Since the end of the Euros, the Premier League “Big Four” have all been wrapped up in securing the tournament stars, trimming and shaping their squads for the fast approaching season starters. So let’s see what they have achieved.
Manchester have had a quiet year on the transfer front as expected after last season’s successes. The chase for Tottenham Spurs striker Dimitar Berbatov seems to be a half-hearted affair by Premier League standards.
It was seemingly more tied into whether perma-tanned Cristiano Ronaldo is capable of seeing through the solar glare of his summer wardrobe to notice that he signed a contract until 2021 to stay at Manchester and not Real Madrid.
Should he go though, (that wardrobe is very bright), Manchester will make a bucketload of cash on a transfer and expect Berbatov to be lapped up by the Reds to fill that 42-goal gap.
Otherwise, there is talk of the reserve striker Frazier Campbell getting a run, but everyone supporting one of the Big 4 know that reserve players actually playing for the first team is like Gordon Brown winning the next election, i.e. laughable.
Chelsea have spent slightly less than the trillion they spent every previous year under Ambramovich and now look like they might actually be morphing into a (gasp!) attacking football side after the defensive misery of Jose ‘Special fried rice No. One’ Mourinho and Avram ‘Toad’ Grant.
Scolari really will be great to watch this year on the sidelines, and the purchase of an attacking right back in Jose Boswinga and Deco’s arrival from Barcelona seem to be shrewd buys.
Chelsea's greatest achievement this season has been to hold onto key performers Richardo Carvalho, Frank ‘I’d love Chelsea even more for £150k’ Lampard and Didier ‘I don’t wear a wig’ Drogba.
All of them were desperate to join Special Fried Rice at Inter Milan but were somehow managed to be convinced to stay in London for at least another year. They will be tough this year for everyone to play against.
Liverpool, on the other hand, have hit panic mode as Manchester catch up on the all time league wins table and have been moving heavily in the market.
Rafael Benitez has spent around £100m in the past year, recouping about £50m in sales of players (and reserves of course) and is hoping that all will come together to have a competitive team for the first time in a generation.
The star recruit has been Tottenham striker Robbie Keane, a potentially explosive partner for Spanish hero Fernando Torres should he not lose the consistently brilliant form he showed at Spurs.
The second longest transfer saga (behind Perma-tanned man) is theoretically coming to an end as well, as they aim to tie up Gareth Barry’s transfer from Aston Villa, an acrimonious affair with little dignity shown from either side.
The transfer climaxed to absurdity last week when Villa manager Martin O’Neill claimed it was HE who controlled the deadlines for transfers and therefore there would be no deal done, even though officially there are more than two weeks left. Nice try, I guess.
Barry’s appearance was linked to the disappearance of Xabi Alonso from Anfield, although the way Benitez has been praising the midfielder recently, anyone would believe that he was patting him on the back rather than pushing him out the door. They look a much improved side all around though, so an interesting year for Kop fans ahead.
No one understands Arsenal in the market. Having come so close last year to a few titles, the thinking was a couple of changes would make them complete. Lacking experience and depth, they have now sold key experienced midfielders Flamini and Hleb, to be replaced by French youngster Nasri and a couple of other young boys.
This is equivalent of looking the golden goose in the eyes and stroking its lovely feathers instead of raiding its nest! They will be okay again though, with the maturing brilliance of Cesc Fabregas guiding the good ship, but in the end they will probably suffer in the same way as last year and finish in the top six.
As far as the others go, it’s more of the same: getting to a great position one year and then losing key players to the bigger clubs.
Tottenham have lost captain Keane to Liverpool, Blackburn have lost Bentley to Tottenham, Portsmouth lost Muntari to Inter Milan, Villa will probably lose Barry to Liverpool, Everton will lose Andy Johnson to Fulham, Man City losing the plot.
The merry-go-round continues for them to try and break into the big four, but you’d be hard pressed to see anyone bar Tottenham getting close enough this year.