Writer: Tim Stillman
Date:Friday July 3 2009
I think it`s well established now that I am ordinarily loathe to discuss all issues transfer related, but I think we can agree that this has been no ordinary summer thus far! If you wanted an indication as to how bizarre this transfer window has been you need only look at the deals completed today. Manchester United have signed an ageing ex superstar with severe question marks over his hunger, with the majority of opinion in the football world suggesting his best days are behind him. Chelsea have completed a deal for an up and coming 19 year old English striker on a free transfer. Has the world really turned upside down in such a short space of time?
Florentino Perez`s Galactico experiment phase two has drawn the eyes of the world squarely onto the Spanish capital. If Real Madrid were a country they would be the United States, the self proclaimed city on the hill, boys want to be them, girls want to fuck them and continental footballers want to pollinate them like insects making love to a black orchid. You might not like their pretence or suppositions of greatness in the face of clear and present bastardry; but you cannot help but be intrigued by their every move. Like America, Madrid consider attention to be a trophy in itself, ever the wallflower, they just want to be looked at. In that sense, Perez`s experiment has already borne fruit. Despite what has been, by their own lofty standards, a rather mediocre half decade, people are again talking about Madrid. Madridistas will consider this success as they have, temporarily at least, halted the world from ejaculating superlatives towards their arch rivals in Cataluña as their egregious spending swells further. Whether stockpiling the world`s finest array of attacking talent will bring them the success they crave remains to be seen. Quite how Benzema, Ronaldo, Kaka and possibly Ribery would have stopped Torres, Gerrard, Eto`o, Henry and Messi spanking eleven goals past them last season is open to debate. However, the signing of a Spanish international centre half and the fact that Perez continues to make eyes towards Xabi Alonso over sangria in a crowded tapas bar suggests Madrid are taking into consideration that they might not have 100% possession stats in every single game next season. After all, it is widely considered to be one of the greatest cock ups in Madrid`s history when in 2003, Perez signed David Beckham and allowed Claude Makelele to fall into the neon claws of Abramovic. Zinedine Zidane was heard to comment at the time, "What is the point of adding another coat of gold paint to your Bentley when you`ve just had the engine ripped out?" Indeed, sir.
Has Perez learned his lesson? Will the experiment work? Who knows? But what is telling is that Perez is not spending his own money here, he is reliant on some very favourable financial institutions. With the Western world currently reeling from economic crises, he is taking an enormous gamble with his club`s future. Perez virtually has the status of dictator, he was able to run for election as President unopposed with Calderon removed in disgrace and nobody else willing or able to put up the deposit required to stand for candidacy. (This is where Madrid differs from the U.S slightly, while Perez was able to run unopposed and spend the money of generous financial institutions, certain past American presidents simply got themselves elected by knocking people unlikely to vote for them off the electoral roles and then rely on generous media institutions to cover the tracks). If the whole project fails, Perez walks away with his bank balance in tact whilst his club foot a mountain of unsustainable debt in one of the most unstable economic periods of the last century. Both on and off the pitch, Perez`s project is either going to fly and explode or crash and burn. As an impartial observer, I cannot wait to see which it is. This is pure show business, for all of the hand wringing about morality and fiscal responsibility; I say sit back and enjoy it.
Meanwhile, the poor old Premiership has taken a bit of a battering in the glamour stakes. Back in April, navel gazing journalists were ruing the English domination of the Champions` League, prophesising doom with the nib of their quills. Now all of a sudden, the English league is left to look like the single man on the dance floor at 3am, desperately scrabbling for the scraps as La Liga goes home with the prom queen. Having lost Ronaldo and Tevez (whose name should not by rights be this close to the phrase "prom queen") and with Benzema eschewing the advances of North West England to be Raul`s latest boot boy, Manchester United are left pawing their way through the dark, "Hmmm, she ain`t all that but I bet she was a looker back in the 90s, sod it, where`s the absinthe? I`m going in." The signing of Michael Owen might be the most surprising of the summer so far, but if reports that his wage packet is heavily incentivised (apparently every time he successfully responds to the command "paw" he gets a Scooby snack) are true, then United might just have a very low risk venture. Owen will clearly be a back up to the first choice front two of Rooney and Berbatov, keeping the bench warm until such time that Macheda is ready to emerge, most of his 13 goals for Real Madrid came from the bench whilst he already has Premiership experience and is familiar with a good deal of United`s players. Given that it is World Cup year, Owen has all the motivation he needs to stay fit and impress Don Fabio. He may be a busted flush on the fitness front, but United`s medical staff have preserved Giggs` notoriously dodgy hamstrings past his 74th birthday whilst asthmatic Paul Scholes has been able to play in central midfield for the best part of fifteen years. If any medical team can maintain the fitness of a nuts and bolts player like Owen, it`s United`s. Having served Madrid and Liverpool already, the pressure should not be an issue for him. And hell, even if it does all go tits up, at least Owen should pick up some good tips from Ferguson on the 2.40 at Braintree.
Meanwhile Chelsea`s two summer signings have been Ross Turnbull and Daniel Sturridge, two uncharacteristically low key accruals. Manchester City continue to flash the Porsche keys at every bit of skirt outside the kebab shop, but are finding that even sluts have standards, as Kaka, Eto`o and now John Terry have all flashed an engagement ring mournfully in their direction. £17m striker Roque Santa Cruz has a similar strike ratio to that of Darren Bent, whilst Gareth Barry is a good player but hardly the sort of marquee recruit to convince that Citeh are ready for world domination. Even if they sign Tevez, they`re getting a striker who scored five goals and made three assists in one of the world`s most creative attacking outfits last season, despite having started more games than any other United forward. It seems even Liverpool are not immune to the tumult of the whispered word in the market as Xabi Alonso and Javier Mascherano have winked suggestively towards Madrid and Barcelona respectively.
So what of Arsenal in this car crash television soap opera? It`s been pretty quiet around these parts. We have a signed a sorely needed central defender early in the window whilst Messrs Clichy, Sagna and Fabregas have spoiled all the housewife tittle-tattle of the curtain twitching tabloid press by publicly promising to respect their marriage vows. The only time Gallas has opened his trap in the last six months has been to give short shrift to stories surrounding his departure. Given the unsettling sagas of last summer, our comparative thicket of solitude in the face of the transfer jungle that has been this summer is most welcome. Our glittering youngsters are falling over themselves to sign up on the dotted line, with jewel in the crown Robin van Persie expected to follow in a matter of days. The only likely departure as I write is that of Adebayor. But last summer`s saga, coupled with an underwhelming campaign this year means his departure would be unlikely to create the level of hysteria it might have last summer. In any case, Wenger has already publicly declared that he already has the replacement lined up should Adebayor decide to start bothering linesmen on foreign shores. Wenger`s lukewarm appraisals of Adebayor`s future seem to reflect the general consensus of the supporters, "Stay and fight or run and jump." Next season has been declared something of a make or break for Arsenal, and quite frankly, at the moment I have no idea how it is going to go. All I do know is, that the quieter and more inconspicuous our summer, the better.LD.
Date:Friday July 3 2009
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