It has been another busy week in world football. Key results have been secured, dramatic transfer stories have been commonplace, and once again, the key narratives likely to shape the season have been further crystallised and enforced.
This article tells and explores some of those stories through the quotes of (or about) the key actors of the last seven days.
Read on to discover the most erudite comment on Mario Balotelli, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Gareth Bale and the Champions League draw.
For fans of the Premier League, the world has been a quieter place since Mario Balotelli left Manchester City to return to Italy. Out of sight has too often felt like out of mind, and despite clamouring around Edin Dzeko, waiting upon his every move, the Bosnian just doesn’t entertain quite like Balotelli used to.
Reassuring it is, therefore, to know that Balotelli is still up to his old tricks.
When likened to Paris Saint-Germain star Zlatan Ibrahimovic by a reporter, via BBC Sporf, the Italy international replied: “You want to compare me to Ibra? Well, that’s a compliment…for him!”
We're delighted to hear that football’s greatest ego remains as unabashed as ever, and as for picking on someone as much imbued with his own importance as Ibrahimovic, we cannot wait to hear the Swede’s thoughts on this one.
Speaking separately, Zlatan Ibrahimovic answered those questioning why he didn’t have a nickname, via Goal.com's Mark Doyle (via Yahoo! Sports) by saying: “Why don't I have a nickname? To be scared of me, you just have to see me play!”
To those who anticipate that this Ligue 1 season will boil down to a battle of the strikers; Edinson Cavani vs. Radamel Falcao, The Matador vs. The Tiger—underestimate Ibrahimovic at your peril.
Ibra knows that no nominal intimidation is required—soon, his opponents will, too.
The Champions League group stage draw is always one of the football calendar’s most exciting off-field events. The outcome of that lottery will provide a scaffolding for some nights of genuine drama and matchups laced with subtle meaning and raw intent.
Scottish champions Celtic were just happy to be there.
It took a late goal at Parkhead to overturn a first-leg deficit suffered against Kazakh side Shakhter Karagandy, and at times, it looked like Celtic would be crashing out.
In a short while, they have gone from near-humiliation against anonymous minnows to one of history’s most menacing Champions League groups.
Barcelona, AC Milan and Ajax—you could argue that none of the three possess their former lustre—but they represent mammoth challenges, and several exceptional European nights, for Celtic.
The contrasting sentiments of fear and of exultation were caught in the quotes of several Celtic fans, as recorded by Scottish outlet the Daily Record.
William Brisbane from Ormskirk rather fatalistically said:
“What a disaster it is for Celtic drawing those teams in the Champions League. I’m betting they’ll not get four points and end up humiliated and showing up the rest of Scotland.”
Parkhead’s own Pat Thompson was far more optimistic: “It’s a thrilling draw with the promise of three fantastic teams to see. You can’t get better than that.”
The promise of a final in Lisbon will draw inevitable overarching narratives to the most glorious night in Celtic (and Scottish football’s) history, the club’s European Cup triumph against Internazionale in the Portuguese capital.
Robert McEwan of Mount Vernon pictured his ideal replication:
“I’d have liked to have got Manchester United but it’s a great draw anyway. Maybe we could back to Lisbon and play United in the Final but I can only dream.”
Anyone who’s anyone has weighed in on Gareth Bale’s imminent move to Real Madrid over the last few months.
Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger—himself unacquainted with spending big money when the situation calls for it—has been particularly public in lamenting the scale of the deal and the potential worth of the Welshman, via The Sun.
In the last week, former Barcelona and Bulgaria legend Hristo Stoichkov has also weighed in on the Bale situation, via Simon Rice of The Independent.
El Pistolero demonstrated his arrogance, his disdain and his ignorance for Bale in stating:
"If Bale is worth €100m, I would have been priceless. No Englishman who has ever come to Spanish football has succeeded.”
A fine player, certainly, but priceless? That’s a big statement.
As for the rest…
Someone should really tell the Bulgarian that Bale is Welsh, rather than English. Similar—perhaps—inextricably connected—certainly—but most definitely not the same.
Jonathan Woodgate was not available for comment.
While Stoichkov wasted no time in indicating that Bale was overpriced and that he would have been worth more, Mino Raiola, the agent of Juventus and France midfielder Paul Pogba also decided to add his two cents.
Advocating his client’s abilities and supporting him to the hilt, Raiola said to Sky Sport Italia (h/t Football Italia):
How much does Pogba cost? Certainly more than Bale. If Bale is worth €120m, then Paul is worth at least twice as much. Pogba is a Salvador Dali painting, while Mario Balotelli is the Mona Lisa.
So…Pogba is not only worth €200 million, he is also like a painting by Dali, one of the most imaginative artists in history—a cultural icon for the surrealist movement, and the man who inspired a generation of modern artists.
No pressure then.