After a few months of relative calm the Premier League asylum is back open for business. Kieran Davies looks ahead to seven days of mind-blowing fees and journalistic Tourettes.
The football season comes and goes with the speed of a British summer. Often it does feel like, dare you blink, you will miss it. This can be said of most things we enjoy. However, waiting for the new season to arrive can drag with seemingly the pace of Brexit. You start to wonder whether you’ve more chance of seeing Boris Johnson parading a brand-new UK passport than you have of seeing your team hit the hallowed turf again. This on its own wouldn’t be such a bad thing, the best things come to those who wait after all, but when you have to listen to the daily drivel of football gossip you can be forgiven for contemplating ending it all. ‘Our sources at Sky tell us………’ the strapline Sky Sports News care to use more than that Sergio Aguero goal versus QPR. As a general rule of thumb, this statement shouldn’t instill faith in this ‘breaking news’, as you can be forgiven for wondering as to whether their ‘sources’ are bang at the sauce 24/7/365.
Most of the time they are laughable. Barcelona representatives are flying in to Liverpool to try and broker a deal for Coutinho. All of this after the club has said the player is not for sale. What are these ‘representatives’ planning on doing? Hanging around outside Anfield, loitering with menacing purpose? Like a childhood bully, motioning gestures to people who happen to catch a glimpse of them. You will read the news and every outlet capable of hosting a URL will tell you that ‘Barca agree personal terms with Coutinho’. How is this possible? Liverpool after all were suggested to have ‘tapped up’ Van Dijk earlier in the summer, if this were true is this not the same case if not worse? The Premier League is such big business now globally, media outlets must employ people who are capable of taking one piece of factual information and turning into a web lies, guesswork and what can only be described journalistic Tourette’s. This is a writing ailment where the afflicted will just hurl out-bursts of the most random statements and have the audacity to call a journalistic article.
It has been a hectic summer with every player capable of anything being linked to one team or another. PSG may have changed the transfer market for good with their £198m signing of Neymar. Not that there was much reflection of reality in football, but even if there were it has been further edged out by this. A single player worth enough money to wipe out hunger and poverty in areas of need across the globe. Ironically, coming from the favela’s in Brazil himself, Neymar should have some idea of what change his transfer fee could have if applied to a real-world situation. However, this now has broken the seal and will in turn no doubt result in transfer fees flying up to levels you’d assume the pound had crashed overnight. People don’t even look twice now at £30m transfers. They’ve snuck through the back door like 20p Space Raiders and 20p Freddos. Unacceptable behavior but somehow tolerated by us all. There most definitely will be a ‘butterfly-effect’ from the Neymar transfer. For starters, Barcelona now have £198m in their pocket. That £50m player they were rumored to be interested in is now worth £90m! The wages of players have always been extortionate but now the transfer fees are heading the same way.
You could be forgiven for wondering what impact this has on us, the everyday football fan. Well football owners will always look to recoup their money. Man Utd told us that the shirt sales alone paid for the transfer and wages of Zlatan. Based on PSG selling a Neymar shirt at £100, they will need to sell 1.98 million of them to break even. So, we will no doubt see merchandise rocket in price, ticket prices go up also as the clubs we support try to drain every last pound out of us. The wealth available to clubs nowadays is even cascading down the pyramids of football with Championship sides thinking nothing of spending £60m to prepare for a new campaign in the lower tier. This eventually will make it difficult for homegrown talent to prosper in our top leagues as clubs opt for more recognised talent. It will become ever harder for young academy players to break into the first team. The classic example of this is Chelsea who season on season farm about 30 players out loan across the globe.
With the kick off fast approaching, teams will still be looking to do business before the transfer window closes but as far the first game goes, it is unlikely anyone will sign a player between now and then to be involved in that opening fixture. Managers will be tweaking training regimes and setting out drills to purely focus on what the opposition has to offer in terms of problems for them. Many fans will be looking at results in pre-season fixtures and looking towards a successful campaign off the back of that. The reality is pre-season counts for nothing. The competitive games start now, it is important to hit the ground running. Titles aren’t decided early on in the season but form is imperative and it can be psychological to stay unbeaten for as long as possible. The anticipation is building up and down the country as fans salivate at the thought of another football season. Will this be our year? Will this be the time the players pay me back for all those traumatic years? Until the weekend is over, these dreams live on, as unrealistic they may be. If Leicester’s title winning season taught us anything at all, even the impossible is possible!