GIVEMESPORT Awards #25: Lionel Messi, European Super League and Neymar among winners

  • Kobe Tong
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Florentino Perez couldn't read a room if it was serialised into children's novels.

Well, you'd be forgiven for thinking that when the Real Madrid giant declared that the creation of a European Super League was responding to the wishes of billions of football fans around the world.

Perez told Marca in woefully tone-deaf fashion: "Football is the only global sport in the world with more than four billion fans and it is our responsibility as a big club to respond to the wishes of the fans."

European Super League

Let's just say that it's a good job Perez doesn't have a Twitter account because the sporting coup d'etat of an exclusive footballing league of European's elite has gone down like a lead balloon.

It's a betrayal of the fans, first and foremost - the very four billion fans that Perez thought would be kissing his feet - by chainsawing the connection between football's richest and football's realest.

To create a stumbling Frankenstein's monster of a competition - bubble-wrapped and kevlar-strapped without relegations - is a knee-high, two-footed slide tackle into everything that gives football its charm, grounding and sparkle.

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A damning concept for football

Jettisoned are European Cup winners like Celtic, Marseille, Benfica and Ajax for a conglomerate featuring Champions League-less Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur and Atletico Madrid stitched together by bulging bank accounts.

At least Manchester United and Liverpool have enjoyed a decorated European history, but at what greater expense than the utter debasing of admirable rhetorics like 'The Theatre of Dreams'?

Just when it seemed as though the money-sucking hoover of the footballing elite was satiated in its gluttony and greed, they shove the nozzle down the throats of football fans to try and snatch the game’s soul to boot.

Sigh.

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The footballing world stands firm

But what we can at least take stock from is the fact that countless figures in the footballing world from Sir Alex Ferguson to Gary Neville have stood tall against the new initiative: willing the cash cow into a lamb to slaughter.

The scandal-ladened UEFA and FIFA are by no means saints, but at least they have placed value on the competition that makes football, football - threatening potentially sport-altering punishments to the new faction's breakaway.

And if there are any positives that I can fish out of the witches' cauldron around which football's elite stands, then it's the fact that, at least for now, the GIVEMESPORT Awards has no Super League action to humour.

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GIVEMESPORT Awards

The shenanigans and whimsy of everything from managerial innuendos to Sunday League madness remain plugged into the true footballing zeitgeist we all love. So, go on, take your anger out on all of this by giving it a read:

Goal of the week

Lionel Messi vs Athletic Bilbao

Any other week and FC Porto's Mehdi Taremi would have ran away with this award for his stunning bicycle kick against Chelsea, but I'm afraid there's just no competing with the GOAT when he's firing on all cylinders.

Running the length of the pitch in the Copa del Rey final, firing a brace of one-twos to Frenkie de Jong along the way, Messi showed incredible composure to cap one of the finest solo goals of his career. Stunning.

Player of the week

Neymar

I hear your protests, I do, but anyone who watched Neymar tearing Bayern Munich to shreds in mid-week will know that the PSG star produced one of the greatest non-goal performances of the modern era.

Therefore, while he might have been suspended for the Saint-Étienne win, his Paris masterclass was still enough to oust Kylian Mbappe, Erling Braut Haaland, Dayot Upamecano and Ángel Correa in a difficult week to call.

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Manager of the week

Julen Lopetegui

Again, we'll be honest here, there hasn't necessarily been a clear winner over the last seven days and everyone from Ronald Koeman to Thomas Tuchel and Mauricio Pochettino to Gian Piero Gasperini could easily have won.

But we're tipping our hat to Lopetegui for the underrated job he's doing to maintain Sevilla's course as outside contenders for the La Liga title, securing crucial away wins at Celta Viga and Real Sociedad this week.

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Game of the week

Cagliari 4-3 Parma

Are you the 1999 Champions League final in disguise? Ok, this relegation slugfest in Serie A might not have carried the same stakes as United's historic win in Barcelona, but boy were their conclusions similar.

With Parma leading 3-2 in stoppage time, Cagliari pulled off an astonishing comeback courtesy of goals from Gastón Pereiro and Alberto Cerri, sparking wild celebrations at the Sardegna Arena.

Outrageous skill of the week

Barcelona's 60-pass move

Not every outrageous skill is the type you get on FIFA Street, so Marcus Rashford, Neymar and Mason Mount will have to settle for runner-up spots as we instead reward Barcelona's superb team football.

That's because the Blaugrana gave their fans an unerring reminder of the Pep Guardiola days by teeing up Messi's second goal in the Copa del Rey final with a mesmerising two-minute passing move.

Fallon d'Floor

Tanguy Ndombele vs Everton

Don't get me wrong, it's not as though Ben Godfrey didn't even touch Tottenham's record signing, but we're at an absolute loss as to how an arm above the chest could elicit this sort of reaction.

Not only did Ndombele go down like a sack of bricks and proceed to roll around like the pitch was lava, but he made extra sure that this week's Fallon d'Floor was headed his way with the most theatrical of screams.

