Unless you were lucky enough or old enough to be around when the English football team last won something (1966, I’ve been told) you’ve probably not enjoyed an international week as much as the last seven days.
Unless you’ve been living under the sand or a big rock, England are in the Euro 2020 semi-final and will play the Danes at Wembley on Wednesday. The winners of that one get to play Spain or Italy in the Final. And to get this far, Gareth Southgate’s boys have turned Germany over 2-0 and then strolled to a 4-0 win over Ukraine in Rome on Saturday night.
England strolling to a 4-0 win in a major quarter-final. It was possibly the most surreal non-English footballing moment in my life – I recall us making life unnecessarily tricky against Cameroon in 1990. I remember us being dire against Spain in 96. I started drinking by the time we were in other last eights and all the failures blur into one to be honest. Yes, we beat Sweden easily enough in 2018, but this was something else.
Harry Kane, fresh from doing one thing right against Germany (that being scoring) was in the goals again. Goals from set-pieces made a welcome return, Harry Maguire moving his opponent out of the way like a Dad joining in under 10s training. That supposedly dodgy backline with an unreliable goalie kept a record-breaking 5th clean sheet in a row. Luke Shaw owned the stadium that Jose Mourinho will be in situ at next season. And even Jordan Henderson scored.
Southgate made the big calls again – picking Declan Rice and Kalvin Phillips despite them being on yellow cards. They both came through unscathed (though Rice was nearly strangled by Kane) and even rested for the latter periods. He gave Jadon Sancho his first start of the competition – it’s amazing what a big move to Manchester United can do for you, immediately an England starter once again.
It was all rather easy and composed – so much so, the German referee decided to ignore the fact six or seven subs had been made in the second half and called time on Ukraine’s punishment the moment the clock hit 90.
And so, to Wembley. One thing is for sure – it won’t be the same XI again. The days of ‘not changing a winning team’ belong in the bin with all the usual baggage that England carry in these tournaments.
Whilst everything is feeling a bit too sensible, a bit too good with the England team you can rely on the Premier League to add a bit of circus to the ring.
Tottenham, having burned through 15 options, returned to number four on the original list and appointed Nuno. There were the usual press announcement platitudes about “the man to lead us forward” and “the best candidate” but Daniel Levy cannot convince anyone that the ex-Wolves man was his preferred candidate. Connor Coady won’t mind, though – he’s immediately being linked to Spurs and is probably badgering Kane into not wanting to leave as we speak.
Espirito Santo has been told Kane will not be sold without his blessing – that sounds a bit like Levy telling Nuno he was the one to me.
Spurs have also offered Bologna a wedge of cash for Japan defender Takehiro Tomiyasu who has also attracted interest from Manchester United – though you suspect United might be in that one for the shirt sales in the Land of the Rising Sun.
Credit to the Everton board – they refused to back down to the bullies and went and appointed Rafa Benitez anyway. Rafa’s already attempted to placate the fans who seem to think their club is far too good to take on someone who has won a Champions League elsewhere (even if it was just down the road). If you’re lucky Toffees, this one might not want to disappear to La Liga at the first possible opportunity. Will you love him then?
Rafa’s already looking to improve the squad – he wants to beat Arsenal to the £50m signing of Brighton defender Ben White, 23. Arsenal have had two bids turned down and people are urging White to wait for a big club to come in – which, I presume, rules out the Ev.
We all learned the identity of the new Crystal Palace manager when the new Crystal Palace manager accidentally announced himself as the new Crystal Palace manager on Twitter before the club had officially announced their new manager – good work, Patrick Vieira. Something tells me this might end in tears. Whether that is sooner than Frank de Boer’s reign at Selhurst or not remains to be seen.
On the transfer front, United won’t be signing Sergio Ramos (as they’ve been saying all along) as he is off to PSG. They have finally put an end to the Sancho farce by getting him sorted for €75m or so – the only catch being a few other loose ends needing to be tied up. This one isn’t over, is it?
They’d also like a new number 9 and after searching high and low across the world have settled on Everton’s Dominic Calvert-Lewin as their ideal fit. Seriously, that new expensive scouting department is earning its corn, isn’t it?
United are willing to let Donny van de Beek leave the club this summer if anyone is interested in rescuing him off the scrap heap – there’s interest from Real Madrid, who want to take him on loan which might then grease the wheels for Varane to come to Old Trafford.
Real Madrid have entered the race to sign Portugal full-back Diogo Dalot. AC Milan are already in talks over a permanent deal for the right-back, so that’s two fairly sizeable European clubs that see something United do not.
Massimiliano Allegri has demanded Juventus re-sign Paul Pogba. Come on Senor Allegri, we haven’t got time for this one again, even if Pogba’s contract is up in 2022.
Declan Rice isn’t doing a very convincing impression of someone who wants to lead David Moyes’ West Ham campaign next season, turning down two improved contract offers and requesting he be kept in the loop of any interest from Chelsea, Man City or United.
Liverpool are monitoring Brighton’s Yves Bissouma and Ajax’s Ryan Gravenberch as they look to fill a Gini Wijnaldum sized hole in their midfield this summer.
If that doesn’t work, Klopp’s weighing up a move for Atletico Madrid midfielder Saul Niguez who fancies a crack at the Premier League life (and wages, no doubt).
Renato Sanches is back on everyone’s radar including Liverpool’s and also happens to be a central midfielder – but Liverpool could face competition from Arsenal. I know, stop giggling.
Arsenal need to spend more time focussing on getting Willian off their wage bill but the crazy money they are paying him is making him hard to shift – especially given that Willian doesn’t really fancy taking a pay cut elsewhere, even to Beckham’s Inter Miami.
Not content with being linked to one recently relegated England backup goalkeeper, Arsenal are ready to consider a move for West Brom’s Sam Johnstone if a deal for Sheffield United’s Aaron Ramsdale cannot be sorted. Neither of them are Emi Martinez though, are they?
Matteo Guendouzi s closing in on a move to Marseille with the Ligue 1 club also expected to complete a deal for Gunners defender William Saliba – meaning the central defender will go down in club history as the most-talked-about player never to have actually plated for the club.
One thing that might happen for the Gunners is Benfica’s 21-year-old Portuguese left-back Nuno Tavares, who is close to signing, apparently. Emphasis on the apparently, there. New Sheffield United gaffer Slavisa Jokanovic says he will try to convince 23-year-old Norway midfielder Sander Berge to stay put and not join anyone else – and yes, Arsenal have been linked to him as well. Mind you, so have Liverpool, as he is a central midfielder.