Moroccan side Wydad Casablanca forfeited the CAF Champions League final after an hour-long protest for an incorrect refereeing decision and a VAR debacle at the match in Tunisia.
Gambian referee Bakari Gassama ruled out a 58th minute goal by Wydad midfielder Walid El Karti, and VAR was unavailable for consultation due to a technical malfunction. According to London-based Egyptian reporter Ahmad Yousef, the teams were not informed of the malfunction, and Wydad refused to re-take the pitch over the decision.
With the forfeiture, Tunisian club Esperance de Tunis was crowned 2019 CAF Champions League winners, the club’s fourth continental championship.
Astonishing scenes in the CAF Champions League final. Game halted for 1+ hour after the VAR stopped working. Wydad refusing to continue after their goal in the 58th minute was incorrectly disallowed for offside. CAF president Ahmad Ahmad has entered the pitch! pic.twitter.com/HDC34eAHxS
The 1-1 first-leg draw in Morocco was also marred with controversy, as Egyptian referee Gehad Grisha was suspended for six months after a pair of incorrect decisions were made despite having consulted VAR. That brought Gassama into the mix to officiate the second leg.
As a whole, the incidents are a bad look for African football less than a month before the start of the African Cup of Nations. Wydad Casablanca received widespread criticism for refusing to continue playing simply for a referee decision against the club, while VAR controversies continue to plague the CAF. Last year’s Champions League final second leg was also dealt a VAR blow when the technology malfunctioned before kickoff of the second leg, but the teams were at least informed of the situation before kickoff. That game saw Esperance win 3-0 to complete an aggregate comeback to beat Al Ahly 4-3 over the two legs.
Faouzi Benzarti, formerly in charge of the Tunisian national team on multiple occasions, is the current manager of Wydad. It is unclear what his role was in the team’s refusal to re-take the pitch.
We definitely want to see your lists, but won’t dodge the duty of putting together a 20-pack of our own.
The only two parameters are that the player spent the lion’s share of his career — or career so-far — with the team in question or had a significant historical moment with the club, and that he played during the Premier League era.
There will be the appearance of recency bias for some of these clubs whose PL existence doesn’t run back too far.
And there’s also the challenge that comes with certain players just striking our fancy at any given time.
Arsenal — It just has to be Thierry Henry. The French magician elevated the beauty of the game, even if you didn’t like his particular club.
Aston Villa — Oddly enough as an American, I’m not going with one of the Brads (Freidel or Guzan). I’m also going with a player who’s playing just his second season with the club. Tyrone Mings is a fearless defender with an old-school ethic. One of the scariest players in the league today.
Bournemouth — Wanted to cheat and say Eddie Howe, but the Cherries weren’t in the PL when he was a player. I’ll take one of the two closest things to Howe on the current roster and that is Steve Cook (honorable nod to Simon Francis). Cook has appeared a record 329 times for the Cherries beginning at the League One level in 2011. Massive respect to a mainstay who isn’t even the first Steve Cook that shows up on a Google search.
Brighton and Hove Albion — I’m sure there’s a subset of Seagulls supporters who haven’t yet forgiven Glenn Murray for his time at M23 Derby rivals Palace, but I love that the 36-year-old is still bagging goals in his second 100-plus appearance stint with the club.
Burnley — Tom Heaton may be the most underappreciated keeper to don an England shirt, and he’s twice led the Clarets into the Premier League. Now in a different claret shirt, he’s not forgotten.
Chelsea — Love the helmet. Love the saves. Love the rock drumming and the post-soccer hockey career. Petr Cech, all the way. In time, though, this could become Cesar Azpilicueta or, for obvious reasons, Christian Pulisic.
Crystal Palace — Mile Jedinak. I loved the guy not just for being a tremendous and intimidating midfielder, but because he might’ve kept all sorts of items in his dense beard.
Everton — Come on. Too easy.
Leicester City — This one’s tricky via our rules, as he’s won the league with two different teams and has spent longer with the second one but N’Golo Kante made his name on the Foxes’ miracle title team. In time, he may be looked at as a player who revolutionized or at least brilliantly refined his position. If you must have another name, pretend I chose Kasper Schmeichel.
Liverpool — This one may surprise given the amount of attacking and eye-catching talent to roam Anfield, but there are few players I enjoyed watching more than Martin Skrtel. I once saw a cartoon image of him eating nails out of a cereal bowl and considered for a moment that it might be part of his diet.
