The transfer round-up you once read is now back from the dead. Well, a hiatus of sorts driven by weighty intangible concerns and a host of unrelated inanities. For the uninitiated and unfamiliar, this is not a column solely for Liverpool transfer hijinks. While Liverpool's summer transfer window travails, victories, leanings, and Konoplyankas can be found within these paragraphs, this is a space primarily for Premier League and European transfer tales with a slice of Chinese Super League. Essentially, the fundamental nature of this column remains unaltered. The last column on 27 August 2016 ended with the words: "Until Monday." Well here we are eight months later on that promised Monday, and Pep Guardiola is still the centre of attention.
This is Pep. Pep says he's happy. Pep probably isn't. Happy that is; he's still Pep
Imagine being Pep Guardiola. You're alluringly and effortlessly bald, dress like a don, possess a footballing philosophy that has moved millions of words to contort seeking contemplation, represent an imperial adherence to playing with the ball, and have just finished your first season in charge of Manchester City without a trophy or title challenge in sight. You say you're so happy with your players and the effort they've given you that you are going to fucking make it rain with ballers and Kyle Walker this summer.
So, what do you do? Well, you certainly don't wait for May to give way to June before signing a player. Ferran Soriano and Txiki Begiristain were hired to prepare for your coming, just as John the Baptist was to be the forerunner for Jesus Christ. You're not Jesus, but you are Pep. Pep of Barcelona. Pep of Bayern München. You are Pep and you are so unhappy that when you told a journalist to believe in your masquerade of happiness, you were really trying to convince yourself. Believe me.
You let a reserve goalkeeper that was starting ahead of your intended first-choice bought for £15.4 million with another £1.7 million in add-ons, three senior full backs, and the Night King Jesús Navas all leave on free transfers. You sign the silky and cerebral Bernardo Silva for £43 million from Monaco, line up two fullbacks that will provide fearsome athleticism and consistency, and look to break the world record for a goalkeeper in sterling but not in euros by signing Ederson Moraes from Benfica. İlkay Gündoğan will return for pre-season training, Yaya Touré is in talks over a new deal on reduced wages, but you still might buy another central midfielder all the same.
Kylian Mbappé? It depends on how you feel and what you want. There will be more simply because you are Pep, and to truly be like Pep is to win in style even if it takes hundreds of millions to do so.
The treble winner
What of the man Guardiola once described as "the puto jefe, the puto amo – the fucking boss, the fucking master" during their cordial time together in Spanish football? Manchester United's "treble" has given José Mourinho the chance to spend liberally on the players he really wants. The man is a menace, winner, hypocrite, manipulator, and unrepentant psychological maestro. His tactics are neither enticing nor inspiring, but he knows how to build winning teams. A sixth-placed finish replete with a cavalcade of draws was a poor return on such considerable investment into the playing squad, but the EFL Cup and Europa League are two good trophies. Reaching both finals was a sign of progress under Jürgen Klopp last season, and fairness should dictate that winning both in a single season should reflect well on Mourinho's first season.
His previous comments on Europe's second-tier competition, the level of opposition faced in Europe, and the undeniable fortune against Southampton are all noteworthy considerations, but they do not alter the fact that two trophies have been added to Manchester United's history. The reward? Antoine Griezmann. The Atlético Madrid forward recently said that his chances of joining Mourinho in English football were six out of ten, but he's now almost certain to make a "BIG MONEY MOVE" to the financially bloated footballing capital of Europe. Or is he?
Manchester United may have hit an obstacle in the pursuit of Ivan Perišić. Internazionale want £50 million instead of the measly £35 million on offer, and to make matters more complicated, Chelsea are also interested in the 28-year-old forward. Hard-working and more productive than he was in the past, Perišić might be the ideal player for Mourinho. The Liverpool link, though, must be regular transfer news padding just to add another team to the mix.
Done deals and happenings
You might also want to shed a tear at missing out on Youri Tielemans. The prince of Football Manager and certified midfield star in the making has moved to Monaco where he will prove to be the player Liverpool should have signed for just £21.63 million. He will thrive at Monaco, develop, grow, and be a player that will be out of reach one day. Quality players that are available at a reasonable price are extremely hard to find, remember?
Barcelona have a new manager in Ernesto Valverde who replaces Luis Enrique in one of the most demanding jobs in football. Enrique announced that he was leaving at the end of the season in March and signed off with a Copa del Rey to cap three years at the Camp Nou. Arsène Wenger is going to meet Stan Kroenke tomorrow and sign a two-year contract to continue as Arsenal manager. Well, the talk is of "deciding his future" when it's quite clear that the FA Cup win over Chelsea has only strengthened Wenger's position despite failing to qualify for the land of milk and honey for the first time during his tenure at the club. Wenger is a manager everyone should respect, the top six is fiercely competitive, and beating two top six rivals at full strength to win a domestic trophy is a big deal. However, can his ideas stand up to the rest? Tony Adams provided some insight into the mind and methods of an often guarded figure.
Big Sam is no more. Sam Allardyce resigned from his post at Crystal Palace and retired from football. He's never been relegated from the England's top tier. Ever. He has also masterminded an impressive and sustained spell of over-achievement at Bolton—surely one of the best in the Premier League era. He wasn't as good as he thought he was, but he was Big Sam. Maybe the combination of the England job and ill-judged secret, saucy meetings broke something small inside that finally toppled someone bigger than you realised until it was too late.
Crystal Palace have not yet found a successor, but Watford FC have replaced Walter Mazzarri with Marco Silva. Silva is talented, but can the former Hull City manager last the full length of his two-year contract? David Moyes resigned from his post at Sunderland, but nobody really cares. In Moyes' last game, he should have channeled the spirit of Garth Crooks, but his acquiescence to John Terry's self-indulgent whims were typical of his reign. A fitting way to go perhaps.
Chelsea have added to the Oscar (£60 million) and Patrick Bamford (£6 million) money by selling Juan Cuadrado to Juventus after two seasons on loan in Serie A for £17 million. The Premier League champions are set to spend big, and maybe for Antonio Conte, losing the FA Cup final will underline his idea that there is still much improvement to be made in the transfer window and on the training pitch. Conte is renowned for his commitment to hard work as a manager just as he was as a midfielder, and Chelsea's spending position will be boosted by circa £90 million made from sales in 2017 so far.
Christian Atsu is the reason for an approximate £90 million figure instead of £83 million after joining Newcastle United on a four-year deal. Rafa Benítez has been taking care of the Ghana international on loan this season, and at 25, this is the time for regular football. Rafa has been rotating his players a fair bit in the Championship, but Atsu made 35 appearances to feel confident of being involved in a top flight campaign next season. Eliaquim Mangala may be the next player to join Newcastle from a top six club after Valencia couldn't agree a reduced fee with Man City. Pep's club wants a permanent deal for a player signed for £42 million once upon a time, and Rafa wants a partner for the impressive Jamaal Lascelles. TV deal money should make this happen.
Pablo Zabaleta has joined West Ham United on a free transfer after nine years at Manchester City. A two-year deal for a 32-year-old on the decline with impressive mental strength and commitment may work out for all parties concerned. Maybe a move will renew the energies of the combative right back.
That's all for now, but this video was some way to say goodbye to Zabaleta, a genuine fan favourite. Whatever happens to your eyes, blame it on those blasted onions.