football

Back of the Net: The Signings of the Pre-season So Far

July 25, 2017

- Grant Whittington

Pre-season spending in the Premier League has now begun in earnest, with Chelsea, Manchester City, Manchester United and Everton having spent more than £100 million in the transfer market so far.

With further, big-money deals being mooted between now and September 1, we are almost certain to see last summer’s spending record obliterated as clubs leverage their share of the ground-breaking, £5.136 billion TV deal with Sky and BT. This means that English top flight sides will once again spend in excess of £1 billion this summer, as the race for the Premier League title and a coveted Champions League place hots up.

In this post, we will look at the signings of the summer so far, and ask what impact they are likely  to have on the season ahead…

Wayne Rooney, Manchester United to Everton, Free

To some, Wayne Rooney’s departure from Manchester United represented little more than the latest stage in the England star’s decline. Unable to command a regular starting place at Old Trafford and short of the power and mobility that made him such a star on the world stage, Rooney was allowed to leave on a free transfer to the surprise of very few in the footballing world.

It would be unwise to write Rooney off, however, as at the age of 31 he still has plenty to offer (as this long-range goal on his Everton return proves). In fact, it may be argued that his struggles over the last few years have occurred as a result of Manchester United’s failure to play him regularly, which have diminished the fitness and sharpness of a player who has never been a natural athlete.

He also continued to show glimpses of brilliance to the last with Manchester United, including a superb 25-yard strike against Fenerbahce in the Europa League last season.

In this respect, a fully motivated and hungry Rooney with a regular starting berth could be a serious asset for Everton, particularly given his winning mentality and pedigree. This could make him the bargain of the summer, so long as Ronald Koeman can maximise the striker’s fitness and reignite the fuse of a once hungry and determined powerhouse.

Romelu Lukaku, Everton to Manchester United, £75 Million

Going the other way is the prolific Belgian striker Romelu Lukaku, who spurned the advances of Chelsea to sign for United in a £75 million deal. While some criticised the sheer size of the transfer fee, however, there is no doubt that at 24 the fast and powerful striker represents a huge coup for Jose Mourinho’s men.

Sure, there remain question marks about Lukaku’s first touch and ability to score at the highest level, the same criticisms were levelled at Andy Cole before he joined the Reds from Newcastle in 1995. Cole benefited from playing with superior players at Old Trafford, however, as he added depth to his game while also being supplied with more chances to score in front of goal. If Lukaku follows a similar path, he is sure to become a sensational footballer with the opportunity to exert more of an influence on bigger games.

Lukaku also boasts tremendous character and self-belief, which are integral to any player who wants to thrive at Old Trafford. This, when coupled with his insatiable hunger to improve and the promise he has already shown on United’s pre-season tour so far, means that he could well become a fans’ favourite with the Reds and become one of the favourites to win the Premier League.

Alvaro Morata, Real Madrid to Chelsea, £67 Million

If Manchester United and Real Madrid had any semblance of a working relationship left after the last-minute collapse David De Gea’s transfer last summer, Morata would probably be at Old Trafford right now while Lukaku signed for Chelsea. Despite a sustained pursuit of the Spanish striker that saw United offer a reported £75 million for his services, however, Morata has completed a move to champions Chelsea for around £8 million less.

Regardless of the politics behind the move, there is no doubt that Chelsea have signed an extremely talented forward with the ability to play anywhere across the front line. Morata managed to plunder 20 goals for Madrid last season despite not being a regular starter, while he also excelled during a loan spell at Juventus when he helped fire the Old Lady to the Champions League final in 2015.

An intelligent and mobile forward with pedigree, Morata represents relatively good value at £60million while offering some tactical flexibility to Antonio Conte. He will also enable Chelsea to adapt their style in a way that they were unable to when Diego Costa led the line, so this is a huge boon for the Italian coach.

Morata lacks Premier League experience, of course, nor has he ever led the line for a top European club before. Now is his time to shine, however, and he is expected to make a big impact on Premier League defences next season.

Mohamed Salah, AS Roma to Liverpool, £40 Million

Liverpool have endured a frustrating transfer window to date, with rumours about the exit of star playmaker Philippe Coutinho and the draining saga surround RB Leipzig’s Naby Keita continuing to take their toll.

The Reds have at least completed one piece of stellar business, however, having signed the skilful and lightening quick winger Mohamed Salah from Roma for a club record £40 million. While many Premier League fans remember the Egyptian for a failed spell at Chelsea two years ago, he has shone for the Italian giants since moving to Serie A while delivering an impressive 15 goals and 11 assists last season alone.

Salah has also caught the eye for the Reds in pre-season, while his pace, energy and quick feet are perfectly suited to Jurgen Klopp’s progressive style of play.

Of course, it may be argued that the signing of Salah does not resolve any of the Reds’ remaining issues from last season, namely the lack of a solid defence and a robust, midfielder protector. His addition does sprinkle a little extra stardust over an already potent attack, however, while Salah will play an even more crucial role if Coutinho were to exit Anfield.

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