With Amazon, Facebook, and Netflix sniffing around the Premier League, our man inside the game expects everything we have come to know, love and loathe about modern football to be inflated once more.

In football as in life everything comes in threes. Back threes, titles, hat-tricks. Three is the magic number.

Just a quick word on Aguero, and in particular, players travelling abroad during the season for a jolly. Every manager is different of course but for the most part they are usually dead set against their players taking off to different countries in the middle of a run of games. In all honesty it is a conversation that I wouldn’t have even had the balls to have with my managers. If a manager felt the need to give us a few days off he would mention explicitly that we were not allowed to leave the country and he’d even phone us on the Sunday to ‘make sure we were OK’.

I knew why he was ringing, he was checking the dial tone that he got. If nothing else Aguero has some front.

“I know we’ve just had a big game gaffer and we’ve got another massive one against Chelsea at the weekend but…. can I go away?” What for?

“A friend of mine is playing a concert”

A concert!?




When will you be back?

“About 5am… in time for training!”.

5am!!?? A concert!? Amsterdam… !??

Shut the door on your way out Sergio…

In some ways, football off the pitch is almost as big as football on the pitch. Rarely do we see a politician stray from the front page to the back. But there is nothing out of the ordinary in seeing a footballer dominating both while sandwiching his performance at the weekend in his own pull-out colour supplement. Front, back and middle. World domination.

In my 15 years as a professional, I made all three. My list of offences included being arrested, being picked for England and dropped on the same day – still a record - scoring a hat-trick, getting man of the match, and my personal favourite, calling out a player at a far bigger club for failing the country and then blaming everybody else for his performance.

Football even makes the business pages and even here the law of threes is in evidence. Five years ago I predicted in a book called Guide to The Modern Game, that Silicon Valley would take a hand in Premier League TV rights.

On Friday that prediction took on some substance as Amazon, Facebook and Netflix all threw their hats into the ring for the next bidding process.

My logic is simple — wherever there are large numbers of people happily paying for a service, Silicon Valley is watching.

Three of the world’s largest companies are about to transform football and if you thought that that the sum paid by Sky for exclusive games is excessive at £5.14bn, then consider this: the biggest sporting TV deal in the world is the NFL, a game that until relatively recently has been watched almost exclusively in America. That deal is currently $39.6bn. Now consider the fact that Apple’s cash reserves, that is to say the cash that Apple has in the bank doing nothing but gaining interest, is up $10bn this quarter alone to $256.8bn.

The Premier League is watched all over the world. Apple would prefer it if you watched the Premier Leagues content on an Apple product. While paying for it.

People still ask me how difficult it is to simply concentrate on football with the constant swirl of off the pitch activity bombarding us every day.

And it’s a strange thing. Professional football is indeed a simple game complicated by everybody that doesn’t play it, and a few that do. If you feel invincible as a player you’ll end up either on the front page or the back page. If you toe the line you’ll always be in the middle, a safe haven for the average footballer. Seven out of ten. Thanks very much. A ‘James Milner’, as it’s known in the trade.

Football is about to change out of all proportion. Everything that you are used to now is up for grabs thanks to the technology revolution from the west coast of America. Wages will see their second radical overhaul since the Premier League’s inception and that will lead to more Aguero moments, more Rooney moments and I’m afraid to say, more Sampson moments.

And the knock-on effect for retired footballers will be disastrous.

In professional football there is a thing called a perfect hat-trick and it is not three goals scored with a left foot shot, a right foot shot and a header. It is the Holy Grail of hat-tricks and between us we refer to it when describing players that we know to each other.

The perfect hat-trick is as follows; divorce, bankruptcy and depression. In no particular order.

Statistically, every single footballer will achieve at least one of those within three years of retiring from the game. The highs of football always come in threes, but so also, do the lows. It’s easy to forget that when the headlines stop.


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