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9 really weird things you might have missed in football this summer

John Barnes, Ray Parlour

1. Real Madrid 3-7 Atletico Madrid

It's a truth universally acknowledged that pre-season scorelines mean nothing, except to those frothing Twitter trolls who revel in pride and prejudice. But it’s hard to ignore Real Madrid being savaged by their nerdy little brothers. 7-3? What is this, the early days of the European Cup?

And the scoreline didn’t flatter Kieran Trippier and friends – Atletico led 6-0 just after half-time. Ah, the magic of the (International Champions) Cup. At least it was business as usual for Diego Costa: four goals, one red card. 

2. Weekend at Elneny’s

Even more surprising than the revelation that Mohamed Elneny is still at Arsenal was July’s news that a dead body had been found at his house.

The full story is slightly less dramatic: Elneny and his family own the property, but it’s being used by a charity in Egypt, and the corpse belonged to an intruder who was electrocuted while trying to steal cables. Still, his demise came a few days after Sead Kolasinac fought off men with knives, which suggests Unai Emery may have rid Arsenal of their soft underbelly.

3. Psychosomatic Addicks insane

Roland Duchatelet’s Charlton are no strangers to self-inflicted embarrassment. In mid-June, they opted for that rare and unfortunate combination: airing their dirty laundry in public, right after shitting the bed.

After Lee Bowyer led their underdogs into the Championship, the Addicks announced that they’d be looking for a caretaker manager. Bowyer had, their statement said, been offered a contract with wages “three times what he had since his last increase when he became permanent manager in September”, “six times what he earned when he started as assistant manager in 2017” and “50% more than any previous Charlton manager” outside the Premier League. Then came the emphatic kicker: “But Lee wanted much more.”

You’d think there’s no coming back from that. In fact, Bowyer had signed a new contract within 24 hours, and club and manager alike behaved as if nothing untoward had happened.

4. “Let assistant arrange friendly matches? (Y/N)”


Seeing Al-Ittihad vs Atherton Collieries in a list of friendlies usually means the fixture randomiser is working alphabetically. In fact, eight-time Saudi champions taking on a team just promoted from England’s Northern Premier League Division One West, and losing to them, was one of several mad match-ups in pre-season.

Bordering Saudi Arabia is Kuwait, whose national team went up against Hungerford, Marlow and Maidenhead – not, in fact, a firm of solicitors, but three of their opponents this summer. Meanwhile, Accrington Stanley beat Olympique de Marseille 2-1 at a rugby ground. Even the clubs’ names implied a mismatch – elite Olympians facing Messrs Matthews, Kubrick and Laurel – yet Stanley prevailed. l’OMG, you might say.

5. No joke, his cousin is called Frank Rijkaard 

Though its name sounds like a lazy satire about Sepp Blatter, CONIFA is an organisation for international football teams who aren’t associated with FIFA, such as Zanzibar (officially part of Tanzania), Tibet (officially part of China) and Yorkshire (officially taking the piss).

This summer, CONIFA’s European Football Cup featured a player by the name of Markovanbasten Çema, because apparently we live in Pro Evolution Soccer now. The 21-year-old played for Chameria, a region covering both sides of the border between Albania and Greece, and he scored a brace against hosts Artsakh (AKA Nagorno-Karabakh), who represent a breakaway republic in Azerbaijan that’s populated mostly by Armenians. At this point, FourFourTwo would like to apologise profusely if we’ve got any part of that wrong, as this entry went down a road we really weren’t anticipating.

6. League Cup draw held in Morrison’s

We have nothing to add.

7. Toby or not Toby…

Toby Alderweireld

It’s still odd that nobody acted on football’s worst-kept secret to trigger Toby Alderweireld’s remarkably low release clause at Spurs. 

A year ago, Jose Mourinho wanted to pay £50m for the Belgian. Now he’s worth half that, after an injury-free year (playing mainly in a back four, which Manchester United’s higher-ups supposedly feared he couldn’t) and a Champions League final appearance. One for the future? No. But he’s only 30, and is one of the world’s most reliable centre-backs. And nobody fancied a bit of that for £25m? Again: odd.

8. “You are my Solskjaers, my only Solskjaers”

Adrift in the transfer market, low on morale and eager for a (very) friendly fixture, Manchester United arranged a match against their manager’s old haunt and young son, namely Kristiansund and their debutant, Noel Solskjaer.

United still required a stoppage-time penalty to win, of course. Ole Gunnar watched with Elijah, his youngest son, who gave tactical advice and asked his dad to stop calling him Alex.

9. Pilgrims adopt eight movers and Shakers 

Plymouth (relegated from League One to League Two) want to repeat the formula that worked last season for Bury (promoted from League Two to League One) – just without the accompanying apocalypse-in-waiting, if possible. They are not being subtle about it.

As July turns to August, the Pilgrims have brought in Bury’s manager, his assistant, the club physio, their best player and four of his team-mates, all of whom are very excited about being paid for the first time since 1974. 

Bury, meanwhile, have had their first game of the 2019/20 season postponed and face a second points deduction before their campaign even begins – if it ever does. At least their suffering fans can expect a warm welcome at Home Park.

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