The onset of summer in England also heralds the beginning of what they call ‘silly season’. Given that Parliament goes into its summer recess and politicians of all shades and sizes head off to recharge their batteries, the fourth estate finds itself bereft of ‘proper’ news, and headlines can be as bizarre as ‘Man Bites Dog’!
The onset of summer in England also heralds the beginning of ‘silly season’ in the world of football when it comes to transfers. Rumours abound. Stories come to life and die quicker than flowers in the Sahara. There are more leaks than from the water pipes of Bombay, and the latest Trump-defined phenomenon of ‘fake news’ is the only thing that’s real.
Almost any player worth their salt is up for grabs. Allegedly. Players’ agents find feeding the fake news industry most rewarding for their clients. And more importantly, for themselves – the money-grabbing monsters that they are! If one has to go into every transfer story thus far, I’ll put the more facially hirsute amongst us to shame, such will be the length of this article.
However, just to get the blood coursing a little faster through ones veins, some of the alleged transfers include Eden Hazard to Real Madrid, along with David de Gea (or is it Thibault Courtois today?) and Kylian Mbappe. But then Mbappe is also wanted by Arsenal, Liverpool and PSG. Diego Costa isn’t wanted by Antonio Conte and is pleading with Diego Simeone to come and get him, as Chelsea look to raid Everton for their former player, Romelu Lukaku as his replacement, but who is also wanted by Bayern Munich and Manchester United. AC Milan also want Costa, but his wage demand are too high. Everton want Michy Batshuayi as a replacement for Lukaku, who’d prefer a switch to Monaco. Alexis Sanchez is wanted everywhere but Spain. His teammate Mesut Ozil is wanted nowhere but at Arsenal. And Wayne Rooney is the Messiah waiting to return to his boyhood club. It’s enough to make your head spin. And we’re just skimming the surface of transfer news.
The one non-transfer that I’d like to talk about is that of Manchester United’s erstwhile Zorro, also known as The Zlatan. After a typically outstanding season for the Red Devils, The Zlatan isn’t wanted by The Jose. An unfortunate long-term injury has meant his contract won’t be renewed, hence Real Madrid’s Alvaro Morata and Torino striker Andrea Belotti – not forgetting Lukaku – are on Mourinho’s radar. Allegedly. Who said summer is purgatory for football fans?
On a slightly more serious note, I’d like to get into my time machine and go back a year. Mourinho joined United, and his first and biggest piece of business was to bring in the ageing but still formidable Zlatan Ibrahimovic from PSG. Now, at the time, I was a little confused by this signing. Not because Zlatan wouldn’t slide into any playing 11 in the world, but my thoughts immediately went to United’s captain, Wayne Rooney.
Appointed to the post by Louis van Gaal prior to the start of the 2014/15 season after Nemanja Vidic left for pastures anew at Inter Milan, Rooney was at the fulcrum of United’s frontline. Admittedly his goal scoring record was nowhere near as good as his heyday (he often also played in midfield), Zlatan’s arrival perforce meant that it was the captain’s position most in jeopardy to accommodate the Swede as the leader of the attack. So, where would the leader of the Red Devils play? Would this leader be asked to take a back seat or would The Sour One make a round peg fit into a square hole?
Not that legends matter much to Mourinho. If anything, it seems to be his mission to knock everyone else at a club down a peg or six. And this time it was Rooney’s turn. Just ask Iker Casillas. Or perhaps John Terry during Mourinho’s second and not much lamented second stint at the Bridge. Legends were dispensable. Especially if they were captain too.
To Rooney’s credit, he soldiered on – though relegated to the bench. The ignominy of it! One saw the result. The fire went out of Rooney’s game. And more importantly, his body language showed the slight. Stoicism replaced confidence. He was not the player he once was. And unlikely to ever be so again.
Not that Zlatan the Arrogant didn’t deliver. 28 goals in 46 appearances is not something one can argue against. One that would’ve, in the ordinary scheme of things, led to another 1-year contract to lead the United line in their search for glory in the Premier League as well as the Champions League. But for that injury in the quarter-final of the Europa Cup.
But what of the supposed talismanic captain?
The enormous salary being shelled out by Manchester United means that Rooney could just stay for the remaining year of his contract and rake it in. He sure as Hell won’t be paid anything close to that at any club in the world. Barring that ‘hotbed’ of world football, where players go to fatten up their pension funds. China. And what a waste that would be!
Of course, there’s nothing more that Mourinho would want than to see than Rooney heading out of the Old Trafford door – gold watch in tow – and saving the club a whopping £15.6 million on its wage bill. Everton would love to have him back, but can’t afford his salary. So the likely scenario is that Rooney might be loaned out – perhaps even to Everton – with United picking up part of his salary until his contract winds down.
All this is part of Mourinho’s master plan to fashion the club in his own image (not a pretty sight, I have to say). Anthony Martial is still there. Marcus Rashford is the future. The arrival of Morata, Belotti and/or Lukaku means the role of primary striker lies elsewhere. Paul Pogba is the man Mournho seems to have tied his Old Trafford future to. The former England captain has probably played his last game for the club. And we’re back to start. Welcome to silly season!