Silly Season Strikes with English Premier "Big Four" Transfers

Tim AndersonCorrespondent IJuly 3, 2008

Silly Season Opens in the Premier League Transfer Market

Now that the European Championships are over, the transfer silly season is on. More rumours are circulating than vultures over a dying elephant with the "big four" Premier League clubs all sharpening their talons as they look to create the magic title winning formula from the cream of world talent.

Manchester United as title holders, are the slowest movers, a hugely successful campaign last year allowing them the luxury of taking a more consolidating view of the market. Their focus is firmly on trying to ensure the Portuguese phenomenon Christiano Ronaldo stays at Old Trafford for at least another year instead of making his “dream” move to Real Madrid, rumoured to be worth up to £75m.

Sir Alex Ferguson will be desperate to hold onto the midfielder after his dominance over the Premier League, a staggering 42 goals from midfield player going a long way to securing their successes. Sir Alex aims to topple Liverpool´s standing at the top of the domestic league wins table, while trying now to maybe add another Champions League triumph to his legacy before he retires.

That’s not to say the contribution of the rest of United could in any way be underestimated. Ferdinand, Scholes and Giggs and the rest all show class but Ronaldo has such a strangle hold on the fast and furious nature of the competition that to lose him would bring United back into the high spending pack of clubs trying to eek some glimmer of hope of taking the title from them. There are some players for which there are no substitutes and Ronaldo fits into this category like sangria in the sun.

One of the people publicly encouraging Ronaldo to move to Spain is Felipe Scolari, who by strange coincidence turned up the following week as the new Chelsea manager, Manchester´s nearest rivals. Aided of course by the billions of Russian owner Roman Ambromavich, they have already dipped into the market, Barcelona's Deco and Porto's Jose Boswinga arriving in London. Both should fit in nicely, although questions may be asked of Deco´s potential after playing only 18 games last term for the Catalan giants due to injury, and at 30 years of age, may be stretched in the fastest competition in the world.

With rumours persisting that Deco's arrival could mean the departure of Frank Lampard to old Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho's Inter Milan, Chelsea fans are wary. Lampard has been Chelsea's most consistent goal scorer for several years. But the move is no certainty, so they may be able to keep him tied down if they can give him a deal that matches his achievements. (Go on Roman give him an extra 20 grand a week!)

The other potential loss to Inter Milan is Portugal's Ricardo Carvalho, another key performer last year, although as former Portuguese national coach, Scolari should be able to keep his man from absconding to Italy this year.

Otherwise Chelsea are solid, the childish winging from Drogba should dull to a sob now that the unassuming and unexcitable Avram Grant has been given the golden handshake goodbye from the Stamford Bridge owner.

Petr Cech's howler to lose against Turkey in Euro 2008 capped a forgettable year for him, the 50 stitches to his face after a training accident given a good rubbing in the dirt with memories of losing the Premier League on the last day, the Carling Cup after leading and the Champions League final on penalties. As they say, things can only get better.

Arsenal were a team in trouble at the end of the season. Having claimed no trophy for the third successive year, the knives were out for the purse holding boardroom, the players looking at greener pastures away. The brilliance of Fabregas and the re-invented Adebayor, who assumed Thierry Henry's goal scoring mantle at Emirates Stadium were not enough to make up for some serious defensive frailties, Phillipe Senderos the first transfer casualty with Jens Lehmann following soon after, the keeper ending his Arsenal career as an inglorious spectator from the bench.

Mathieu Flamini decided it was time to jump ship to Italy. Arsenal need some replacements urgently in the central defence and another goalkeeper to ensure they do not have a repeat performance in 2008-9. With Adebayor and Hleb both yet to guarantee their future, trouble could be lurking just around the corner should they not keep the immensely talented youth that are now coming to the fore and who led the league until February this year.

Cool heads and some proven talent are required, time will tell if the book manger ArseneWenger was holding at the Euro 2008 was actually cheque book or a copy of The Old Man and the Sea.

Liverpool have been the great pretenders of the Premier League, the most successful club in league history without a league title for 20 years. You wonder what Spanish giants Real Madrid would have done in the same situation.

Lacking goals in previous years, that has now been resolved with the arrival of Spanish hotshot Fernando Torres, his growing pedigree a comforting thought for the Kop faithful. The signing of Javier Mascherano has solidified the “spine of the team” as manager Rafael Benitez claimed but the Anfield team still only managed to come fourth last year, a result put down to a weaker squad and no one to give Torres the ball except the perennial genius of Steven Gerrard.

Ryan Babel shows potential but not soon enough. The natives in Liverpool aren't restless for a league win, they are running wild, screaming and waving their collective hands like little children at a Wiggles concert. Therefore, Benitez has lined up seasoned Aston Villa attacking midfielder Gareth Barry as his main purchase, while trying to sell defensive midfielder Xabi Alonso to Juventus, in hope of giving Gerrard more help.

If the papers are believed, Liverpool have also lined up David Villa, Alberta Riera, David Bentley, Robbie Keane, James Milner, Stuart Downing, Johann Cruyff, Zidane and Pele if Bobby Charlton can't make it. As I said desperate.

Unfortunately, American owners Hicks and Gillett aren't really coming up with the paper to pay for it. The arrival of Alberta Dossena from Italy will sure up the defence but wide attacking players to support the front are needed if they are to make progress.

As for the rest, watch out for huge spending Tottenham, under new manager Juande Ramos should be a greater force this year if they can keep their players together. Manchester City also have potential even though being run by the Thai businessman Taksin Shinawatra, who inexplicably sacked Sven Goran Eriksson after he took the club from near relegation to European competition in one year. Incredible.

But that is the silly season for you, where the rich clubs protect their wealth by buying the smaller clubs' best players and the smaller guys go crazy trying to join them.