Who’d be a Newcastle fan? Having seen their club endure 12 years of mostly downward drift under the stewardship of spivvy blowhard billionaire Mike Ashley, a month ago they found themselves daring to dream as news broke of yet another potential takeover. And not just any potential takeover – oh no! This one was being spearheaded by an apparently ambitious sheikh whose family is purported to be worth around £150bn. While it is easy to understand the unbridled optimism of Geordies absolutely desperate to rid their club of an owner with no apparent interest in owning their club, neutrals could be forgiven for smirking knowingly at preposterously premature, euphoric talk of what kind of bells and whistles the club would employ when the time came to “Announce Mbappé!”
Whatever about talk of takeovers – as many as three different ones are currently progressing with glacier-like speed – on Monday a more monotonously predictable announcement was made by Newcastle, who confirmed the worst fears of supporters by releasing a statement saying that manager and firm fan favourite Rafael Benítez will not be renewing his contract when it expires on Sunday. “We have worked hard to extend Rafa’s contract over a significant period of time,” parped a statement, referring to the tireless efforts they put into reportedly offering him a one-year deal on no extra money, with precisely no additional assurances that he would be given funds to improve the team.
Hoping for a Ronaldo but now unlikely to even hold on to a Rondón, Newcastle fans are understandably enraged by the latest act of inertia by a bawdy banter-merchant whose enthusiasm for challenging insubordinates to drinking contests and subsequently chundering his guts up into pub fireplaces outweighs his desire to propel Newcastle up the Premier League table. Ashley is 54 years old.
With one of the best managers Newcastle have ever had in demand by Chinese club Dalian Yifang, whose owner has offered to double his wages, Benítez will be OK, but what the future holds for Newcastle’s long-suffering supporters remains unclear. The Fiver’s predicting more misery, more uncertainty and some big decisions to be made as the deadline looms for season ticket renewals. To pick a random animal, you can only punch a police horse so often before it rears up and lashes back in anger and even the patience of some of the most devoted fans in England must be wearing gossamer thin. In the meantime, whoever runs the Netflix Twitter account had some sage advice for Geordies in need of a pick-me-up on yet another gloomy day in their recent history. “If there’s any Newcastle fans who want cheering up,” they said, “here’s a quick reminder that Sunderland Til I Die is still streaming on Netflix UK and Ireland.”
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QUOTE OF THE DAY
“I don’t think I’ll ever play in another game like that” – England’s Jill Scott keeps it simple when trying to sum up the mind-bogglingly chaotic scenes during England’s 3-0 World Cup win over Cameroon.
“Re nominative determinism: a good spot by Robert Heath re Bonsegundo. In the early days of Pan American Airways (PanAm) they only had a single route (between Key West, Florida and Havana, Cuba). PanAm’s chief suit’s name was Juan Trippe” – Mark Robinson.
“Occasionally I notice in your screed that there is a Stop Football movement in England. No further effort needed. VAR is doing it for you” – Dale Chase.
“How did we manage to go through Van Gaal’s wonderful young generation of Ajax players in the mid-90s, his painfully dysfunctional years at Barcelona (largely with the same Ajax players) and the astonishingly dull Manchester United years without knowing that his name isn’t actually Louis, it is Aloysius Paulus (the article is in Spanish but it’s in the first line of the piece under the picture). He should be a Caesar (imperial Roman leader not dog food) with that name” – Noble Francis.
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NEWS, BITS AND BOBS
England fans have told how they were escorted from the ground following the 3-0 defeat of Cameroon after tensions flared in the crowd.
Like Whitney Houston before her, Marta believes the children are our future. Well, Brazil’s future, to be precise. “Women’s football depends on you to survive – value it more!” she roared after Brazil’s 2-1 defeat by France. “We’re asking for support … there’s not going to be a Formiga forever, there’s not going to be a Marta forever.”
Ed the Red has rustled up a bit more cash and tabled an improved offer for Aaron Wan-Bissaka, meaning suits from Manchester United and Crystal Palace will meet to fine-tune a deal to take the full-back to Old Trafford.
Mallorca have been promoted to La Liga by beating Deportivo de La Coruña 3-2 on aggregate in a play-off. And no, not even The Fiver’s siesta-taking, castanet-clacking Spanish cousin Juan Miguel Manuel Ole! Ole! Ole! Fiver knows why it was played yonks after the season ended.
Argentina are into the Copa América quarter-finals after a Sergio Agüero-inspired 2-0 defeat of South American heavyweights … oh, Qatar.
And Maurizio Sarri has had a pop at (not so) Big Paper. “The English media is made up of big newspapers and then the tabloids on an inferior level,” he swiped. “It fortifies you but what disappointed me was that in Italy people only reported the attacks of the tabloids and not the more prestigious and reliable newspapers like The Times.”
STILL WANT MORE?
England proved their appetite for the fight against Cameroon but Norway will have seen enough to be optimistic for the quarter-final, so says Louise Taylor.
The Indomitable Lionesses’ childish antics undid their positive work in the group stage in emphatic fashion, according to Suzanne Wrack.
Super-Mr 20% Mino Raiola is a player’s dream and a manager’s nightmare, writes Richard Williams.
Jacob Steinberg reckons Manchester United’s fruitless search for a director of football means players are thinking twice about taking Ed the Red’s millions.
Six Months after South Africa won the 1996 Rugby World Cup on home soil they repeated the trick at the Africa Cup of Nations. Ian Hawkey has the lowdown.
Mauritania make their Afcon debut on Monday night, only seven years after they were ranked the fourth worst team in the world. Paul Doyle tells the story of a desert football revolution.
Oh, and if you like your Rumour Mill shocking how about Gigi Buffon to Nasty Leeds.
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