Manchester City — Tricky one, this. James Milner at this point seems destined to be remembered as a Liverpool man, don’t you think? Ultimately, I’m going to overlook how slimy agent Dimitry Seluk tried to derail my love for Yaya Toure, one of the characters of the game with an almost unrivaled skill set. Also, the birthday cake thing is still pretty funny.
Manchester United — Roy Keanejust over Nemanja Vidic.
Newcastle United — A tough one for me, who has found appeal with a number of players to don the black and white stripes. Alan Shearer’s legend helped shape my love for the game and Shay Given performing well above his size makes him high on the list. But for some reason the cerebral and physical play of club leader Fabricio Coloccini makes him my favorite player in the world. I didn’t say I was normal.
Norwich City — Shout out to Nathan Redmond, but I can’t get the early season heroics of 30-going-on-50 striker Teemu Pukki out of my mind here. Emi Buendia has a shot here if Norwich can stay up and he doesn’t bolt for another club.
Sheffield United — ITough one here, as Blades spent only three PL season prior to this one and two were when I was in middle school. I like John Lundstram over club heroes Phil Jagielka and Billy Sharp.
Southampton — Tough one here as Saints have had so many players shine for them only to become firmly associated with other clubs. I loved Virgil van Dijk back to his Celtic days but he’s undoubtedly Liverpool at this point. Give me Adam Lallana and a pair of crossed fingers that he returns to St. Mary’s to remind us of the man who scored 59 times with 48 assists after coming out of the vaunted Saints academy.
Tottenham Hotspur — I’d love to force Clint Dempsey in here but that’s a Fulham man, man. And I’ve got a lot of time for Heung-min Son, too. But I’m going to give an edge to Robbie Keane over his strike partner Jermain Defoe.
Watford — Show me a man who looks like he enjoys sandwiches as much as the rest of us but has a century of goals between the Championship and Premier League and I’ll be challenged to say I like someone more than Troy Deeney. American bias, sure, but Jay DeMerit‘s story of being ignored by MLS sides out of college and knocking on doors around England en route to a Man of the Match performance in a Premier League promotion-clinching win is chest-thumping stuff.
West Ham United — Bit of a strange one here. Michael Carrick was a beauty and an academy guy but you’re not going to mistake him for anything other than Man Utd. I’m going with Sporting KC’s Kiwi center back Winston Reid as the player I’ve most admired during my time watching the Hammers.
Wolverhampton Wanderers — Big Raul Jimenez gets my nod. The best active player in North America.
It should definitely be noted that the uncertainties of the coronavirus pandemic and the financial toll it’s taken on clubs may stop any number of big fee moves from meeting completion.
Sergej Milinkovic-Savic is one of those players who match the ambition and pedigree of United, a complete midfielder capable of controlling the pitch.
Foot Mercato says that United is back in for Milinkovic-Savic after seeing a nine-figure bid rebuffed by Lazio last summer.
The 25-year-old Serbian has been with Lazio since moving from Genk in 2015, and he was an instant hit. He has 36 goals and 26 assists in 197 appearances, but the numbers that really shine are advanced stats. This season’s saw him average 1.6 interceptions, 1.3 tackles, two shots, and 1.2 key passes per game while connecting on 3.4 long balls per game.
He’ll certainly want to know he’s staying in the Champions League. Lazio is extremely well-positioned to qualify out of Serie A, while United sits fifth ahead of what should be a wild return to the PL fixture list.
Jota, 23, has 15 goals and six assists this season including a pair of Europa League hat tricks.
He joked that he couldn’t join United because he wears the same number as fellow Portuguese star Bruno Fernandes, but added, “It’s always good to see your name linked to clubs with a club of that stature but I also know that this is not the most important thing. Just look at what is happening now with this pandemic.”
It’s difficult to imagine Jota’s price tag would be less than $40 million, and Wolves have a chance to be involved in the Champions League next season.
The 27-year-old Brazilian played one season for Estoril in Portugal before brightening his star with Nantes in Ligue 1.
This is his first season at Sevilla, and he has not found trouble adjusting to La Liga. Carlos has two goals this season to go with 1.2 tackles, 1 interception, and a gaudy 5.1 clearances per match (WhoScored).
“All of our players have been reminded to respect social distancing when exercising outdoors. We shall continue to reinforce this message,” said a Spurs spokesman in the report.
It’s irresponsible at best from Mourinho. Even if he felt he could skirt the government’s rules in a pandemic — not a good idea at all — he has to have the presence of mind to recognize that he’s one of the most recognizable soccer faces in a soccer-mad country.
#thfc To clarify, I'm told Mourinho arranged a 1v1 session with Ndombele, and Sess/Sanchez were jogging together separately (albeit they likely came across the other two).