European elites are terrified of upstarts like Tottenham and Ajax 

Ajax were last in the Champions League
's final four in 1997; Tottenham in its European Cup equivalent in 1962.
Yet marvellous surprises like this are why Juventus
want to turn the greatest club competition in the world into a moribund closed shop. They're terrified. Frightened that they're not good enough and that money can't always buy success.
The Juventus team eliminated by Ajax on Tuesday included Cristiano Ronaldo
, the player acquired for £100m plus £12m in add-ons, specifically to deliver this trophy. That must be galling.
No wonder Juventus, and their president Andrea Agnelli, want to leave nothing to chance in future. No wonder in his brave new world in which the past trumps the present, clubs like Tottenham and Ajax may not be admitted at all.
Ajax have a wonderful history but haven't been among Europe's elite for many decades now. 
In 1997, having sold the majority of their Champions League winning team, they lost their semi-final to Juventus, 6-2 on aggregate. One quarter-final appearance in 2003 aside, they haven't been near since. 
Dutch football does not generate the money to mix with Europe's super elite these days and Ajax have to rely on the fruits of their youth policy. As Manchester United know, it is a strategy that will produce sporadically. 
This is the first young Ajax team capable of thriving at this level in more than 20 years and the interim period has seen the club unable to get into the Champions League or much beyond its group stage. 
If European football was reimagined the Juventus way – with guaranteed places for the wealthiest and biggest – there is no guarantee Ajax would be among the lucky few granted a permanent ticket.
Tottenham, equally so. They might have one of the finest stadiums in Europe, but there will only be room for so many platinum club members in this proposed carve-up and, in England, they all play in red. 
It is the blue teams – Chelsea, Manchester City, Tottenham – that Juventus fear, coming in, taking what is rightfully theirs. 
Tottenham have even been omitted from some of the clandestine meetings of elite Premier League clubs. The last thing these self-appointed kings of Europe want is new blood. 
It is why David Gill grafts so hard at UEFA to undermine Manchester City. They are all worried men. Worried that their own club isn't good enough. Worried they have bought the wrong players, picked the wrong manager. 
Worried that they aren't smart enough to survive on their wits alone. That is the root of their lousy protectionism; not respect for tradition or financial fair play.
Unsurprisingly, the clubs that have turned their domestic league into one-horse races were undone in Europe. Weeks without real competition turned them soft. 
Bayern Munich were dismal against Liverpool, in the last 16; Juventus, on the brink of an eighth straight title, could not handle a young, creative Ajax side. 
Yet they want it all ways. They wish to make their leagues a cakewalk, without risking the inevitable consequences in Europe.
They want to make the Champions League equally uncompetitive, with the same clubs returning to play the same fixtures, over and over until everything that is great about the competition is lost. 
That Tottenham are in their first semi-final in 57 years should be applauded, welcomed, celebrated. That they did it by overcoming a Manchester City team with considerably greater resources should be a delight.
And while the established elite will no doubt relish City's elimination, they won't enjoy the emergence of Tottenham, or the resurgence of Ajax. These are their feeder clubs, the ones who make or nurture talent, for it to be picked off. 
Ajax match-winner Matthijs de Ligt and his team-mate Frenkie De Jong are already on their way to Barcelona this summer. Real Madrid's recent Champions League success was aided by two former Tottenham players: Luka Modric and Gareth Bale. 
In this new European order every club knows it place, and that place will be cast in stone. The Champions League will not be for the likes of Leicester, no matter what they achieve domestically. 
And while we may see Juventus' exit as a grand come-uppance, no doubt in a backroom somewhere, scared men are scheming to make sure it can never, ever, happen again. 
Easy money in the Real world 
Real Madrid are said to be closing in on moves for Paul Pogba and Eden Hazard in what has been tagged 'a dream double swoop'. 
That's if your dream is to pay around £500,000-a-week for a player who could not get near anyone in Barcelona's midfield on Tuesday, and roughly the same again for another who is absolutely brilliant, every other year. 
There's a big flaw in your plan, Troy 
Troy Deeney left the field cursing. The red card shown him by referee Craig Pawson after 11 minutes was 'f****** embarrassing' he claimed. Indeed it was, but not in the way he imagined. Deeney long ago revealed his strategy against Arsenal. 
'Whenever I play them I think, 'Let me whack the first one and see who wants it',' he said in 2017 after a very physical Watford side won 2-1 in a league match. 
So Deeney whacked Arsenal midfielder Lucas Torreira, and it turned out it was Pawson and his assistants who wanted it, swiftly ending his participation. 
By any interpretation of the rules, giving someone a whack is illegal. Announcing the intention in advance is daft. And failing to connect the two and the potential consequence is f****** embarrassing. 
Is Wayne as daft as he seems? 
It must be terrible around the Hennessey household whenever repeats of Fawlty Towers are on. 
There's Basil, goose-stepping through the restaurant in front of his German guests, sides are splitting all over the place, and in the middle of it, poor Wayne Hennessey utterly confused by what is unfolding. 
'Why are you all laughing?' he no doubt asks. 'And why is the man walking like that? Why has he got his finger under his nose? He is clearly mentally unstable. This isn't funny. He needs clinical assistance and perhaps serious psycho-analysis, not your thoughtless mockery.'
