I have to be completely honest with you: I stopped writing posts for a bit after the Euros. I just couldn't get myself to think about football like that. The Euro final almost ruined me to my core. The grief was bleak and vacuous. And listen, I'm not actually even destroyed that England didn't win. Heckers, there was a moment late on in extra time where I thought, England could nick a goal and they would not deserve this win. Not that I would have cared how we won, but the final went sort of terribly. England didn't create or attack. It was all a bit muted and cagey. Kalvin Phillips and Declan Rice not a pairing that exactly breeds mouthwatering football. That's what gets to me. After England thrashed Germany (one of the greatest moments of my life), an actual hex had been rid of. The lads on this England squad are too young and too gifted to even know about losing to Germany in 1990 and 1996. And those aren't just defeats. Those are events that altered my life and the lives of England fans. We view success and loss based on the pain we've already endured for decades. So, we knocked them out and we had a team finally primed for glory. But it didn't happen. I'm not gutted that England will likely never win a trophy in my lifetime, I'm just sad that this group of players had a chance to do something marvelous but were restrained. The talents of this team weren't allowed to properly flourish or be truly unsheathed, and it ended up costing us a pot.
But, England will grow and be better. The Euros was a bonus. The World Cup is now the aim and there's no reason why England cannot win it. Obviously, the lifelong question of "will they?" remains, and the answer is always going to be "probably bloody not", but the talent is there. That Euros squad plus the likes of Mason Greenwood and a more mature and experienced Jadon Sancho, Bukayo Saka, Phil Foden and Jude Bellingham (not to mention a healthy Marcus Rashford) should be a problem. To genuinely soar and triumph, that perfect cocktail of chemistry and energy and luck and bravado and talent has to be milling in the cauldron. England had that and have that more now than ever before. They won't back down from anyone.
With that said, I've climbed out of my abyssal mourning. There isn't much time to moan in the football world as rest is a luxury. Preseason plodded on. The seasons began in quick succession and the transfer window has been proper bananas. Like, the most mental window in football history.
Lionel Messi now plays for PSG. That's a thing. It's still very confusing for most sane people as no one has really answered why Messi couldn't have taken a larger pay cut. He seemed set on staying in Barcelona, but, like, also totally fine with leaving after a few tears. That criminal Qatari money is nice in the end and those cats wasted no time in continuing their fervent sportswashing endeavors. The slavery, bigotry and murder is one thing but AT LEAST WE HAVE MESSI AND NEYMAR BACK TOGETHER absolves them of any wrongdoing. Apparently.
I know I'm likely being naïve, but in my heart I hope it's the fact that Ligue 1 isn't that testing (I'm not trying to be controversial, but the French standard of football is miles and eons behind everyone else at the top who are miles and eons behind the Premier League) and the corrupt ownership structure of PSG that has Kylian Mbappé dead set on a move to Real Madrid, but I fear it isn't that complex. Kylian has gone on record with his thoughts on Ligue 1 being substandard. But my guess is that he just wants to join a club he considers the biggest in the world. And right fucking now. The Parisians will hold onto Mbappé despite a €200m offer from Los Blancos. The tactic, honestly, was brilliant. Real Madrid knew PSG wouldn't sell so they threw out numbers that no team would ever dare say no to, with full knowledge PSG would indeed actually do so because their money is limitless and Financial Fair Play does not exist for them (see -- Qataris casually sitting on the board investigating FFP breaches), and infuriating KM in the process. Mbappé surely won't extend his PSG contract now and will walk to Madrid for free next summer (he can negotiate his contract and sign a pre-agreement in January 2022). Unless the Qatar government has the Mbappé family in a cell (which isn't that much of a reach), I see Kylian signing for Real Madrid in January and transferring in June with PSG receiving no financial recourse, and Mbappé himself getting paid even more as his contract absorbs what would have been the money going to Paris/Doha. It would not be a bad idea for an outside regulator (which does not exist in football but should immediately) to perhaps scrutinize even just a smidge as to how a football team in the midst of a pandemic in a league struggling to patch together broadcasting deals can let €200m swim on by.