Strangest punditry of the week

Rafael van der Vaart on Timo Werner

You only have to ask Harry Maguire to know that Van der Vaart loves to verbally savage footballers and Werner was the latest player to feel his wrath when he explained his opinion that Hakim Ziyech should start ahead of the German. 

Take it away, Rafa: "Timo Werner is super fast, and maybe that is something good to have in an away game when Chelsea are under pressure, but all he does is put his head down and run, which leads to nothing.

"Mount is a terrific footballer, and I think he can get even better as he gains some power, but Werner is truly a blind horse. He already showed that's what he's like when he played in Germany - and he's doing it again now."

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Disasterclass of the week

The European Super League

I might as well just put 'see intro' here because I like to think the collective disdain for the European Super League is pretty clear at this point, so dumping them in our 'Disasterclass of the week' award is the least we can do.

From Ed Woodward being slammed as a 'snake' to players potentially facing FIFA World Cup bans and Premier League sides risking relegation to the fifth tier, the farcical nature of the situation speaks for itself.

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Tweet of the week

Tottenham responding to Dulux

Anyhow, back to the lighter side of the sport because Tottenham found themselves in bother long before their European breakaway, bizarrely receiving abuse about their trophy record from their own sponsor.

However, credit to Spurs' social media team because by the time Dulux apologised for their strange tweeting spree, they were on hand to turn things around with the sort of dad joke that I live and die by.

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Craziest bet of the week

Snoop Dogg calling out Dana White

Ok, forgive me, this has absolutely nothing to do with football, but I feel confident that a superstar rapper demanding millions of dollars after a fight between a YouTuber and former MMA star qualifies as a crazy bet.

Moments after Jake Paul flattened Ben Askren with a brutal knockout punch, everybody's favourite JustEat ambassador claimed that the UFC president owed him $2 million, shouting: "Where's my money at?"

Sunday League award

Colombian team fields seven players

Colombian top-flight side Rionegro Aguilas suffered the fate of many Sunday League teams, albeit under wildly different circumstances, last week by way of having to play a game with insufficient players.

With injuries and a COVID-19 outbreak ruling out 22 first-team stars, they named a seven-man side in a 3-2-1 formation against Boyaca Chico with the game eventually being called off due to an Aguilas injury.

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S***housery award

Natiya Pantsulaya vs Northern Ireland

Is s***housery even the right word for this?! Well, either way, it was tough to ignore Pantsulaya producing one of the most brazen tackles we've seen in a long time as Northern Ireland qualified for Euro 2022.

With Sarah McFadden played clear through on goal in the 87th minute, Pantsulaya sacrificed what looked to be a clear advantage in their footrace to make a beeline for her rival and pick up a straight red card for the resulting foul.

The Roy Keane award

Nani's new haircut

More than a few things have ticked off Keane this week from Arsenal's display against Fulham to Micah Richards, well, existing, but we all know that the Irishman hates nothing more than a flamboyant haircut.

So, close your eyes and join me in imagining the shattered pottery and X-rated rants when the United icon saw the trim that Nani was sporting on Orlando City duties. It doesn't bear thinking about.

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Urban Dictionary of the week

Word: choupomoting (adjective)

Definition: Delivers against all the odds despite looking completely out of their depth

In a sentence: I've never met somebody more choupomoting than my mate Keith, I'll tell you that for free. I don't have the slightest clue how he managed to win Mastermind on the back of absolutely no revision and looking as though he was going to have a meltdown backstage. But I tell you what, there's something about the big stage that just brings out the best in him.

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Managerial innuendo of the week

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

"He can go inside or outside and score, so he went outside. Today he goes inside and scores."

So, basically, wherever he goes, he scores. Dang, he's like the human Tinder.

TV Burp award

Most well-dressed-as-though-they're-actually-real-Barcelona-players photoshoot with Lionel Messi of the week

Come on, lads, it's not as though you get to sit with him in the dressing room every single day. Actually, who am I kidding? I'd be asking for different angles, filters and everything.

A farewell warning

Thanks for reading, one and all; I hope my rantings and ravings on the European Super League didn't leave you despairing too much at the state of the sport we love.

Besides, through all the minutiae, small print and clandestine meetings, what ultimately makes this brazen power grab such a betrayal of football is the blatant disregard for the fact that - shock horror - it's a sport.

Has football really dived so deep into Scrooge McDuck's pool of gold coins that it can no longer see the springboard from which it lept? The everyday, working-class, escapism foundation upon which football stands? 

Because the last time that I checked, sport was about competition, sport was about everyone being given the chance to compete, sport was about David vs Goliath stories, sport was about fair play and sport was about, erm, sportsmanship.

But alas, the footballing bigwigs seem to view sport as a segregated, otherly limb that merely extends a rotten olive branch of five-ever changing spots to those not rich enough for admission.

Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe I'm old-fashioned. Maybe there will be unseen positives. Maybe they'll make alterations. Maybe this splurge of cash really will benefit football at every level. But by goodness, you'll forgive me for suspecting otherwise at this point. 

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For when the death knells ring for the beautiful game, it's christened a hideous one.

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