What really happened at last week’s Champions League final? ESPN’s Insider Notebook has the latest.
Champions League final fiasco: Liverpool fans not to blame for late arrival
Amid confusion and changing stories behind the chaos at the Champions League final, which has led UEFA to announce an independent inquiry, ESPN has been told that initial claims that the match was delayed by the late arrival of Liverpool supporters were inaccurate and failed to highlight the problems experienced by fans outside the Stade de France.
There were key influencing factors behind UEFA’s initial statement that the kick-off at last Saturday’s Champions League final was delayed due to the late arrival of Liverpool supporters, sources told ESPN. Among them were inefficient ticket-checking system at the perimeter of the stadium (prior to a second check at the turnstiles) and poorly organised crowd control outside the Stade de France, which led to thousands of supporters being delayed on approach to the game.
That statement, branded “totally inaccurate” by Liverpool, was followed by a later official UEFA communication that instead said the problems outside the 1998 World Cup final venue were caused by “thousands who had purchased fake tickets which did not work at the turnstiles.”
Sources have now told ESPN that UEFA’s first statement was based on information supplied by the local authorities who had been charged with ensuring that the showpiece occasion, moved to Paris from Saint Petersburg in February due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, was staged successfully.
Sources said subsequent information has highlighted the delay was due to the slow process of ticket checks at the outer perimeter of the stadium close to access routes from public transport and crowd control methods used by the French police, rather than supporters arriving late, as was initially stated.
UEFA has commissioned an independent report, which will be chaired by Portuguese politician Dr Tiago Brandao Rodrigues, into the events surrounding the chaotic staging of the final between Liverpool and Real Madrid in Paris on Saturday. Madrid won the match 1-0.
A central factor to be investigated is UEFA’s official announcement inside the Stade de France that the 35-minute delay to the game starting was because of fans arriving late, causing huge crowds to build outside the Liverpool section of the stadium.
Liverpool issued a statement on Saturday that contested that claim and said “security of the stadium was a substantial issue which caused kick-off to be delayed.”
Footage of thousands of Liverpool supporters arriving at the Stade de France at least three hours before the game has been widely circulated on social media, with other footage showing huge crowds waiting to enter the stadium after the scheduled kick-off time.
Pepper spraying fans outside stadium in Paris pic.twitter.com/drgzEpR9gD
— Mark Ogden (@MarkOgden_) May 28, 2022
ESPN also posted video of Liverpool supporters being sprayed with tear gas by riot police as they waited to enter the stadium.
Alongside the independent report commissioned by UEFA, Liverpool have launched their own investigation into events in Paris by asking supporters to submit statements and photographic and video evidence of the experience before, during and after the game. — Mark Ogden
Man United scouts rave over … existing player Pereira
Manchester United scouts sent to watch a potential transfer target reported back that one of their own players was the star of the show, sources told ESPN.
Talent-spotters from Old Trafford were dispatched to watch 21-year-old midfielder Joao Gomes play for Flamengo recently. But sources told ESPN the reports that made it back from Brazil highlighted Andreas Pereira as the most notable performer.
Pereira has impressed during a loan spell at Flamengo, but a permanent move to Brazil has all but collapsed. Sources told ESPN he is expected back at United in the summer with new manager Erik ten Hag, who knows Pereira from their time together at PSV Eindhoven, keen to take a closer look at the 26-year-old during preseason.
– Pogba at Man United: Flop or not?
Pereira wants regular first-team football but is willing to return to Old Trafford for the chance to win over Ten Hag. The Dutch boss has highlighted midfield and attack as the two key areas of his rebuild. He wants to sign at least one new central midfielder, but sources said he believes Pereira has the energy and technical ability to supplement the squad.
Ten Hag has been given a large transfer budget, but sources told ESPN he has also been encouraged to make use of players already at the club. United are short of numbers in midfield after the departures of Nemanja Matic, Paul Pogba, Juan Mata and Jesse Lingard.
Pereira has a year left on his contract at United after signing an extension in 2019. — Rob Dawson
Mark Ogden describes Paul Pogba’s second spell at Manchester United as a “huge disappointment”.
City let Braaf join Dortmund amid attitude concerns
Manchester City decided not to renew Jayden Braaf’s contract because of concerns over his attitude, sources told ESPN.
City were keen to keep Sancho, but sources told ESPN they made the decision to cut ties with Braaf as early as 2020. City bosses had high hopes for the forward when he arrived from PSV Eindhoven in 2018 and he produced a series of exciting performances during youth team games, but a number of run-ins with coaches and bosses convinced the club his future would be better spent elsewhere.
Braaf, who had a loan spell in Italy with Udinese, has been disappointed at a lack of first-team opportunities, but club sources insist the 19-year-old did not do enough in training to warrant a chance.
Sources close to City stress the club were particularly frustrated with Braaf when he underwent rehabilitation and individual work following a serious knee injury suffered in 2021, with issues raised concerning his behaviour and demeanour around the training ground.
Dortmund will hope to get the best out of Braaf, and while City are prepared for the Netherlands youth international to realise his potential in Germany in the same way Sancho did, club chiefs, including Pep Guardiola and director of football Txiki Begiristain, are convinced they have made the right decision. — Rob Dawson
Jack Grealish jokes that Pep Guardiola signed him for Man City after he got the better of Kyle Walker when he still played for Aston Villa.
Tolisso keen on Premier League move
Corentin Tolisso has his sights set on a move to the Premier League this summer, sources told ESPN.
The France international will leave Bayern Munich when his contract expires at the end of June and is assessing his options ahead of his next move, with a range of offers expecting to come in for him.
The central midfielder enjoyed a trophy-laden spell in Germany, winning the Bundesliga five times as well as the Champions League.
Tolisso, a World Cup winner with France in 2018, is likely to receive a range of offers, but sources told ESPN that the Premier League is his favoured destination. Chelsea, Liverpool, Arsenal and Manchester United are all keen on adding a midfielder to their respective squads this summer, and Tolisso, 27, would represent a decent option on a free transfer.
Sources told ESPN that Tolisso is eager to play in European competition next term — whether the Champions League, or Europa League — and the 27-year-old attracted interest from some of the Premier League’s biggest clubs in the past.
Arsenal and Manchester United, in particular, were keen on Tolisso when he was at Lyon, but he opted to join Bayern Munich instead. — Julien Laurens
Diallo in demand
Strasbourg striker Habib Diallo is attracting interest from multiple Premier League clubs, sources told ESPN.
The Senegal international, 26, scored 11 goals in Ligue 1 this season from 16 starts (31 appearances in total). His ratio of a goal every 140 minutes made him the seventh-most prolific striker in France, and his performances have attracted the interest of a range of clubs, including Nottingham Forest, West Ham and Brighton.
Diallo signed for Strasbourg for £9 million from Metz two summers ago. But after winning the Africa Cup of Nations earlier this year, sources told ESPN he feels he needs a bigger challenge — and the Premier League is where he dreams of playing. — Julien Laurens