Luis Miguel Echegaray, ESPNJun 30, 2023, 12:21 PM ET
Each week, Luis Miguel Echegaray discusses the latest from the soccer world and shares his opinions, whether you agree with them or not. From standout performances and what you might have missed to what to keep an eye on in the coming days, LME has a few things to say.
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How Declan Rice elevates Arsenal
In 1996, a 20-year-old Patrick Vieira signed with Arsenal and eventually became the midfield pillar of Arsene Wenger’s reign, taking over as captain before the start of the 2002-03 season, and one campaign later helped the Gunners do what no other team has ever done: win the Premier League without losing a game.
Can Declan Rice’s move from east to north London bring back some of those Vieira moments? I know, comparisons are often the enemy of context, mainly driven out of nostalgia, but this parallel has more to do with what Rice represents as opposed to mirroring his attributes alongside the French legend.
Rice is one of the best midfielders in Europe. Last season, he was the second-best ball carrier in the league — only Manchester City’s Rodri was better — and he was second in most distance covered. But what makes him impressive is that he does most of his work under pressure. The majority of his time with the ball is under constant pestering from the opposition, and Rice maintains an ability to deliver through it all. His calmness amid chaos is crucial for Mikel Arteta and Arsenal, especially as the youngest squad in the league and one who can sometimes seem overwhelmed in big moments.
Rice has studied tapes of Vieira (and it’s evident in his game) as well as David Moyes’ coaching at West Ham United, but at Arsenal, Arteta can help him develop into a better decision-maker and distributor. At £105m ($133m) including add-ons, Rice’s transfer will become the most expensive in history for a British player, but value is all about perspective.
Arsenal play attractive football but — as last season’s late drop showed — they’re not resilient, not like City, not yet. For every Erling Haaland and Kevin De Bruyne, Pep Guardiola needs a Rodri, and Arteta, Guardiola’s former assistant, knows that he needs his own Rodri, too.
Every star-studded roster demands a nucleus and for Arsenal, that’s Rice.
Tata Martino reunites with Lionel Messi
On paper, this is an almost perfect scenario. Martino has worked with Messi and Sergio Busquets before when the Argentinian manager coached Barcelona in 2013-14. Shortly after his short stint with the Catalan club, he took over the Argentina national team for two years. He is also returning to a league that treated him well, as it was his Atlanta United that created so much excitement in 2018 and winning with the MLS Cup. So Martino knows the league, the culture and knows Messi.
“I am in love with MLS, with the way of competing, with the evolution of the league, with the evolution of the teams and Inter [Miami] gave me an opportunity to be there,” the 60-year-old manager said in his first news conference for the club.
What will Tata Martino bring to Inter Miami?
Herc Gomez gives his take on why Inter Miami needs Tata Martino and why he’s the right man for the job.
But his time with Messi wasn’t all rosy, as his stints managing Barca and Argentina came out trophyless. The club lost the league title on the last day of the season to Atletico Madrid, lost the Copa del Rey final and aside from the Spanish Super Cup, didn’t win anything. Similarly for Argentina, it was a dual disappointment after losing two Copa America titles to Chile. It was Messi’s worst time with the national team, almost making him quit altogether.
But that was then and this is now, and MLS seems to fit Martino. And for his part, Messi is in a much happier place after winning the 2021 Copa America and 2022 World Cup. And after speaking to Messi and Busquets, Martino is ready to fight. “Sometimes we associate the United States, Miami, holidays — this isn’t that. We want to compete … they [Messi and Busquets] are not footballers who are going to come here to not compete,” Martino said.
The main challenge next is lifting Inter Miami out of its slump of poor form. At Atlanta, part of Martino’s success was his fearless and aggressive style of play. Tata wants to do the same with Miami, but it will take time as the club sits in last place in the Eastern Conference standings. They do have the Open Cup to look forward to and if they win that tournament, it will give them Concacaf Champions Cup (formerly Concacaf Champions League) qualification. There is also next month’s Leagues Cup (when Messi might debut) that also offers a berth in the Champions Cup, so in MLS — where relegation doesn’t exist — a failure to make the playoffs is not the end as long as there are other avenues for success.
But just like in the city of Miami, anything can happen.
Guglielmo Vicario and celebrating good humans
My final “Onside” is on the Italian goalkeeper, having just joined Tottenham from Empoli. No, this isn’t about his football qualities, which are excellent, but more about his values and characteristics. Earlier this week, Spurs came out with an introductory video as Vicario explained his journey to the Premier League and I was left in awe after hearing his message of resilience and desire to live in the moment.
“I just think the best thing is to concentrate on the present, what you can do now, not what you will do. I concentrate on the present and I live my life, my experience, my football,” Vicario said. “I train a lot. I love to train. Now, this is my dream. I want to live my dream now.”
🎙️ “I started my career from the bottom. My dream, to be at the top, it was so difficult. I had to do all the levels.”
