Why I’d like Klopp to go out on top


Why I’d like Klopp to go out on top

The English Premier League really is the most competitive and spectacular of all the soccer leagues in the whole wide world, writes LOUIS DE VILLIERS.


DECADES ago, a relatively elderly British Airways nurse prescribed a nasty anti-malarial medication for me. As my Cambodia holiday progressed, I soon began to realise how the well-meaning auntie had completely screwed it up.

Oooh heck, why not. Just scold me. Jello, I deserve it. It's Friday and autumn after all:

Lees hierdie artikel in Afrikaans:

In the end I was nowhere near any malaria mosquitoes and the pills had the nasty side-effects of making me very weepy, killing my tolerance for alcohol and frying me lobster pink if I ventured into the sunshine.

All I needed for a tropical vacation with a beloved ex.

One night in Sihanoukville, I went to pee with my bright red mug, all heated up after three measly beers, when out of the blue I started sobbing over a friend who had just passed away unexpectedly. The other men at the wall cringed and disappeared; they thought I was slobbering because West Ham were getting hammered on the bar TV.

I shrugged and started laughing.


The whole of Southeast Asia, like most of the planet, had by then  tuned into the English Premier League — The Best, Coolest, Most Action-packed Football Tournament In The Whole World Ever™ — as Old Man Murdoch's Sky TV peddled the action.

That slogan was largely nonsense. The Italian Serie A was much more impressive at the time and Spain's La Liga Primera was about to take over from it.

Some 10 years later, when Lionel Messi had turned the world upside down once again, Sky “expert" Andy Gray mused aloud that the Argentinian magician would definitely not be able to do what he did on a cold, wet Tuesday night at Stoke City.

I suspect he unintentionally made a billion people laugh.


But you can only fart against thunder so many times and finally I have to give up — the English Premier League is indeed the most competitive and spectacular of all the football leagues in the whole wide world these days.

With 10 games to go, Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester City are all in with a realistic chance of winning the league, and there is so much money in the Premier League these days that any of the super clubs might just come a cropper, not over a weekend but on a cold, wet Tuesday night at, umm — OK, probably not Stoke.


When the Premier League broke away from the national English football body in 1992, its biggest enthusiasts could hardly have foreseen this success.

From a relatively struggling, isolated football power with too much history, a decaying empire and tough-as-nails, often unskilled drunks who kicked each other into purple patches at the weekends, where “tactics" were little green and orange peppermints you bought at airports, it has progressed to something where things do actually happen these days.


It is ironic and instructive that two of the English national team's most important assets, Jude Bellingham and Harry Kane, earn their living in Europe, at Real Madrid and Bayern Munich respectively,

Ironic because the Premier League is now full of world-class players. And half of them are English.

Instructive in the sense that those kings of Spain and Germany had traditionally looked down on the products of English youth coaching, and English players were quite nervous about places without Marmite or HP Sauce.

Nowadays they have not been frightened to death by overseas teams for a long time.

Kane and Bellingham, with the aid of other homegrown young Englishmen such as Bukayo Saka (Arsenal), Phil Foden (Manchester City) and Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool), have a solid chance of helping England to their first continental title later this year.


To such an extent that yours truly even checked out some betting figures. Too late, alas — England are already co-favourites (with France) to win the Euros in July in Germany.

Of course, this is  the cruel paradox of English sport. Too flashy too fast, thanks to their ever-breathless media; always under more pressure and condescending towards their opponents all too soon.

Whether the media anoints you as king or maligns you as rubbish, you should not take note. Tomorrow they will do it the other way round.


The excellent and extremely watchable Saka, Foden and Alexander-Arnold are key players for their respective clubs, but it is also the case that they grew up with those teams. Arsenal's Declan Rice, a West Ham academy product, is the kind of player England wouldn't have valued at all in 2004.

You can spend until you're blue in the face, but a healthy youth academy is the best and cheapest investment in the long run.

And spend the Premier League does spend.

One of its founding principles is that only a “fit and proper person" may be a club owner, but in addition to the many “fit and proper" opportunists who have come and gone, all the fit and proper persons these days include gambling firms, murderous nation-states and dodgy bankers and investors.

West Ham's David Sullivan, who made his fortune from peddling dildos and such illustrious publications as Nude Readers' Wives, is a paragon of propriety in comparison to almost any of his peers elsewhere.


Manchester United's owners, for example, are money vampires who bought the club with borrowed money then put the loan on the club's accounts. Every year they make more money with product tie-ins than with football success.

Probably the most famous team in the world is now just another file in an American hedge fund portfolio somewhere.

To get this melancholic machine back on fire, the American Glazer family sold around 28% of the club to the British chemicals magnate Jim Ratcliffe in hopes that an Englishman's greater grip on football could bring about a turnaround.

Ratcliffe's previous attempts in the football industry, Nice and Lausanne, are struggling; his cycling team Ineos Grenadiers is a sad version of the successful Team Sky he bought; and when he entered Formula 1, he invested in Mercedes just as it started getting dismal.

I wouldn't start dreaming too sweet dreams now if I were a United supporter.


Nevertheless, United remains first and foremost a football club, for better or for worse; while Manchester City is an advertisement for the United Arab Emirates, with 115 charges of improper spending pending and an oil-rich sovereign fund able to retain enough top lawyers to keep those charges reduced to theory for years.

Suddenly I wonder if anyone has used the word zumaesque before and whether there is a place for it.

However, as a long-suffering Tottenham fan, I don't want to see a great young Arsenal take the crown either, so please give me Liverpool as English champions and a proper farewell for Jürgen Klopp.


The Gallagher brothers from Oasis are Manchester City supporters, but luckily for your ears Johnny Marr from The Smiths is one too. Here they are with United supporter Bernard Sumner of Joy Division and New Order and Neil Tennant of Pet Shop Boys, who wisely are no-one's followers:

Then again, Spandau Ballet's Kemp brothers love the Arses:

Liverpool fans range from Dr. Dre to Lana del Rey, but the other Elvis is fanatical about the Red shirts; here he sings about a green one: 

♦ VWB ♦

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