Harry Maguire is in trouble for one simple reason: he does not know when he has won.
And he has been winning a long time now. He won the day he signed his first professional contract with Sheffield United. He won on April 12, 2011, when he made his debut against Cardiff.
He won by swapping League One for the Premier League with Hull in 2014, and by avoiding the Championship by moving to Leicester in 2017.
He won when he made his England debut in Lithuania and when he played, and scored, later that season in the World Cup finals.
Most of all, he won on August 5, 2019, the day Manchester United paid Leicester £80million to make him the most expensive defender in the world, later making him captain of the club.
Every time one of these milestones occurred, Maguire was living the dream. That he would become a professional footballer, and make a success of it. That he would play for his country, and at huge grounds like Old Trafford.
That tens of thousands would cheer his name and that he would be rewarded handsomely, never in his life needing to worry about money, for himself or his family.
Each one of those boneheads who made it their sorry business to target Maguire and his extended group, in Mykonos, with chants and taunts want what he has. If they care enough to insult him, to try to get a rise out of him, they would have loved to have been as good at football as he is. So he has won.
And the only way he can lose is by engaging and throwing all he has worked hard for and achieved so far into jeopardy.
We can all see the mistakes made leading up to the event. A holiday in Mykonos, for a start. It’s a one-horse town masquerading as the retreat of the international jet set.
Maguire’s party were reported to have visited a number of ‘exclusive’ venues, but how exclusive can they be if they also welcome gangs of beery soccer lads chanting ‘F*** United’?
And once outside, all pretence of exclusivity ends. Mykonos’s tourist season is a racket with preciously few taxi licences granted, so everyone ends up jostling for a ride in the same streets. All that is exclusive about the centre are the prices paid in some bars. One report spoke of a £63,000 tab for Maguire’s group, including an £18,000 bottle of 2002 Dom Perignon.
Let’s at least hope it was at the start of the session when people still had the tastebuds for it. Midway or near the end of a lengthy bender most won’t possess the palate to distinguish their own urine from a glass of milk.
And, by the way, the same bottle, same vintage is about £1,400 at wine merchants Lay and Wheeler — no, sorry, that’s for a case.
Meaning if 2002 Dom Perignon is Maguire’s body-settler of choice, he could have shacked up in a fabulous location where no-one would have known or cared with approximately 154 bottles of it, for what it cost him to buy one in Mykonos, in the company of dolts. So just being able to afford Mykonos prices is not winning, either.
Walk away and Maguire wins. Avoiding confrontation, he wins. Taking one look around a place, noting the company and going somewhere private is winning again. By recognising that, as captain of Manchester United, every day is a victory of sorts, Maguire cannot lose. And surely he knows this now.
He may yet surrender his place in the England team, albeit temporarily, over a very resistable incident. He may have lost even more had it escalated.
Imagine the consequences for Maguire of a custodial sentence, or a career-threatening injury. Unforeseen consequences occur when drink has been taken, too. Falls, smashes, cuts, breakages.
Maguire has so much to lose; he has more at stake than just about anyone in the company because he has won like no-one else in the company. Ever wonder why the most famous footballer this country has ever produced was never in trouble for more than bold fashion statements?
David Beckham always knew when he had won. And he used his spare time to celebrate accordingly.
Within the press area at the Estadio da Luz on Sunday night were representatives of Bayern Munich’s social media team. They could be recognised from their official club merchandise, with one logo very prominently running down one arm: Qatar Airways.
So anyone who thinks the Champions League final was a victory for noble old money over dirty new, for the right way of running a football club when compared to the obnoxious parvenus of Paris Saint-Germain, isn’t just ignorant of football but commerce, finance and geopolitics, too.
There was so much delight around PSG’s defeat, so much talk of horrid oil wealth — although it never seemed to bother anybody when this country grew rich off what it found beneath the North Sea — and sportswashing, that Munich’s links to Qatar were conveniently brushed aside.
Qatar Airways are a second-level platinum partner of Munich, behind only the main sponsors adidas, Deutsche Telekom, Audi and Allianz.
So, just to recap: it is fine for an established member of the European elite to take the spoils of the Gulf’s resources — Munich’s deal with Qatar Airways, state-owned since May 2014, is worth more than £10m annually — and use it to build a team that wins the Champions League.
But it is not right for that state to try to do the same independently, through ownership of and investment in a football club? In other words: towelheads know your place. You facilitate us. You don’t develop ambitions of your own. Certainly not ones that might threaten the status quo.
The best team won, and that is always good to see. The victors, Munich, are deserved European champions and the losers, PSG, were disappointing on the night, particularly their highly-regarded forward line.
Yet Munich have six of these things now, and PSG none and it is always better for football if success is spread around. Equally, as both teams are funded, at least in part, from the same pot, this supposed moral victory is rather empty, too.
Angelino of Manchester City is interesting Barcelona. So get them in quickly, those essays, those posts, those statements revealing him to be the finest left back in Europe.
By all means dash to the keyboard or on to the airwaves today to argue that Pep Guardiola does not know what he is doing and greatness awaits.
