In one week the opening matches of the 2010/11 Premier League season will have taken place. Usually this is a time for fans to place under the microscope their respective clubs’ new summer signings, hoping for at least one marquee player who is going to lead the club to new glory in the forthcoming campaign.
But with the exception of (and possibly due to) free-spending Manchester City this season has largely seen the incoming transfer market as quiet as Old Trafford on a League Cup third round night. The issue was highlighted in Sunday’s Community Shield match where both of the entire starting XI’s for Manchester United and Premier League champions Chelsea were at the same clubs last season.
With La Liga’s respective top two teams making louder noises in the transfer market this summer (David Villa, Sami Khedira and the failed bid for Cesc Fabregras) it could be interpreted that the Premier League is losing ground on it’s Spanish rival.
But the good news is that the players to be welcomed to the league this season are sure to provide more quality and excitement over the next few seasons than those who have waved farewell to English shores, ensuring that the league won’t go stale and begin declining just yet.
Of those who have so far departed the league in the close season, the biggest names are Chelsea’s ageing trio of Michael Ballack, Deco, and Juliano Belletti, Arsenal duo William Gallas and Eduardo and Liverpool’s Albert Riera. In all instances it was the club’s decision to let the players move on, with the only quality player looking likely to successfully force his way out of the league being Liverpool’s unhappy Argentinian holding midfielder Javier Mascherano.
In contrast the biggest names arriving this year are largely younger exciting, energetic players. In the attack department Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez has already shown his potential in pre-season with Manchester United and at the World Cup with Mexico, while Arsenal’s 26-year-old striker Marouane Chamakh’s goals helped Bordeaux dislodge Lyon as perennial kings of the French Ligue 1. And of course Manchester City paid big bucks to lure the highly rated 24-year-old winger David Silva from Valencia.
Of the other big signings Jerome Boeteng’s performances for Germany at the World Cup defied his 21 years and could prove to be Manchester City’s best piece of summer business, while at the same competition Chelsea new boy Ramires (assuming the third party ownership malarkey is sorted out) provided a string of energetic displays for Brazil.
Arsenal’s Laurent Koscielny is only 24 and although most people know less about the French defender than Carlos Tevez does about the English language, Arsene Wenger isn’t likely to spend £10 million on someone who can’t play.
Of Manchester City’s other two big name signings, Aleksandar Kolarov is just 24 and already has a couple of wonder-goals to his name and while despite being grossly overvalued, at 27-years-old Yaya Toure has at least few good seasons in him.
Other notable departures from the self-proclaimed best league in the world include Wigan’s Paul Scharner and Mario Melchiot, Sunderland captain Lorik Cana, City’s unfortunate (because of injuries, not just because he has a girl’s name) Bulgarian Valeri Bojinov and United’s untested winger Zoran Tosic. But these should be offset by the arrivals of such mid-range players as Milan Jovanovic at Liverpool, Thomas Hitzlesperger at West Ham, Nicola Zigic at Birmingham and Jermain Beckford at Everton.
It appears that the Premier League has won out this time, but the margins are fine. In a not too distant parallel universe Fabregas could have had his way, compatriot Fernando Torres following suit in doing the off-skies to Spain followed by one of Steven Gerrard and Ashley Cole. Then it would certainly be a very different story.