The real-life tales of a football writer
I’d just left home for the 12-day trip to South Africa. Literally walked down the street, past Barcelona’s Botafumeiro seafood restaurant, where a day earlier Adriano Galliani, Silvio Berlusconi’s right-hand man at Milan, had concluded the deal to take Ronaldinho to Italy with Barça’s under fire President Joan Laporta and the buck-toothed Brazilian himself.
Manchester City’s influence in European football has been so limited for over three decades that when Continental fans talk about ‘Manchester’ they mean United, but City’s bid for Ronaldinho was more substantial than Milan’s and the Italians had to raise their offer by €5m to €21m.
I’ve interviewed Ronaldinho over a dozen times and always got on well with him so I’m sad to see him go. He was unquestionably worthy of the many individual honours bestowed upon him, but Ronnie and the side he played for are a shadow of their 2006 world beating best. And we shouldn’t be surprised he’s left given Barça’s history of losing their best players from Maradona to Ronaldo.
Ronnie ties up Milan move, accompanied by his minders
Kate Moss spent a lot of time in Barcelona when things came on top for her in Britain a few years ago and she used to lunch daily in Botafumeiro. I never did catch up with the Croydon waif to discuss the uneasy juxtaposition of stands at Selhurst Park, but I did eat there once.
Yet with prawns costing about £9 each (cue original ‘prawn sandwich’ comments from weapons who’ve got no idea about Manchester United’s match-going culture) and that being before the pound became weaker than Liverpool’s title challenges in the last 18 years, I’ve swerved it since.
The text came a minute after I’d walked past the fabled restaurant. “Its Mani mate,” it said. “Im in barca and thought you might want the scoop of the w3k. Im playing 4 roses tunes with him for the 1st time in yonks. Could be a good interview opportunity geeza. Hope u r well. X. Mani.”
My acquaintance with popular music stars is limited, though I did once sit behind Bonnie Langford on a flight back from the Faroe Islands. And play for Paul Heaton’s football team in December. But the Mani, of Stones Roses and Primal Scream fame, is a United fan and I’ve known him for years. And the ‘him’ in the text is Ian Brown. The pair are playing in Barcelona this weekend. “I would love to,” I replied. “But I’m on the way to the airport to see United in South Africa.”
“Have a good one. Champions of Europe,” he replied. So I’ll miss out on the interview, but any Stone Roses fans reading may be interested.
When I started this blog, the editor said: “If you have an hour in an airport then I want you to write a blog.” Six months on and this is my first blog written in an airport, terminal 2E of Charles De Gaulle (the Frenchman who once played a support striker role in Billy the Fish in Viz).
My flight to Johannesburg leaves in 30 minutes and from there I'll take another to Cape Town. I’ll go straight from the airport to Manchester United’s first training session, watch Louis Saha get injured if he’s made the trip, pick up my accreditation, meet the photographer and then finally go to the hotel, 25 hours after walking past Botafumeiro…
"Crap, which one's going to South Africa..."
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