IN October 2014, we will co-publish with Arena Sport Pep Confidential: Inside Guardiola's first season at Bayern Munich, by Spanish journalist Martí Perarnau.
You might have read 'insider accounts' before. But not like this. This is unlimited access to one of the biggest clubs in the world, granted by one of the best coaches in the world.
In an exclusive extract from the book, Perarnau explains it in his own words.
"You can write about everything you see and be as critical as you like in the book, but during the season please don’t talk to the outside world about what you witness inside."
IN 1964, and completely out of the blue, Celtic attempted to sign a 36-year-old. He also happened to be the greatest player of his generation.
The approach for Alfredo di Stefano came four years after he had wowed Hampden with a hat-trick in Real Madrid’s legendary 7-3 win over Eintracht Frankfurt in 1960.
That remarkable match, which Fallon had watched alongside Stein, was the fifth successive European Cup final in which the Argentine had played, scored and emerged victorious.
Reserve centre-half John Cushley, who spoke Spanish, had been dispatched with Jimmy McGrory to Madrid, supposedly with the aim of bringing home a legend. But it was a plan with a significant flaw.
“Di Stefano had already gone to his holiday home in the north of Spain,” said Cushley. “In the end, we had to track him down on the phone. Mr McGrory was telling me ‘Offer him this’.
"I couldn’t believe the figures – it was more than the rest of us put together were getting. But in any case, Di Stefano said that he had already agreed a deal with Espanyol, so it was a bit of a wasted trip.”
Normally thrifty to the point of notoriety, Celtic had promised the Argentinian £200-per-game, twice what the highest-paid player in Britain at the time, Johnny Haynes, was earning.
Yet the fact they had arranged for three journalists to accompany McGrory and Cushley convinced Fallon that it was a trip geared more towards obtaining headlines than acquiring a star player.
"I always thought the Di Stefano thing was a publicity stunt. I would have loved nothing more if he’d said yes because it would have been tremendous to have someone like that at Celtic. But the board knew there was no chance. If he had accepted their offer, they would have had a heart attack.
There just wasn’t money for a player like that floating around at the time. It was a story that got the fans excited but that wasn’t a good time for the club and I felt it was put out there to relieve a bit of pressure."
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Alan Pattullo is an award-winning sports writer for The Scotsman. Here, he describes the behind-the-scenes thrill of watching Brazil play Chile in Belo Horizonte.
WHEN you think about it, not that many people still alive can say they have seen Brazil play in their own backyard in the World Cup finals. Or at least, this was the case before the start of the current tournament.
A reputed 200,000 packed the Maracana in 1950 to see them lose the final, and many thousands of others watched the previous five matches in the competition.
But these witnesses would need to be well over 70 now at least. So for those lucky enough to be present for one of Brazil’s four matches thus far in the 2014 edition of the tournament, it truly has felt significant.
I was fortunate to have an opportunity to see the Selecao’s eventual victory on penalties against Chile on Saturday as the stakes began to get higher for the hosts. If Brazil lost, then that was it. The party would need to go on without them. And when will they next get the chance to win it in here in their own land, in front of their own people? Not probably in most of our lifetimes.
The day started with the sound of a young child in the room next door providing the match commentary of the goals he hoped Brazil would score later that afternoon. Hearing such excitement through the wall as I waited for an elevator made for a sweet way to greet the day. ‘Goooaaaaaallllll!' he was exclaiming, in the style we all know so well.
From that moment on it was the richest of football and even cultural experiences. Breakfast was a sea of yellow shirts, whole families sitting around tables in Brazil shirts. Those with an individualist bent had on the blue away top. But it was mostly yellow, inside the hotel and outside in the streets, where hours before kick-off the supporters were en route to the stadium.
Belo Horizonte. In a football obsessed land, this is the crucible right now; both major city teams are current holders of major honours – Cruzeiro are league champions and Atletico Mineiro lifted the Copa Libertadores titles in 2013. So the intensity was ratcheted up further. And when Brazil edged ahead, well, although I have heard the acclaim when goals are scored at Ibrox, Parkhead, Hampden and even Dens Park, this really was something else entirely.
Near the end, as Neymar approached the spot to take his side’s fifth penalty, and the rest of us tried to comprehend just what responsibility he was taking on, I turned to my left and caught the eye of an Irish journalist. We had not spoken a word to each other, lost in our own worlds of needing to file reports as soon as we had a result, whenever that was going to be. We just broke out in smiles, as if to say: this is utterly crazy, but what a privilege.
It was fraught all right, for journalists as well as he players – although of course we did not have the hopes of nearly 200 million people resting on our shoulders. It was also utterly, bloody brilliant.
Every Friday, we're going to share three things that have distracted us from the madness of the previous week here at BackPage Towers.
We're gonna put it out there; if you like it, you can take it; if you don't, send it right back.
This week we have climbed aboard the US national team bandwagon. Digest the three picks below and join us on that bandwagon. All together now: U! S! A! U! S! A!"...
1) It's hard to know what to say about this. If internet legend Teddy Goalsevelt leading a sing-a-long is not enough, then up pops Will Ferrell. If you're not standing on your desk chanting "I BELIEVE THAT WE WILL WIN" by the end of this video then, frankly, you're not human. Will Ferrell and Teddy Goalsevelt
2) “You Americans. You act like it’s New Year’s Eve going to a soccer game.” Sports illustrated have done it again. Wonderful piece - both editorially and design-wise - from Chris Ballard on the growth of US Soccer fandom over the past 20 years.
3) And, finally, here's the Empire State Building last night after the US national team advanced to the last 16....
With defeat by Uruguay today, Andrea Pirlo's Italy career is over. As he promised in his autobiography, this World Cup is the last act of his 112-cap affair with the Azzuri.
After the World Cup in Brazil in 2014, I’ll retire from international football. I’ll be hanging up my heart. I’ll be 35 by then, and it’ll be time to give someone else a go. I’ll probably not feel as useful as I do now and have done in the past.
Being part of a team that belongs to everyone makes me feel good and at peace with myself. It relaxes me. A lot of the time, it’s better than sex: it lasts longer and if it all falls flat, it can’t just be your fault.
The moment the first bars of the national anthem Inno di Mameli ring out, you’re representing everyone – a soloistbecoming part of an orchestra. And, in theory, you should never say goodbye to the national team; it should always bea coach taking the decision for you. That would make things that little bit sweeter and a whole lot less complicated."