That way you won’t be like those who decry Arsene Wenger and Tony Pulis over Serge Gnabry, and Jose Mourinho over Mo Salah and Kevin De Bruyne, as if when those players were sold there was a single peep of critical dissent.
Nobody saw Gnabry’s success coming, except perhaps the genius at Bayern Munich who recruited him, based either on a good spell with Werder Bremen, or his capability with Stuttgart as a teenager.
It certainly wasn’t from what was on show in English football. The same with Salah and De Bruyne. They were nothing like the players we know now when they left Chelsea.
They had potential, clearly, but Mourinho did not sell the most creative midfielder in Europe, or one of its best forwards. Players develop and peak at different stages.
Elite clubs are impatient for success, others feel a desperate need to survive or improve. It is very easy to talk as if everybody saw the future.
Guardiola rated Angelino highly enough to start him against Liverpool away and Manchester United at home this season, and Manchester City lost both games. If you think he is making a terrible error now, this is the time to go on the record. Otherwise it’s all a bit clever Dick.
A cynic might view Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s unsolicited revelation that he has not, as yet, signed a new contract with Arsenal as a last attempt to alert Europe’s biggest clubs to his availability.
He still seems a player who is settling by agreeing a new contract rather than getting what he wants.
He is obviously the talent Mikel Arteta should build his team around, if committed. But one cannot help thinking this is not Aubameyang’s preference.
Bournemouth have made few redundancies following their relegation to the Championship, but taking apart the recruitment department is a strange one. Nathan Ake was bought from Chelsea for £20million and sold to Manchester City for £41m.
Bournemouth paid Sheffield United £1m for Aaron Ramsdale then sold him back to them for £18.5m. If David Brooks also leaves this summer, Bournemouth could make between three and four times his £11.5m transfer fee.
No matter the fate of the team, the club’s recruitment was operating at Premier League level. It seems bizarre it should be the department taking the fall.
Momentum is a huge factor in sport. So what to make of Sevilla’s continued success in the Europa League?
This is a competition in which a major club, basically, fails to get in. Entering from La Liga, Sevilla often had to either finish outside the top four, or stuff up their Champions League group.
Then, on the back of a massive disappointment, they won a major European trophy — six times in 15 seasons.
In 2005-06, having finished sixth, Sevilla then won the UEFA Cup. The following season, they returned as title-holders, but would have qualified anyway in fifth place. Winners again in 2013-14, Sevilla got in by finishing ninth because Malaga fell foul of Financial Fair Play and Rayo Vallecano could not obtain a UEFA licence.
On to 2014-15 when Sevilla qualified as holders, but also by finishing fifth. By now, Europa League winners were elevated to the 2015-16 Champions League, but Sevilla tanked in their group finishing five points behind second-placed Juventus and six off Manchester City.
So they fell back into the Europa League, and won it again. This season, it was a sixth-placed finish that dropped them into Europe’s lesser tournament — and a sixth trophy duly followed.
Do not forget that between these many triumphs Sevilla have qualified for the Champions League on six occasions, so the Europa League will always have felt lesser.
It is a truly remarkable story of strength through adversity. No club is better at picking itself up off the floor.
Aleksander Ceferin, president of UEFA, says his organisation will think about a finals format for the latter stages of the Champions League. Yes, think about it. And then be firmly steered away by the richest clubs that control the European game.
For a start, the current television deal based around the existing format runs until 2024-25, by which time events in Lisbon will be a distant memory. Logistical and scheduling issues appear hard to surmount, too.
How would this tournament fare in a summer slated for a World Cup or UEFA’s European Championship? And how would one city, its police and citizens, handle fans of eight major clubs sharing the same space?
Last season, that would have placed supporters of Manchester City, Manchester United, Liverpool and Tottenham in Madrid together. What could possibly go wrong? Even spreading the competition over one country those problems may not entirely go away, and the costs for travellers could grow exponentially.
Equally, while the 2020 Champions League final featured the dominant teams in two major countries, it will not be forgotten that inroads were made by relative pipsqueaks at the expense of Atletico Madrid and Manchester City in one-off games.
‘In two games, the better team always wins, based on experience,’ said Bayern Munich chief executive Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, ‘but anything is possible in one game.’ He meant it as a compliment, but his wealthy allies won’t agree. They don’t want anything to be possible. They want nothing to be possible that might affect their chances of success.
If the Champions League does ever end in a mini-tournament, the clubs at the top of the tree will demand entry guaranteed by historical precedent, with places reserved so that Munich, Juventus, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Manchester United, AC Milan and Liverpool always qualify.
They will remove the elements of real surprise — the surprising progress of RB Leipzig, Atalanta and Lyon — that have made the 2019-20 competition a joy. They will want Barcelona there even if they lose by eight; they will continue to fear the emergence of the new.
It won’t be like this at all. And if they cannot get their way, they will ensure nothing changes that might weaken the existing powerbase.
James Anderson was two shy of 600 Test wickets when England dropped four catches in 37 balls off his bowling.
One day, no doubt, they’ll all look back and laugh. Maybe not right now, though.