How to Score (On and Off the Pitch)

By Andrew Playle All Rights Reserved ©

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Chapter 48

JANUARY 2022

As expected, Bradley had overdone the food over Christmas and got told off by the club nutritionist when he returned for training as he was three kilos over what he should be. That meant plenty of saunas, running and weights for the next couple of days to get rid of the excess baggage. Luckily, that had never been a problem for Bradley as he kept himself in good shape with the minimum of effort. Just one of those lucky people who didn’t have to worry about weight gain. He put that down to his healthy diet which had gone out of the window the last week or so.

They had a few days yet before they recommenced the season with a home game against Deportivo la Coruna so Bradley wasn’t too worried. He noticed a few of his team mates had returned with a similar paunch after all the festivities so he was in good company. But when the manager called Bradley into his office after training one day, he was worried he had gone too far. He had an excellent relationship with Oscar Fuentes, but he was not a man to cross and had a vicious temper when things went wrong, which thankfully didn’t happen too often.

‘Bradley, please sit down. How was the holiday for you? It looked like you had enjoyed it.’ Fuentes said, pointing to his stomach.

‘It was good, thanks.’ Bradley went on to tell Sr Fuentes all about their two Christmases and all the great times they had.

‘Good, good. Now it’s time to get back to business which is why I need to speak to you.’ Fuentes looked worried which in turn worried Bradley. ‘Now the transfer window is open once more, there will be the usual silly rumours going around and as you know, your name gets more than a few mentions which are pure speculation. So, I need to ask you how happy you are here at Barcelona. Do you feel like a new challenge like the papers are saying?’

This news took Bradley by surprise. He never read the press, either in the papers or online as there was always so much crap on there. And his parents had enjoyed more than their fair share of publicity in the past so he was kind of turned off the media, avoiding interviews whenever he could as well.

‘Yes, I am very happy here Boss. I’m playing for the best team in the world, winning medals and making good money. Why wouldn’t I be happy?’ Bradley asked.

‘Good. That is what I wanted to hear. Because AC Milan have approached us to find out how much you would cost. I made it clear to the board that you should never be sold at any price if the club wanted to continue to be successful. The supporters wouldn’t be happy either and I’m happy to say that the board agreed with me 100%. That is why I was asking if you were happy. I want to be able to go back to AC Milan and tell them that you are not interested in leaving.’

Bradley’s mind went back to the conversation he had some time ago with Sr Cantonelli.

‘I’m definitely not interested in leaving and I’m pleased that you and the board want to keep me. I suppose I am flattered that a club like AC Milan want me, but then I don’t think they would be the only club if they had the money. Please tell them thanks, but no thanks. Will that be all, Boss?’

‘Yes it is Bradley. Thanks for your time, now get back to training. I’ll be out there in a few minutes.’

Bradley returned to the training pitch and noticed a few of the players were looking at him with a knowing look on their faces. They had seen those conversations before, especially during the transfer window when players moved about with alacrity. He wasn’t surprised when the club captain came up to him and asked outright what Sr Fuentes wanted to see him about.

When Bradley confirmed his suspicions, he was happy to tell the skipper that he had no intention of leaving which pleased the captain, although he wasn’t surprised. There was no bigger club in the world than FC Barcelona; why would anyone want to leave and go to a smaller club, whatever the money on offer?

Once he got home, he told Jessie about the bid from AC Milan which brought a frown to her face. He reassured her that he wasn’t interested and that would be the end of it. However, she had been looking at a certain website that monitored all the wheelings and dealings of the clubs during the transfer window after being tipped off by her dad, and didn’t like what she had seen. Apparently, someone had told the papers that he was unhappy at Camp Nou and wanted a new challenge. He was linked with Manchester City who had bottomless pockets, as had Paris Saint Germain and also a club in China that was willing to pay him £500,000 per week which was insane.

He told her none of it was true and he was staying put as the club didn’t want to sell him and he didn’t want to leave, so it was a nothing rumour and she should tell her dad the same thing.

Jessie was relieved to hear confirmation from Bradley as she didn’t want to go anywhere. When she told her dad, he let her know the source of the story which had come from a former team mate at Hearts who had retired and now lived near Mijas. He had been talking off the record to a journalist contact of his who was now based in London working for one of the major broadsheets. That can only be one person, thought Bradley. His old nemesis Kevin McNair was still stirring it up for him.

He put all thoughts out of his mind and concentrated on the Deportivo game which they cruised to a 6-0 win and Bradley scored his third hat-trick of the season. It seemed that the Barcelona supporters had been alarmed at that week’s rumour as there were a number of banners suspended from the stadium begging him not to leave. He made a point of doing a lap of honour and assuring them that he was going nowhere, wondering what McNair could get out of starting baseless rumours like that.

That evening, Archie called to congratulate him on his performance as usual, and to pass on Deepak’s thanks for a wonderful time once again. The boy had shown his gratitude loads of times already, but it was nice that he was so polite and grateful.

Archie also asked Bradley what the story was with the rumours going around. Not that he was worried or believed them, he would be one of the first to know if anything was going to happen on that front, but he wanted Bradley’s view on the whole matter.

When Bradley told him that it looked like McNair was behind the story, Archie said he would have a word if he could get hold of him. He didn’t have any contact details for him now he was in Spain, but he would find a way. McNair was a devious character and he didn’t want him anywhere near Bradley or his family again.

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