This is all hyper-relevant because the merry-go-round of quite stupid player movement is temporarily stalled. Mbappé will now go to Real Madrid next season. Real Madrid used some of their funds that were allocated for Kylian on Eduardo Camavinga (dope, young midfielder from Rennes). That move has massive implications as now Paul Pogba looks set for PSG for free next summer (although I am sure Real Madrid will still make a play). Erling Haaland, who will be available at a manageable release clause of €75m, now has two less suitors (the aforementioned Real Madrid as well as Chelsea with newly added Romelu Lukaku). Harry Kane will be trying to leave again, especially if Tottenham do not restructure his poorly constructed contract, although Spurs will command even less money next summer for a 29 year old desirous of staying in England. And Robert Lewandowski, who will be 34 next August, is itching for a switch away from perennial German champions Bayern Munich. There are teams like Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool, Barcelona (although they clearly have no money and did sign Sergio Agüero and Luuk de Jong to score goals this window) and PSG who will be in the market to splash for a striker. And that freewheeling clown cart is currently on hold, but once Mbappé signs then it's off to the races.
A striker is one of two major missing pieces for the current Manchester United side. But, let me gloat a little bit here, my fucking god, we pulled off the move of the entire goddamn window! CRISTIANO IS BACK. What an absolute whirlwind. There were so many beautiful aspects to this transfer. It happened quickly, which is not how United ever act. Nobody knew anything about it until Ole Gunnar Solskjaer hinted that Ronaldo would never go sky blue in his pre-match press conference, where hidden transfers in this social media and wikileaks day and age are unheard of. And former players and Sir Alex Ferguson got it done. Now listen, for some miserable clowns out there, this wasn't a good signing. But I'm here to tell you it was and I am confident the future will prove me right.
CR7! Cristiano Ronaldo is an icon at United. The most talented player to ever pull on the red top (no disrespect to George Best, Bobby Charlton, Ryan Giggs and Eric Cantona). He could retire today and be regarded as the greatest footballer of all time. That's a conversation for another time, but one I'm always willing to have. But, to see him sign for Manchester City would have been a crime. It wouldn't have been right. And too many people who I thought knew something about football felt too blasé about it. It would be like Messi signing for Real Madrid after his PSG stint. Sure, things happen, but it just would not be proper. And some things need to still be sacred. A rivalry as massive as this one between the city of Manchester enemies is one of those things. And that's why the Ronaldo to United transfer is humongous. The club needed to stop City from getting him. That has value. It is similar to Wayne Rooney trying to leave. I was sort of fine with him leaving but I knew he would be a Ballon d'Or candidate immediately upon signing for United's Premiership opponent. That's just how it would have worked. And to avoid that misery alone, Ronaldo, like Rooney, was worth the cost. And the cost here is marginal. The fee to Juventus is absolutely minimal. A few million quid every year for 5 years is just petty change for a club the size of United. The wages; however, will likely be significant. And those numbers should come out accurately as the team is publicly traded on the NYSE (expect something more than David de Gea's team-leading £350,000 a week...by about 100k). Which is certainly nothing to sniff at, but wholly alright. The major issue, and probably why said clowns are crying tears of perpetual curmudgeonry, is that the Ronaldo money could have been spent by the club elsewhere. In theory.
