The Fiver | Not so much a popularity contest as an unpopularity one

The Fiver | Not so much a popularity contest as an unpopularity one

THE MAGIC OF BIG CUP

Having left it late to beat one plucky continental underdog in the form of Atalanta last week, the imperial Qatari state-funded sports empire that is Paris Saint-Germain will have to see off another if they are reach the final of this year’s Big Cup and ultimately achieve their ambition of singular rule over every football club on the continent. Languishing in the German fifth tier just over 10 years ago, the club formerly known as SSV Markranstädt’s rapid ascent to the status of Big Cup semi-finalists has been as heartwarming as it has been remarkable … if hosing hundreds of millions of quid at a team in order to plaster it with the livery of a pungent, sickly-sweet energy drink empire is your idea of what constitutes a footballing fairytale. And to think some people think the magic of the Expedia Group Gazprom Heineken Mastercard Nissan Pepsico Santander Sony Big Cup is dead.

Of course, The Fiver is not gullible enough to be influenced by tacky advertising, even if while labouring to come up with an analogy to describe the clash between Leipzig and PSG, the image of a giant red bull going head to head against an identical giant red bull in front of a golden sunset kept springing to mind. Not so much a popularity contest as an unpopularity one, neutrals across the continent are still struggling to decide which of these inorganic, artificially constructed behemoths they would rather see lose more. And while the imaginary jury inside The Fiver’s head remains resolutely deadlocked, its foreman has at least sent a note out to the imaginary judge to say that while all 12 members find both teams thoroughly objectionable, another failure to reach the final for the PSG Globetrotters would be funnier.

Tuesday’s semi-final also constitutes a reunion for the opposing German managers Thomas Tuchel and Julian Nagelsmann, the former having given the latter his start in the coaching ranks by sending him on scouting sorties when he was perma-knacked as a player during their days at comparatively impoverished German club Augsburg. “I could not imagine that 12 years after coaching him I would be going up against him in the semi-final,” said sorcerer Tuchel of his apprentice. “We did not have enough staff and as he was injured we asked him to do some scouting. It was afterwards at Munich that he began to become a coach with the youth teams. It is incredible to play a [Big Cup] semi-final against Julian.”

In a previous job with Hoffenheim, the appointment of Nagelsmann was famously laughed off by one less-than-prescient German media commentator as “a PR stunt” but having proved his managerial chops, he is now – like his former mentor – extremely highly regarded and in charge of one instead. This big game may promise all the romance of a drunken post-pub knee-trembler up against a bus shelter, but only one of the parties involved will wake up on Wednesday with feelings of regret.

LIVE ON BIG WEBSITE!

Join Paul Doyle from 8pm BST for hot MBM coverage of RB Leipzig 1-2 PSG in Big Cup’s semi-finals.

QUOTE OF THE DAY

“During our meeting on the Côte d’Azur, he left an impression of a relaxed, somewhat mysterious person. He wasn’t beating around the bush and said: ‘We know you are a quality player. I’d like you to sign for Chelsea.’ I had come to his yacht to talk, so it was evident I wished the same. I had three successful seasons at Tottenham behind me … My feeling was that it was time for a move – I wanted to fight for trophies and win titles, and I felt this wouldn’t happen if I stayed at Tottenham. I wanted to move to a more ambitious club” – Luka Modric recounts his secret meeting with Roman Abramovich in an extract from his new book.

RECOMMENDED LOOKING

It’s only David Squires on the wild week of Euro-ball that was. And you can get your very own copy here.

Wunderbar.

RECOMMENDED LISTENING

Here’s the latest Football Weekly podcast for your aural pleasure.

Football Weekly

Barcelona blues, the Sevilla League and Pep’s overthinking

Sorry your browser does not support audio – but you can download here and listen https://audio.guim.co.uk/2020/08/17-55031-gnl.fw.20200817.ms.barca_blues.mp3

00:00:00

00:42:47

FIVER LETTERS

“Tonight sees a Big Cup semi-final occurring at the same time as the qualifying round for the next one. We came close this year but more than ever before we must STOP FOOTBALL” – Simon Riley.

“So, naked football (yesterday’s Quote of the Day) is all about eschewing commercialisation, is it? In the accompanying photo my eyes were (thankfully) immediately drawn to boots sporting both Adidas and Nike logos. Rather touchingly they seemed to be almost caressing at what I imagine was the toss. I saw those as a wonderful advert for corporate co-operation” – John Myles (and 1,056 others).

“I never knew how much I loved rampant commercialisation until I discovered what authenticity looks like” – JW Taylor.

“Should naked football take off in other countries resulting in an international tournament, could we see the revival of a certain mascot?” – Richard Prangle.

Send your letters to [email protected]. And you can always tweet The Fiver via @guardian_sport. Today’s winner of our prizeless letter o’the day is … JW Taylor.

NEWS, BITS AND BOBS

Ligue 1’s triumphant return has been delayed after the opening fixture between Marseille and St Etienne, due to take place on Friday, was called off after three L’OM players tested positive for coronavirus during their training camp.

Rio Ferdinand has been banned from driving for six months after admitting a speeding charge.

Lazio head honcho Igli Tare is feeling properly funky about David Silva choosing to sign for Real Sociedad rather than the Italians. “I have great respect for the player, but not for the man,” he fumed.

Eric Abidal is out, out, out at Barcelona as sporting director, with Ronald Koeman closing on the gig as manager.

A big deal: Rose Lavelle has joined Manchester City.

Joe Hart has signed a two-year deal with Tottenham after leaving Burnley. “I am here to try and push the club forward,” he parped. Speaking of former Manchester City keepers, Claudio Bravo has departed the club, leaving behind some fine memories of watching the team win things from the bench.

Big Joe in Enfield.

And the draw for the Milk Cup has been made! Norwich will face Luton, Sunderland host Hull, while Harrogate play Tranmere among the first-round dates.

STILL WANT MORE?

Get in the mood for the first men’s Big Cup semi-final by letting Paul Doyle explain why Dayot Upamecano is so ruddy good, but is facing such a big task.

Moritz Volz European champion? The former Fulham right-back is Julien Nagelsmann’s right-hand man and is helping to plot PSG’s downfall. Nick Ames had a good old natter with him.

Our Women’s Big Cup last-eight team guides now include Barcelona and Bayern Munich.

Jamie Jackson explains why Manchester United are facing a crucial transfer window.

Will Unwin spoke to Michael Ngoo about how injury affected the former Liverpool striker’s mental health.

Oh, and if it’s your thing … you can follow Big Website on Big Social FaceSpace. And INSTACHAT, TOO!

RECOMMENDED SIGNING