All in the Game



Pele now not convinced about Neymar

It’s less than a year ago that (Brazilian) Pele declared that (Brazilian) Neymar was a better player than (Argentinian) Lionel Messi: “Now everyone is talking about Messi, he is a star. But [to be the best ever] he must first become better than Neymar – at the moment Messi is just more experienced.”

That, need it be said, drew guffaws from (Argentinian) Diego Maradona: “My God, that is just stupid. Maybe Neymar is the best player in the world, but only if you say that Messi is from a different planet.” Well, Pele seems to be having his doubts now, not about the 21-year-old’s ability, more about his priorities and failure, thus far, to do the business on the international stage.

“On the national team he is a ordinary player, whenever he plays outside Brazil he doesn’t do well,” he said, reckoning Neymar isn’t coping with the expectations placed on him. And: “He cares more about appearing in the media than to play for the team . . . his greatest concern is to change his haircut.”

Neymar’s agent, Wagner Ribeiro, naturally enough, wasn’t best pleased with the remarks. “He should look after his grandchildren instead of talking about Neymar. It is jealousy,” he said. “If Pele played nowadays, he would be inferior to Neymar. In his time, all the defenders were slow and the fitness levels were not the same.” All of which makes the timing of the March edition of Time magazine kinda quirky – the cover: “Neymar – The Next Pele.”

If the price is right

It seemed like a nice enough story, Wayne Rooney getting involved in an auction for a Danish children’s charity by designing a motorbike – well, to be exact, he autographed his shirt, that was painted on the petrol tank and, presumably, gave the okay for 22 diamonds to be placed on the bike’s shift rod, whatever that is.

In the end, the bike was bought by an anonymous bidder who paid, as the BBC site put it, “a whopping £43,250!”

But? David Hills in yesterday’s Observer: “The uncustomised bike’s retail value: £56,000.”


The week in words

“I’m not Arsene Wenger. We’re different. I want to win.”

– Roberto Mancini. Ooooh.

“You don’t improve [as a player] if you have a manager saying ‘Aah, don’t worry, you made a mistake but it doesn’t matter’.”

– Mancini again, sending more love to Wenger.

“****ng hell!”

– And Mancini yet again, this time demonstrating his English fluency upon being asked if he’d be sacked in the summer. (“I beeping hope so,” you’d imagine Wenger might say).

“I regret not being mature earlier . . . perhaps I would be like Messi today. But I’ve still got time, I can catch him up.”

– Newcastle’s Hatem Ben Arfa would want to get a move on – he’ll be 26 in a fortnight.

“I’d have to say Robin . . . as much of a good footballer as he is, he’s definitely not the brightest off the pitch and it’s just easy to get to him.”

– Wayne Rooney doffs his cap to van Persie on being asked which team-mate is the easiest target of his pranks.

“I ask myself why they get given to me. No doubt it’s because I am not someone who can pass by unnoticed. I am tall, and my hairstyle is easily recognised.”

– Everton’s Marouane Fellaini

explaining why he gets so many yellow cards. It’s his hair do.

Desperate Dan loses out

Phone-in Exchange of the Week – on BBC Radio Coventry Warwickshire, after Coventry’s game away to Crewe Alexandra: Angry Coventry supporter Dan: “I never saw that result coming tonight! 0-0?! I thought we’d at least win 1-0 or 2-0, give us something to cheer about!”

Host: “Dan? Dan? Dan? Dan?”

Dan: “We didn’t even get a goal!”

Host: “Dan? Dan? Dan? Dan?”

Dan: “What?”

Host: “We won 2-0.”


Dan: “What?”

Dan, as the Coventry Telegraph explained, “left the game a few minutes early because he wanted to miss the traffic and get a kebab on the way home” – and Coventry scored twice.

“He will be the subject of a chant at tomorrow’s game,” they said: “Stand up if you’re leaving, Dan.”

Poor lad. (Search for “Crewe 0-2 Coventry: Dan Rings Up CWR” on YouTube and you’ll hear the full exchange in all its glory.)

Fenerbahce fans have the last say

Most Resourceful Fans of the Week: That’d be the Fenerbahce-loving bunch who were locked outside the stadium for their Europa League game against BATE Borisov, punishment for flares being thrown on the pitch during a game in December – but still managed to, well, land a flare on the pitch.


With the help of a little parachute, of course.

A surface-to-air-to-surface missile, if you like.

The banner they had left draped from the stands read: “As if we were here.” They weren’t wrong.

Number of the week


That’s how many senior appearances Ryan Giggs has now made. Put it this way, the newer Welsh-wizard-with-a-useful-left-foot, Gareth Bale, was one and three quarters when Giggs made his debut in 1991.

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