Hennessey, you see, has no knowledge of Adolf Hitler and the Third Reich; or at least that's what he told the Football Association commission that cleared him of making a Nazi salute at a social gathering for Crystal Palace players. 
And the commission believed him. Indeed, they were so convinced of Hennessey's ignorance, so willing to buy the stereotype of the thick footballer, they set it down in their condescending report.
'Mr Hennessey categorically denied he was giving a Nazi salute,' the commission explained. 'Indeed, from the outset he said that he did not even know what one was. Improbable as that may seem to those of an older generation, we do not reject that assertion as untrue. 
'When cross-examined Mr Hennessey displayed a very considerable – one might even say lamentable – degree of ignorance about anything to do with Hitler, fascism and the Nazi regime. 
'Regrettable though it may be that anyone should be unaware of so important a part of our own and world history, all we would say is Mr Hennessey would be well advised to familiarise himself with events which continue to have great significance to those who live in a free country.'
Look, there are some thick footballers out there, just as there are thick people in every profession, even thick lawyers: but they've all heard of the Nazis. 
Hennessy should never have been charged anyway, for what was a daft joke made when a German colleague was giving a speech; but considering the sensitivity of the times, he was very fortunate to meet a commission so gullible about the intelligence of footballers.
How do you think that cross-examination ended, by the way? Maybe like the last scene of The Usual Suspects with Hennessey walking from the interview room before, out of sight of his inquisitors, his stride gradually widens, until he is goose-stepping down Wembley Way before raising a straight right arm, putting his index finger under his nose and howling with laughter at the brilliant minds he'd strung along. 
Jordan watch pays off for Klopp 
Maurizio Sarri said he was too busy to watch all of Callum Hudson-Odoi's England debut. Jurgen Klopp tuned in for Jordan Henderson, though – and what he learned may yet drive Liverpool over the finishing line at home, or even in Europe.
When Henderson joined up with England in mid-March he did so having last scored for Liverpool on September 23, 2017 against Leicester. 
More damningly, he had not been credited with the assisting pass for a goal all season. Henderson would say privately that this was not his fault. 
He was detailed for a specific role by Klopp and was not given the freedom to get in a position to influence the attacking side of the game. That is not how he plays for his country. 
Pleased by the influence he had on forward play across two matches that brought 10 goals against Czech Republic and Montenegro, Henderson went to see Klopp on his return. 
He said he thought he could give more to the team, if allowed forward, with Fabinho the padlock behind him. And because Klopp had bothered to watch his player in action for England, he agreed.
Henderson now has a goal and three assists for Liverpool in recent matches and is looking increasingly vital as the title race reaches the home straight. 
Players can't be bought outside the transfer window, but Henderson is having the impact of a new signing. And all because Klopp watched England and was receptive to ideas other than his own. 
Trouble only an error away for Hughton 
There are many, very plausible, explanations for why Brighton now find themselves in a desperate battle against relegation. Chris Hughton has done a fine job there, but he knows the limitations of his squad, and his tactics are often a hard watch. 
Brighton's players are sent out to doggedly resist, not entertain, and playing negatively is never much fun. 
As happened to Tony Pulis at Stoke, after a while, players tire of the strategy and Hughton's seem to have deserted him late in the season. To win the Brighton way takes work and once commitment drops, results can quickly nosedive, too.
So that's the logical explanation; but here's another. They're Brighton. And being Brighton, like being Burnley, or Huddersfield, or Cardiff, or Bournemouth, everything has to be right or else they're in trouble. 
There are six clubs that right now seem insured against relegation, and the rest have to get it spot on. A spate of injuries, the sale of a good player, bad buys and, yes, an absence of faith in the manager, and the season can quickly fall apart. 
Southampton sold one too many and were in trouble. Fulham bought badly and fell apart. It can happen to anyone, even Leicester, even Wolves, even clubs that are seen as success stories now could be in entirely different positions next season, as happened to Burnley. 
So there are many good reasons why Brighton are falling but the biggest one will never allow them peace of mind.
Thank heavens for 'dinosaurs' 
Thankfully, Martin Glenn will not be able to torch 155 years of history in his final act as Football Association chief executive. 
His plan to rebrand the organisation as the English FA has been suspended after a backlash from members of the FA board. The same people blocked Glenn's other grand design, selling Wembley. 
They get painted as dinosaurs, these guys, but rather them than a corporate executive passing through, seeking to put his mark on a big idea as a means of gaining lucrative future employment. 
Adam Crozier did very well out of being the man who appointed England's first foreign manager. Whether it was good for the English game is another matter.
Jimmy Shan will now be West Bromwich Albion manager until the end of the season. He took over as caretaker after the sacking of Darren Moore, who had Albion in fourth place, nine points off automatic promotion. 
Under Shan, West Brom have risen to the dizzying heights of fourth, nine points off automatic promotion. 
Shan, however, has taken 12 of 18 points from meetings with Swansea, Brentford, Birmingham, Millwall, Bristol City and Preston – as opposed to the 14 gleaned by Moore in the same fixtures. 
Would Moore have got West Brom up via the play-offs this season? We will never know. What we do know is that West Brom's management strategies are as unfathomable as ever. 
Mateo Kovacic, his future at Chelsea uncertain, has opened talks with Zenit St Petersburg. This is truly terrible news. Who will come off for Ross Barkley in the 67th minute now?   

No comments found