There are no haves and have nots within the Premier League – this year more than any other year all 20 clubs have spending loot lying around in piles – so the fact some have yet to dip a toe into the transfer market while others are already towelling themselves down after making a splash is a reflection of different needs and ambitions.
José Mourinho has always been a manager who likes to conduct his business early but his reincarnation as the saviour of Manchester United meant he was out of the blocks quicker than most. No one had any faith in Louis van Gaal’s philosophy by the end of his time at Old Trafford and, as not all United supporters were convinced Mourinho was the right man to reintroduce free-flowing attacking football either, some statement signings were necessary.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic may not have many seasons left in the tank but he represents a clever, crowd-pleasing capture. Do not be surprised if he starts to turn up his collar in the manner of Eric Cantona or takes to glowering at team-mates should the final pass be delivered with insufficient accuracy. Henrikh Mkhitaryan should provide some missing width and penetration, while the even more expensive Eric Bailly is a clear indication Mourinho is not going to persevere with Daley Blind at centre-back or hang around waiting for Phil Jones to get fit enough to prove his potential.
The ultimate statement signing, of course, would be bringing Paul Pogba back at an estimated cost approaching £100m. Mourinho did something similar at Chelsea, when he paid well over the odds for Nemanja Matic, a former Chelsea player released as part of the deal to sign David Luiz, but Pogba would be a far bigger confirmation that United now have money to burn, especially as the player did not have quite the outstanding Euro 2016 that had been predicted.
Manchester City were repeatedly linked with the French midfielder before Pep Guardiola arrived, though the new manager went in a different direction and signed Ilkay Gündogan instead. While City being deterred by the size of the fee Juventus are demanding would be a new departure, there is possibly a feeling at both Manchester clubs that the Pogba auction is getting a little silly. Around £60m for an undoubtedly talented 23-year-old would make him a record English signing and a relatively risk-free investment; anything close to £100m would be an indication that the Premier League’s extra wealth is going to its head. Pogba is not in the Cristiano Ronaldo or Gareth Bale league yet and, while the agent Mino Raiola is brazenly telling the world clubs other than United and Real Madrid are interested, at that sort of price one doubts it.
City have also bought the forward Nolito and are in negotiations with Juventus for the defender Leonardo Bonucci, and there is a suspicion, with well over a month of the transfer window still to go, that their spending will not stop there.
It is easy to become distracted by the personalities and power-shifts in Manchester and forget that both clubs underperformed last season. Only one of them is in the Champions League and even then Guardiola will have to go through the indignity of a qualifying round first.
Of the clubs that fared rather better last time, the champions Leicester have continued with a low-profile approach, give or take breaking their transfer record for CSKA Moscow’s Ahmed Musa, though they possibly view holding on to Jamie Vardy as a major achievement this summer. If they can hold on to everyone else, they should be set for another good season, yet there is a long way to go until the window closes and players such as N’Golo Kanté and Riyad Mahrez have some very public admirers.
Most people imagine Arsenal have at least one big signing in them whether or not they can attract Gonzalo Higuaín, even though they have already spent £30m on Granit Xhaka, while Mauricio Pochettino, in addition to returning to Southampton for Victor Wanyama at £11m, has just picked up the Dutch striker Vincent Janssen from AZ Alkmaar. Southampton themselves have signed Nathan Redmond, who was one of the bright spots in Norwich’s relegation season, though that in itself is scant recompense for moving on several more big names. Wanyama has gone to Spurs, Graziano Pellè to China and, though Southampton received a handsome £34m from Liverpool for Sadio Mané, Claude Puel in his first season in England is going to have to be careful not to be left holding the baby after several years of relentless selling. Chelsea’s Antonio Conte, also new to England, appears to have signed a reliable goalscorer in Michy Batshuayi, though still has the potentially awkward situation of Diego Costa to resolve.
So much for the movers and shakers. The other story in mid-window is the number of clubs who have done little or no business so far. Sunderland, for one, giving Sam Allardyce the perfect excuse to talk to England. Everton, just a goalkeeper to replace Tim Howard. It is too early to suggest Ronald Koeman might be disappointed at the lack of transfer action that was promised on his arrival but one hopes for everyone’s sake that Everton are not relying on deadline-day signings once again. Stoke, in common with Burnley and Hull, seem to be biding their time, though Middlesbrough have strengthened, Crystal Palace have taken a punt on Andros Townsend and Bournemouth are at least trying to attract new players.
