All in the Game: Spalletti unbowed by grand theft Panda

Bordeaux centre-half denies causing stink in dressing room; Pep has dig at Liverpool

QUOTE

“I wouldn’t recognise him if I saw him.”

Roy Hodgson salutes the man who is replacing him as Watford manager – *checks notes* Rob Edwards from Forest Green Rovers.

NUMBER: 86

That's how many goals Erling Haaland scored for Borussia Dortmund in 89 games, his last coming on Saturday before his move to Manchester City. Reasonable.

Missing Panda

It was back in October that Luciano Spalletti's car was stolen from outside the Naples hotel he'd been living in. Sad, although the fact that his motor of choice was a Fiat Panda and not, say, a Ferrari or Lamborghini, was very cute.

There hasn’t been a sign of the vehicle since, but it’s possible that the mystery of its disappearance has now been solved.

After his Napoli side's title challenge fizzled out, a section of the club's supporters decided that they'd very much like him to vacate the gaffer's seat. So, they hung a banner beside the stadium last week that read: "Spalletti, we'll give you back your Panda as long as you leave! [Signed] The Thieves."

It was the mother of all confessions, but Spalletti responded quite elegantly to the blackmail. “First of all, we have to see what condition the Panda will be returned in, how many kilometres it has travelled, whether there are Pino Daniele CDs still inside. We’ll evaluate when that happens,” he said.

Is he leaving? Is he heck. “I received a quote for a camper van and next year I will tour the neighbourhood every month so I can attend all the local festivals.” Defiant, that man. You just hope he invests in a top-of-the-range anti-theft device for his new motor.

Word of Mouth

"The fact that there can be an offside by 5mm is still an issue for me. You are penalised if you have a big nose or big feet." Uefa president Aleksandr Ceferin on VAR discriminating against big nosed/footed players when it comes to marginal offside decisions.

"They have an incredible history behind them in European competitions. But not in the Premier League, because they've won one in 30 years." Pep Guardiola miaowing just a bit when addressing the subject of Liverpool.

"Unstoppable, brilliant, awesome, outstanding, perfect." Guardiola again, this time underplaying Kevin de Bruyne's four-goal display against Wolves last week.

"What you believe is not evidence. You may believe Derby County will win the Premiership in two years' time, but it does not mean they are going to do it." Rebekah Vardy's lawyer Hugh Tomlinson going in two-footed on Coleen Rooney whose husband's Derby side have just been relegated to League One, so are severely unlikely to be winning the Premier League in 24 months.

Naughty but Nice

You'll recall the gut-wrenching fate of Emiliano Sala, the Argentinian player who died when the plane carrying him to Cardiff back in 2019, after the Welsh club had signed him from Nantes, crashed in to the English Channel.

To this day, Nantes fans salute his memory in the ninth minute of games, nine being the shirt number he wore when playing for them.

Last week, though, a section of Nice fans, during their game against St Etienne, opted to chant: “He’s an Argentine who cannot swim, Emiliano under water.”

The response of Nice coach Christophe Galtier said it all. "I have no words to describe what we heard. If they're coming to insult the dead, then they can stay at home. We often say that what we see in stadiums is a reflection of society. If that's what our society is, we are really in the shit."

Breaking bad

The most disappointing denial of the week: Bordeaux's Brazilian centre-half Marcelo Antonio Guedes Filho after a L'Équipe story on the termination of his contract by Lyon back in January.

“Thanks to L’Équipe, after a long time, I have come back to Twitter to deny all the allegations,” he wrote. “Journalism nowadays is a joke!”

What did they claim? That Lyon dumped him partly because he repeatedly farted during a team talk following a shock defeat by Angers, prompting his team-mates to giggle uncontrollably, thereby diminishing the solemnity of the situation.

If this ends up in court, entertainment-wise, it might just put the Wagatha Christie case (aka The Scouse Trap) in the ha’penny place.