was the most visual illustration so far of the positive impact he has had on Jurgen Klopp’s side. Photograph: Carl Recine/Reuters

Liverpool manager has transformed a number of players who struggled under Rodgers

 Euro 2016  final: Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo kisses the trophy on the pitch. Photograph: Reuters/Christian Hartmann

Sports Review of 2016: Ken Early looks back at the major failings of Euro 2016

Arsene Wenger and Pep Guardiola: Losing is especially problematic for a clever-clogs foreigner like Guardiola in tired-of-experts Brexit Britain. Photograph: Carl Recine Livepic via Reuters

Yet again the Arsenal manager blamed the referee, but his men were simply outplayed

Tottenham Hotspur’s Harry Kane in possession  during his side’s clash with Manchester United yesterday. Photograph: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

Tottenham Hotspur play with great intensity but there’s a problem: team has only one gear

Pep Guardiola: The Manchester City manager reacts to a play during Saturday’s Premier League match against Chelsea.  Photograph: Reuters/Phil Noble Livepic

Pep spurns idea that Premier League is tougher than others, but player quality is an issue

Rainbow flags were carried out at every Premier League match this weekend, the team captains wore rainbow armbands, and the referees wore rainbow laces

Premier League’s support for LGBT community ran into predictable opposition

Wayne Rooney: turned into a national laughing stock simply for doing what millions of others do every weekend. Photograph:  Richard Heathcote/Getty

England striker has been in the stocks for daring to insult the holy ideal of hard work

Republic of Ireland goalscorer James McClean battles with Austria’s Marko Arnautovic at the Ernst-Happel Stadium, Vienna, Austria, during their World Cup Qualifying Group D encounter on Saturday night. Photograph: leonhard foeger/reuters

West Brom player knows now he is good enough for the top level, he has proven it

Ireland’s Seamus Colman celebrates with James McClean after beating Austria in their 2018 World Cup qualifier in Vienna. Photo: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Under Martin O’Neill there is a steely determination and a willingness to hang in there

 Roberto Firmino celebrates scoring Liverpool’s  fourth goal against Watford at Anfield. Photograph: Dave Howarth/PA Wire.

Should Anfield club sustain current scoring rate, they will win the Premier League title

Manchester United manager José Mourinho during Saturday’s 0-0 draw with Burnley at Old Trafford. Photograph: PA.

Basic formula that brought success in the past has been ousted by newer methods

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