|Louis van Gaal doesn't strike me as the kind of guy who takes things too personally. If he was, he may be feeling a little hurt that Bayern Munich striker Luca Toni is so out of love with the gruff Dutchman that he's even prepared to join West Ham United just to get away from him.
Imagine how intolerable life must be at the AllianzArena that a World Cup-winning striker, a regular in the Italy squad and former top scorer in the Bundesliga is considering heading to East London and a potential relegation dogfight. When he's not being fined and banished to the stands, Toni must be locked in a tea chest with the words "temporary urinal" stenciled over its solitary breathing hole. Poor Luca, he must be so desperately unhappy.
If this is the action the Italian is ready to take to escape Van Gaal, even the hardest heart may turn a little to introspection and ask "what have I done?"
This, of course, ignores the fact that Van Gaal is the Antichrist and the evil architect of Toni's discontent.
Seeing the lanky Italian board a Germanwings flight to Stansted would be the best Christmas gift the Dutchman could ever ask for. If he even celebrated Christmas…Which he probably doesn't…Given the blackness of his heart. He probably prefers to sit in solitude under his favorite inverted crucifix, happily breaking the legs of newborn kittens.
Except he doesn't. Louis van Gaal, despite his shortcomings as a man-manager and coach, is probably a very nice man. Okay, he seems detached and obstinate, but he never does anything really bad. He's just made a decision over one player and is being cast as a pantomime villain in a bid to make his personality and the extremely dull goings-on at Bayern a little bit more interesting.
In reality, this whole Toni-Van Gaal saga is one of the biggest examples of "handbags at dawn" the melodramatic world of modern soccer has produced in the last five minutes. Oh hang on…Manchester City's Mark Hughes and Arsene Wenger of Arsenal are fighting over the etiquette surrounding shaking hands. The refusal by Wenger to accept his opposite number's greasy mitt at the end of Arsenal's Carling Cup defeat last night is threatening the future of humanity. Soccer pundits are expecting a cataclysmic polar shift unless Wenger admits that he's a bad loser. Or not. Anyway, who cares?
I'm all for a bit of the sideshow entertainment which makes breaks between matches that little bit more enjoyable but surely these fully grown men can find something worthwhile to fight about.
"The coach doesn't like me…He won't play me." At least he's not sleeping with your wife, which is what they used to do in the good old days! "The Frenchman didn't shake my hand…He's out of order." Maybe you'd prefer it if he came round and burned down your favorite pub, just like the managers of the past used to do when they lost a match. (They didn't really but I hope you see my point).
When was the last time your saw Jose Mourinho slide across the wet turf on his Armani-suited knees, purposefully inciting riots and hatred among the opposing fans? When was the last time you heard reports of Sir Alex Ferguson kicking a soccer boot at someone's head or throwing a tray of tea cups against the wall?
All I can say - and I'm as surprised as anyone about this - is thank goodness for Diego Maradona.
The players are boring, the football experience is sanitized – all I ask is that the real characters of the game, those crazy bosses who used to lose their minds and their marriages over the love of the game, don't go the same way. Let's have a bit of real danger in the dug-out.