If you couldn’t watch the Europa League final between Sevilla and Roma, then you should count yourself fortunate. It was a nasty, bitter and forgettable excursion, blighted by fouls and time-wasting, that should make anyone connected with it ashamed, apart from the doughty English referee Anthony Taylor, who had a fairly good game. But for the players, 13 of whom were booked; the managers, especially José Mourinho, who had a shocker, shouting and cursing at all the officials; and Uefa itself, which did nothing to protect Taylor from being abused by a foul-mouthed mob who hurled a chair at him as he prepared to leave with his family from Budapest airport.
It is blindingly obvious that players and managers behaving like monsters to each other and to officials encourages thugs in the crowd to ape them. How to stop this shameful show? The suited nonentities of organisations like Uefa as well as national associations and the clubs themselves should come down harder. It is time for managers to be more seriously disciplined for their players’ bad behaviour if the game is ever going to wipe out unacceptable time-wasting, simulation and cheating. Then it falls to managers to tell their players to just cut it out or they will get banned themselves.
The poison of the Roma game mustn’t detract from the march of Manchester City to what could be their own European triumph this weekend in Istanbul – though anyone who thinks Inter will be a pushover should have a care: they won seven of their last eight Serie A games as well as picking up the Italian Cup. The extra-ordinary range of talent in Guardiola’s team, and the beauty of their play, has transformed all but the most blinkered fan’s expectations of the game.
How does Pep do it? Well, there’s pots of cash of course, not forgetting his tactical brilliance, acute managerial skills for each individual player as well as the team, hyper-intelligence, his reputation as a major player himself, and the outstanding support staff.