Guglielmo Vicario’s first words as a Spurs player 😁 pic.twitter.com/1gUI6iElfv
— Tottenham Hotspur (@SpursOfficial) June 27, 2023
The video left me wanting to learn about this 26-year-old stopper from Udine, Italy, who worked his way from Serie C to the English top flight. Last year, he was given a humanitarian award with Empoli after hosting a Ukrainian refugee family after Russia’s invasion. A mother and her 8-year-old son stayed with him and his family last March.
“I am happy that the Ukrainian family is settling in, above all the little boy seems pleased and is going to school,” he said. “The chance to be around children his age is very important and helps distract him a little bit from the problems going on in his home country. Seeing him flourish gives me joy.”
These types of footballers are worthy of every headline and must be celebrated. Above anything else, even winning, comes the necessity of being a decent human and in this day and age, where narcissism creeps in from every corner, we have to support and celebrate the goodness of people.
Harry Kane: Should he or shouldn’t he move from Spurs?
When Friedrich Nietzsche said, “And those who were seen dancing were thought to be crazy, by those who could not hear the music,” I am almost certain he wasn’t talking about Daniel Levy’s Tottenham or Harry Kane’s future but alas, allow me to do it for him.
Nietzsche was essentially talking about perception — or lack thereof — and that’s how I see this Kane situation, specifically with Levy’s stubborn stance on his star player. The perception here is that Levy would be silly to let Kane go, especially as new head coach Ange Postecoglou’s arrival could offer a sense of new optimism. If Levy does let Kane go, it cannot be for a rival in the Premier League and it definitely needs to be for a significant, record-breaking amount. Levy’s message to all? You better come with the entire bank if you want the England international.
Why Manchester United need to go big for Harry Kane
Craig Burley shares his opinion on the future of Tottenham’s Harry Kane.
However, I perceive this a different way. Aside from the fact that the Spurs owner risks losing him on a free transfer in 2024, he needs to look at this thing from another angle. What if there is a brighter future for Tottenham without Kane? A future where the dependency on success is not down to one player anymore, but now it falls to a deeper, more dynamic squad.
Tottenham are a team in desperate need of a new script. Postecoglou can offer that, but the next step must be a change in overall culture and I think this should include finding a transfer fee for Kane because to me, there is no better time.
Yes, he is one of the greatest strikers England has ever produced, the nation’s all-time scorer and second in the Premier League’s all-time goal scorers list behind Alan Shearer, but to me, he needs to leave in order to truly strengthen his legacy because his cabinet of runner-up medals is getting too full. That’s why this is under the “Offside” section, because despite his tremendous sense of loyalty, moving away from Tottenham should have happened last year. Yes, a one-club player is a unique statement within itself but even Francesco Totti won the league (and a World Cup).
So, Levy, Kane — and Spurs fans — I ask that you perceive this in a different way and imagine your future without the striker because maybe, just maybe, you could be the ones who are dancing, as others fail to hear the music.
Betting companies banned as shirt sponsors, but clubs cashing in now
From the 2026-27 season, Premier League clubs will no longer have gambling sponsorship on the front of their matchday shirts. There will still be limited ways of exposure (shirt sleeves and stadium advertising), but as a main sponsor on the front of the shirt, it will be gone.
“The vast majority of adults gamble safely, but we have to recognise that footballers are role models who have enormous influence on young people,” Britain’s culture secretary, Lucy Frazer, said back in April, shortly after the announcement. “We want to work with institutions like the Premier League to do the right thing for young fans.”
I guess doing the right thing only begins in 2026 because as I write this, multiple clubs have agreed on new, lucrative deals with betting companies, including my own club Aston Villa, who announced this week a deal with the Asia-based betting firm BK8. The new shirt had the company’s name front and center for all to see. Fulham recently did the same strategy with betting company SBOTOP, newly promoted Burnley with W88 whilst Crystal Palace were the first club to announce a deal with another Asian company (Kaiyun) back in May since the league’s 2026 decision.
In total, there are 10 Premier League clubs with betting sponsors on their kits for the 2023-24 season, and that reaches down to the Championship as well, where nine out of the 24 teams have gambling companies as sponsors on their kits.
The commercial and economical injection is enticing — and it’s not that I am against responsible betting — but the shady optics seem cynical to me. The removal decision comes in 2026 and how convenient that multiple clubs are now making new deals right before the ban comes into place. Make that money now before doing the right thing later.
In the backdrop of all of this is Brentford striker Ivan Toney serving an eight-month ban for betting on his own clubs and being diagnosed as a gambling addict.
Tweet of the week
OK, I really want Jamaica to win the World Cup now. Also, Andre Blake (on the piano) never ceases to amaze me. You know you’re doing something good when John Legend retweets you!
Sing it fellas! 🇯🇲🇯🇲🇯🇲🇯🇲 https://t.co/ZPUaNkeewu
— John Legend (@johnlegend) June 27, 2023