Quite possibly everyone is trying, before coming to the same conclusion as Sir Alex Ferguson a few years ago, that there is no value in the transfer market. In England, with money no object and inflation rife, that might be the case but anyone seeking encouragement should look at Éder, now being seen in a new light at Lille. If Swansea’s £5m flop can turn into a tournament winner, truly there is hope for everyone.
Key ins and outs
In Granit Xhaka (Borussia Mönchengladbach); Takuma Asano (Hiroshima Sanfrecce)
Out Mikel Arteta (coach at Manchester City); Tomas Rosicky; Mathieu Flamini; Isaac Hayden (Newcastle)
In Lys Mousset (Le Havre); Lewis Cook (Leeds); Emerson Hyndman (Fulham); Nathan Ake (Chelsea); Mikael Ndjoli (Millwall)
Out Matt Ritchie (Newcastle); Tommy Elphick (Aston Villa); Lee Tomlin(Bristol City); Glenn Murray (Brighton & Hove Albion); SylvainDistin
Out Joey Barton (Rangers); Matt Gilks (Rangers); Matt Taylor; Michael Duff
In Michy Batshuayi (Marseille)
Out Nathan Ake (Bournemouth)
In Steve Mandanda (Marseille); Andros Townsend (Newcastle); James Tomkins (West Ham)
Out Emmanuel Adebayor; Dwight Gayle (Newcastle); Marouane Chamakh; Brede Hangeland; Adrian Mariappa
In Maarten Stekelenburg (Fulham)
Out Tim Howard (Colorado Rapids); Tony Hibbert; Leon Osman; Steven Pienaar
In Will Mannion (AFC Wimbledon)
Out Sone Aluko (Fulham)
In Nampalys Mendy (Nice); Ahmed Musa (CSKA Moscow); Luis Hernández (Sporting Gijón); Ron-Robert Zieler (Hannover 96)
Out Andrej Kramaric (Hoffenheim); Mark Schwarzer; Paul Konchesky
In Joël Matip (Schalke); Loris Karius (Mainz); Sadio Mané (Southampton)
Out Jerome Sinclair (Watford); Kolo Touré; Jordan Rossiter (Rangers); José Enrique, Sergi Canós (Norwich)
In Ilkay Gundogan (Borussia Dortmund); Nolito (Celta Vigo); Oleksandr Zinchenko (FC Ufa)
Out Martín Demichelis
In Zlatan Ibrahimovic (PSG); Henrikh Mkhitaryan (Borussia Dortmund); Eric Bailly (Villarreal)
Out Víctor Valdés (Middlesbrough); Nick Powell (Wigan); Tyler Reid (Swansea)
In Viktor Fischer (Ajax); Víctor Valdés (Manchester United); Marten de Roon (Atalanta); Jordan McGhee (Hearts); Bernardo Espinosa (Sporting Gijón)
Out Jonathan Woodgate
In Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg (Bayern Munich); Nathan Redmond (Norwich)
Out Sadio Mané (Liverpool); Graziano Pellè (Shandong Luneng); Victor Wanyama (Tottenham Hotspur); Juanmi (Real Sociedad); Gaston Ramírez
Out Peter Odemwingie; Steve Sidwell (Brighton & Hove Albion)
Out Danny Graham (Blackburn Rovers); Steven Fletcher (Sheffield Wednesday); Wes Brown
In Leroy Fer (QPR); Mike van der Hoorn (Ajax); Tyler Reid (Manchester United)
Out Éder (Lille); Alberto Paloschi (Atalanta)
In Vincent Janssen (AZ Alkmaar); Victor Wanyama (Southampton)
In Jerome Sinclair (Liverpool); Chrisitan Kabasele (Genk)
Out José Manuel Jurado (Espanyol); Gabriele Angella (Udinese)
West Bromwich Albion
In Matt Phillips (QPR)
Out Victor Anichebe; Stéphane Sessègnon; Anders Lindegaard (Preston)
West Ham United
In Toni Martínez (Valencia); Havard Nordtveit (Borussia Mönchengladbach); Gokhan Tore (Besiktas); Sofiane Feghouli (Valencia)
Out Joey O’Brien; James Tomkins (Crystal Palace)
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