By Rory Morrow – Deputy & Sports Editor
“And the window slams SHUT!!!” For once, Jim White’s annual one-liner/Autumnal welcoming on Sky Sports felt semi significant. Fans really could keel over, in relief, exasperated infuriation or sheer exhaustion as various moves across Europe were concocted to be either finalised or butchered. Deadline day was more fun than in recent years although as ever it flattered to deceive. Overall, the transfer window did not. Reminiscent of Phoebe maniacally protesting against madness, ironically painting her character in a madness light, some of this summer’s signings, whispered wages and desperate deals only show that Abba’s “Money, Money, Money” song (and especially the line “It’s a rich man’s world) are increasingly true in men’s football today.
Yet for all that, Jessie J’s lyrics for another money-themed song, “we don’t need your money, we just want to make the world dance. Forget about the price tag” also feel appropriate. There is a certain joy in seeing Messi at long last liberated from the falling giant of Barcelona FC, a reluctant survivor of La Liga’s very own Titanic. And what a merry dance it could be at PSG. At least on the pitch. Mbappe, Neymar, Di Maria, Messi. Excuse me reader whilst I find a suitable place for my saliva to drool contentedly. Also, serial winner, part time bastard Sergio Ramos is as important an arrival as Messi. Why? Because no matter attacking flair, a trend in recent trophy winning teams is a resolute defence that settles to eventually drip off the tongue. In short, the manager knowing the best system and players to fulfil it. Ramos instantly slots in. PSG’s star-studded business combined with Mauricio Pochettino’s astute management are a potent mix capable of winning the Champions League.
The Parisian’s solid transfer work naturally benefits from wealth as of course, and here cover your eyes and ears Manchester United fans, as does Cristiano Ronaldo’s arrival. Arguably a bigger scalp for PR than actual footballing progress. Already the 36-year old’s sensational signing has stirred the debate of whether scintillating prodigy Mason Greenwood is worthy of starting alongside mighty Cristiano. But as evidenced in the Champions League, he is not so miraculous as to excuse the whiff of mediocrity elsewhere. Ronaldo is a superb athlete and exceptionally talented, twice-in-a-generation footballer who has enjoyed Champions League trebles and European success at national level. Internationally he still excels, Ronaldo recovering from a missed penalty with two late goals to sink a dogged Republic of Ireland. His sheer attitude and professionalism will hugely elevate standards. The romantic reunion element further endears him yet if the quietly effective debut at Wolves is anything to go by, Raphael Varane is more of a coup. The Frenchman enters his prime years, 28 and crucially in the position United most needed upgrading.
Liverpool, with key personnel, notably some senior centre backs, all fit once more, will be eyeing trophies. Previous years “sagas” were anticlimactically resolved as Jadon Sancho swiftly signed, no doubt influencing Dan James’s departure to Leeds. There were other minor surprises, Everton flop turned Croatia star Nikola Vlasic arrived at high-flying West Ham whilst powerhouse Moussa Sissoko adds beef and experience to Watford’s midfield. Salomon Rondon, if he is supplied is a shrewd, inexpensive Toffees transfer by Rafael Benitez. Already Chelsea’s recapturing of Romelu Lukaku looks pivotal and certainly less sentimentally impacted than Ronaldo’s return, in part allowing Rio Ferdinand some fresher fan adoration from BT Sport’s YouTube comments section. Provided the transfer is a success.
Aston Villa’s opening three matches have been entertainingly inconsistent but the new boys have started well at least, Danny Ings and Emiliano Buendia scoring spectacularly. Crucially, these moves benefited Villa whilst also weaking rivals Southampton and Norwich. Jack Grealish, for all the jargon is a fun and expressive City signing emphasising exactly why despite their mighty finance, the stylish
team moulded by Pep Guardiola are difficult to not admire on some level. Defenders too have been signed, released and transferred despite the unflashy nature of defending rendering their moves somewhat less glitzy. Tottenham’s defensive rejig reflects the relevance of defending, a settled, athletic back four no doubt an upgrade on an ageing, eternally Jose-damned, chopped and changed repeatedly defensive- not system no- shape-even that’s generous- muddle. That’s the right word. Cristian Romero adds competition too. Leicester’s poaching of Jannik Vestergaard was smart whilst the Canaries late move for Ozan Kabak smacked of Daniel Farke not quite trusting his current defensive resources. Perhaps, Brighton did best in this regard. Robbing Arsenal of £50M for the talented but brittle Ben White and replacing him with a rejuvenated, returned Shane Duffy. For free as well.
Arsenal’s transfer policy reflects their on-field shambles. Incohesive, flustered and generally evocative of a circus atmosphere, the highest-paid employees representing the biggest clowns. But then, isn’t this also every transfer window? This, in one where Harry Kane fluttered his Manchester City eyelashes, when Real Madrid’s big move was merely to bid for Kylian Mbappe and Gigi Buffon warmed all our cockles in his treasure-chest return to Parma. We shall see if they and Manchester United drew gold or rusting diamonds which only shine fleetingly. One thing’s certain. After Coronavirus, the circus is back in full flow and its more ridiculous than ever. But we should enjoy it, settle in and watch the churlish chaos unfold. To see if the prolonged plotlines are as good as their billing or spectacular flops. Regardless, as you chew your popcorn remember to try and enjoy the ride.