Pennant and Ibrahimovic already feeling the heat

Jermaine Pennant may be taking advantage of paying far less income tax by playing in Spain, but he will be feeling the heat.

It was 43 degrees in his new home city Zaragoza at the end of last week. Barcelona was almost 38, the hottest day in the city since Mark Hughes and Gary Lineker played for Barca.

New signing Zlatan Ibrahimovic should be careful not to wilt in the Mediterranean sun like many former Barca strikers.

BLOG: How Jermaine Pennant could ruin the Premier League

"It ain't 'alf hot mum..." 

I’m just glad that Barca finally signed a striker, for the speculation was becoming as tiresome as the 'Ronaldo leaving Manchester United for Madrid' stories a year ago.

The Catalan sports papers have had a summer of alternating four different potential strikers on their covers.

With the consistency of a Daily Express/Princess Diana story, Sport or Mundo Deportivo would link Barca with David Villa each Monday.

Tuesday was Diego Forlan day, Wednesday was Ibrahimovic. Thursday’s usually went to the latest stage in the Samuel Eto’o saga with Friday’s covers perhaps throwing in Fabregas.

People actually buy this nonsense, however tenuous the stories. David Villa would be spotted in a car with a ‘B’ in the number plate – proof that he was joining Barcelona.

Diego Forlan’s agent might say ‘Barca’ in conversation – proof that he was joining Barca.

Barca themselves have played it very cool in the heat. Pep Guardiola has maintained all along that he’s happy with the base of his squad and that it just needed a bit of tweaking.

Which meant replacing the fiery but brilliant Samuel Eto’o, who scored 130 goals in 199 senior matches for Barca. Had there been a consistently better centre forward in world football in the last five years?

In paying €46 million plus Eto’o for Ibrahimovic, Barca are paying a massive premium for the Swede – not that the 60,000 who turned out to welcome him at Camp Nou on Monday seemed to mind.

And Barca are being slightly hypocritical if they claim that Eto’o was always disruptive. Fans didn’t complain when he called his former club Madrid ‘b*stards.’

As a journalist, I’ll miss Eto’o’s barbs. I interviewed him one-on-one nine times and he never failed to give frank quotes, of which only Roy Keane could rival from the modern game.

In one interview at his home, he flowed with beautiful metaphors and cogent thoughts.

Then I asked him if his brother was in the same league as him – a perfectly reasonable soft question. He looked at me as if I’d just booted his cat, before saying: “Of course he is! He’s my brother.”

Another time, I bumped into him in a Barcelona shop. My brother was visiting and I introduced him, explaining that he played for FC United of Manchester. 

“Yes, Manchester United, I know that team,” replied Eto’o, while shaking my brother’s hand. It wasn’t the place to explain the Glazer takeover.

While Barca tried to sell him, Eto’o recently took off to the footballers’ favourite American bolthole of South Beach, Miami.

Wes Brown once bumped into Paulo Maldini in the reception of the Delano there, but was too star struck to speak to him. Fortunately, Maldini and his beautiful wife (well, she was hardly going to be minging was she?) came over and they had a chat.

It’s the Spanish coast rather than Miami where most of Spain retreats to in the summer, while Barca and Madrid are fond of training camps in the cooler climes of Great Britain and Ireland. Barca have started their pre-season in Britain during five of the last six seasons.

I was fortunate to see the huge indie music festival at Benicassim, a seaside town where most of the Villarreal players live close to Valencia.

The organisers and around half the 50,000 crowd were British, but there were few football shirts in evidence.

I did see an Asturian man in a Sporting Gijon shirt pour me cider out of a David Villa bottle holder though.

"What'll it be stranger..." 

Villa and Fernando Alonso are the most popular men in the green fields of Asturias, though Villa’s probably currently annoyed that he’s still at Valencia.

Oasis played alongside the The Killers, Franz Ferdinand, Elbow and many more. I watched as Liam and Noel left their changing rooms and a few people shouted ‘City!’

They nodded approvingly, though they looked confused when a Spanish lad shouted, ‘City’s going down like a sinking submarine…’

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