WEDNESDAY’S BIG STORIES

What a window

Without wanting to read like a ‘Done Deals’ page, that was some window, with Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Romelu Lukaku, Jack Grealish, Raphael Varane, Jadon Sancho, Antoine Griezmann, Saul, Sergio Ramos, Gianluigi Donnarumma, Achraf Hakimi, Georginio Wijnaldum, Memphis Depay, Sergio Aguero, Saul Niguez, David Alaba, Dayot Upamecano, Manuel Locatelli, Tammy Abraham, Olivier Giroud, Martin Odegaard, Moise Kean and Daniel James among those moving around this summer.
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That also means Kylian Mbappe, Paul Pogba, Harry Kane, Robert Lewandowksi, Erling Haaland, Jules Kounde, Bernardo Silva and many others whose names filled gossip columns for months and months have ended up staying put.
Depending on your outlook it was either a remarkable or despairing few months as the purse strings tightened at some clubs and opened at others. The Covid pandemic has left some teams on the brink, but the Premier League machine rolls on.
Manchester City went big on Jack Grealish, Manchester United bolstered several key positions and bought Ronaldo on a whim to boot, while Chelsea have acquired Lukaku in what many believe could be the final piece of their title-winning puzzle – before then adding Saul Niguez to boost their midfield options as the clock neared midnight last night.
Even Liverpool have had a decent window. Really. Ibrahima Konate is a solid addition, but they have done solid business to tie down star players in a summer which started with Wijnaldum leaving for free.
The madness of this window was accelerated by the amount of free agents and players entering the final 12 months of their contract, and so Liverpool have sought to be no part of that in future windows to come by tying down their current crop, and in the process they have kept their star-studded front line despite forwards moving left, right and centre across the continent.
It all means the pressure is greater than ever on all of the big teams to succeed. Liverpool fans may well feel the burden is lighter, but all four will be expected to challenge not only for the title (let’s not forget table-topping Tottenham too) but also the Champions League.
Naturally, a PSG side now definitely featuring Mbappe next to Messi and Neymar up top are favourites, but along with Bayern Munich, the Premier League’s four contenders are not far behind with the bookies.
Something will have to give, and more than one team will finish the season disappointed, and so while September 1 will be a day where ‘Who won the transfer window?’ is deliberated, the answer will only be known come May when the silverware is shared out – or not.

No excuses now for Arteta at Arsenal

Meanwhile, staying in Super Premier League Land, the club who have spent the most this summer are Arsenal, who rounded off their spree with the signing of right-back, sometimes centre-back, Takehiro Tomiyasu for £16m.
The league’s basement club also bought Ben White (£50m), Martin Odegaard (£30m), Aaron Ramsdale (£24m), Albert Sambi Lokonga (£15m) and Nuno Tavares (£8m), taking their summer spending to almost £150m – a bold play for a club currently trying to shrug off the relegation jokes as just banter.
If anything, it heaps greater pressure on Mikel Arteta. A club-record amount for one window, and having enjoyed the full backing of the board he must now deliver with results on the pitch.
A look forward then shows a home match with Norwich on September 11. That could be ideal, but at the end of the month they host Spurs in a NLD which, as well as being huge, could easily take the Amazon documentary into it’s eighth episode barely eight weeks into the new season.

The Great Barca Reset

The club are £1.15bn in debt, but still, few expected the summer window to end like this for Barcelona. On a day where Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba took pay cuts simply to register Sergio Aguero as a Barca player, following in the footsteps of Gerard Pique - who reduced his salary earlier in August - the club also bid farewell to Antoine Griezmann and hello to Luuk de Jong.
Arguably the shock of the day, Griezmann leaves two years after he signed for £108m, which was some two years after they spent £100m+ on Philippe Coutinho and Ousmane Dembele.
Is it any wonder they're in such debt?
Barca now face a battle to prove they can still dine at Europe's top table. They were arguably on the periphery when losing 8-2 to Bayern Munich, but now they have a whole campaign ahead of them, one without Messi, to show the world they're still Champions League calibre while boasting former Middlesbrough and Newcastle forwards among their best options up front – when a few years ago it was all about MSN.
At least they have Memphis Depay, an upgrade on Griezmann – who has to go down as an utter failure – but it hardly helps that Real Madrid are a couple of seasons ahead of them in terms of rebuilding.
And while Real have welcomed Eduardo Camavinga and will almost certainly sign Mbappe next summer, Barca must be wondering when they will ever attract the best again while PSG and the Premier League can offer bigger salaries for the foreseeable.
This could therefore be a(nother) defining season for Barca. There is undoubted quality there, but whether it's enough to compete for the league and make a push for the Champions League as well, we'll just have to wait and see.
Still, at least Pique found time to troll Real fans by reminding them Mbappe will be wearing No 7 for at least one more season.

IN THE CHANNELS I

Ronaldo’s emotional homecoming message and P.S. nod to Sir Alex Ferguson racked up a mere 10 million likes in the first three hours after it was posted on Tuesday.
You can read it below, but the “Sir Alex, this one is for you…” was particularly touching, in case you somehow missed it.

IN THE CHANNELS II

Newcastle signing Santiago Munoz and playing along with the ‘Goal’ link was the Deadline Day move nobody saw coming but everyone loved. Here’s hoping Full Ham get promoted this season! (And the Toon stay up).

RETRO CORNER

Oh me oh my, it’s 20 years to the day since England beat Germany 5-1 and even Emile Heskey scored (plus the small matter of a Michael Owen hat-trick and Steven Gerrard striiike).
Feeling.
Very.
Old.

COMING UP

Live international football! The transfer madness is now done and dusted, and so the madness that is the first of three international breaks before Christmas is upon us. Tonight’s picks, Portugal vs Republic of Ireland and France vs Bosnia – we’ll be blogging them both!
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