Well what a week it’s been. The first round of Premier League, Eredivisie & French League 1 fixtures are complete as are the first legs of the last European Qualifiers whilst the ridiculously overpriced transfer market continues to unsurprisingly surprise and Real Madrid prove to be the dominant force in Spain.
I want to start in Spain as I should have been in Barcelona today as I was hoping to visit the Nou Camp to watch los blaugranes start their La Liga Campaign against Real Betis. The tragic events in the city have put pay to that and safe from my office in Nottingham I want to wish my condolences to all those involved.
As the horrific incident in Barcelona happened, I was actually writing a piece on how the power has shifted in Spain following Real Madrid’s one sided Super Cup win this week.
The sale of Neymar has been like ripping off a sheet of wallpaper to reveal so many cracks in the wall underneath. Barcelona in truth have been in decline since 2015 when they looked awesome in winning the final of the Champions League against Juventus. First Xavi then Alves would exit, then Enrique and now Neymar, and yet during that time none of these World Class assets have been replaced with like for like.
In the meantime under Zidane, Real Madrid and their stars have blossomed into a team, a proper team. Growing stronger each match they play, Zidane in little over eighteen months has won seven trophies and lost just seven matches.
The Super Cup win over two legs highlighted Real’s dominance and whilst Barca’s frail squad is worse now than it’s been for many years, Madrid look better than ever, less reliant on their superstar brand names they have an inspiring midfield of Kroos, Casemiro, Modric & Isco that can dominate games and a new leash of weapons off the bench in Ceballos, Vazquez and Asensio.
Barca, under Ernesto Valverde, the Spanish David Moyes who did ok long term at Athletic Bilbao but must seem out his depth at arguably the biggest club in the world, have paid their fourth highest fee ever for Paulinho who is no Xavi, have been rumoured with Coutinho who is no Neymar, and have been reduced to playing Deulofeu who last season struggled to get games at Everton.
Whilst Dembele from Dortmund may provide an exciting bit of business only time will tell if the young Frenchman can fulfil his undeniable potential, for Barca it is very much a rebuilding process and one that might be a rocky ride short term.
Another club in crisis looks to be English Champions Chelsea, they lost their opening game at home to Burnley with a thread bare squad and had two players sent off whilst their star striker is refusing to return to the club instead holidaying in Brazil. Chelsea like Barca seemingly have a worse squad now than they did last year. And like Barca, they only have themselves to blame struggling to raise a quality team with over 26 players out on loan.
Whether Conte has lost the dressing room, whether Abramovich is reluctant to fund, maybe the 343 formation has simply been found out? Whether it’s much ado about nothing nobody seems to know, but one thing for certain is that they currently do not look equipped to retain their Premier League title this year and something needs to give if they are to better their achievements of last year.
A tough trip for Chelsea on Sunday too as they visit Wembley and Tottenham Hotspur will be looking to lift their hoodoo in their first Premier League game at the stadium. Perhaps the ideal game for Conte? Perhaps the ideal start for Spurs?
Finally I couldn’t end the week without mentioning the transfer market. Gylfi Sigurdsson finally completing his move from Swansea to Everton for near £45m taking the clubs spend this summer to well over £100m. In comparison he might only be a quarter the player that Neymar is but is he really worth more than Nemanja Matic? I’m thinking at £40m Manchester United might have got a snip. Signing of the summer though? I can go one better than that. Douglas Costa from Bayern to Juventus. £6m down for a season long loan with the option to pay a further £35m should the old lady want to sign the Brazilian permanently. Still cheaper than Gylfi? Who said the market made sense?
Star of the week: Wayne Rooney (back at his boyhood club Everton and scoring the match winner on his second debut, Wazza & wife Coleen have announced they are also expecting a fourth child…Ahhhh).