United have a monumental hole in the middle of the park. Picture a brick wall bereft of cement. It was created by the loss of Roy Keane but then filled by Michael Carrick. And then when MC16 grabbed a whistle and track jacket, it was never properly addressed. Nemanja Matić and Fred are not the answers. Fred has good energy and is useful for that at least, but he cannot be relied upon to hold the middle ahead of the defensive line. He is not able to pull strings and boss that main third of the pitch. Matić is old and slow and should have been shipped off to Turkey or Greece during the 2020 window. Now, Scott McTominay is an asset. Boy oh boy. One of the most underrated central midfielders in the world, McT (I don't think anyone but me calls him that) will be the first name on the team sheet going forward. But he doesn't hold. He can, but he's more useful as part of a pivot in a middle 2. What Manchester United urgently requires is a player specifically designated to defensively mind the mid. And look what happened when Scott got hurt and didn't play?? Wolves carved up United like a November bird. This is a glaring need the owners and Ole continue to overlook. It is amateur at best. You can't win trophies with no one available to solidify the midfield and dictate play. United are battling with Chelsea, amongst others, for the title. Chelsea boast a midfield of Jorginho (touted by many to win the Ballon d'Or this year), N'Golo Kanté (touted by many to be the best central midfielder in the world) and Saúl Ñíguez (casually scooped up by the Blues, and turned down by United, on loan from Atlético Madrid), not to mention Mateo Kovačić who can also do a job occasionally. The point being that Chelsea won the Champions League and still felt the need to shore up the middle. That's how important it is.
Such is the rich state of the Premier League that you can no longer rely on buying English talent, or even talent from fellow Premiership clubs on the cheap. Nobody needs the money anymore. So, you can't just go to West Ham and offer £60m for Declan Rice because the Hammers aren't even picking up the phone until that number hits closer to £100m. And that's absurd. I am sure if you asked Leeds United for a price tag on Kalvin Phillips they would quote Kylian Mbappé numbers. Consequently, there needs to be some creative decision making at Manchester United to attack this dilemma. United have James Garner, aged 20, who looks a player for the future. Besides Mason Greenwood, he's the academy product I've been most excited about the last few years. A bonafide central midfielder who commands his space and can dominate. He's on loan (again) to Nottingham Forest, but fortunately for United fans, did finally extend his contract. Camavinga was never an option this window as the Frenchman had his heart set on Spain. Real Madrid got a steal there as the 18 year old looks a surefire star. Saúl was there for the taking. And questions do need to be asked as to why Ole did not feel the urge to drag that across the line. The loan fee (€5m) and wages (~£200k a week) would add up, but these are the moves you have to make to get to the elite next step. Saúl is 26, has experience and trophies, and can thoroughly bully a midfield. And United even with Ronaldo, most certainly have the money (a not nearly good enough for the upper echelon Dan James was sold for an incredible £30m to Leeds and moves to ship out Donny van de Beek, Anthony Martial and/or Jesse Lingard could have been easily manufactured). Allora, expectations even with one of the GOATs, "Champions League" Raphaël Varane and Jadon Sancho in tow have to assuredly be limited with this weeping gash at the heart of the formation.
But, mate, irrespective of what happens next, the joy of that window was worth it. And fans should expect that to be the norm going forward. Despite the pandemic, there is money in the football world. Global travesties will never affect PSG, City and Chelsea. Real Madrid and Barcelona will not sit idly by for long and let trophies they are used to lifting go astray. Bayern Munich, now that they are done pillaging RB Leipzig for their manager (Julian Nagelsmann), captain (Marcel Sabitzer) and best defender (Dayot Upamecano), will want to return to the summit. Juventus and Inter (to a much lesser extent depending on their ownership woes) as well. They will spend. And the Premier League clubs are only getting more and more cash streaming in. The TV rights deals are only increasing in lucrativeness and the popularity of the British game is growing worldwide. So, buckle in for constant biannual madness.
The window may be closed until January, but the gossip is only just beginning to churn. For now, enjoy the football. Revel (or complain) in (or about) the Playstation-like squads assembling. There is going to be chaos when some of these teams meet. And the outcomes of those matches will undoubtedly dictate moves made in future windows. For those United fans out there, the man with the most international goals in football history is fit and chomping at the fucking bit.
Let's have it!
If interested, subscribe to GIYB's RSS feed using your preferred feed reader with: