Out of Their Minds

‘It’s not about the money – it’s about sending the message.’

It’s that time of the year, again. Just a couple of weeks before this season’s closure, the victors of this campaign are preparing to face each other in numerous Cup and League finals. Elsewhere, at the same time, those who never made it, those who fell short just one goal of putting their hands on the trophies – they are all finding scapegoats and planning another round of outrageous transfer activity that should patch their wounds. Yet again, we’re at the point when nothing seems impossible and separating preposterous gossip from the actual transfer possibilities gets more and more difficult. To top it all off, we’re eagerly awaiting for Financial Fair Play rules to be modified again after they were criticized from left and right – and if such reform takes place, it will only help for the hell to break loose, as the proposed changes come mostly from clubs interested to spend more.

Of course, the main motivation for the summer insanity shall be – as usual – the desire to avenge all bitter defeats of 2015 spring. Mathematically speaking – the more bitter those losses were and the bigger club suffered them – the higher there’s chance for management to react in a nervous, yet spectacular manner. From that point of view, June, July and August could be even crazier than ever. After all, Real Madrid, the club responsible for all transfer records these days, will finish this season without a trophy. Not only that: Bayern, who not that long ago bragged about having the pit of money deep enough to activate Messi’s release clause – they’ve failed to make most of their chances too, losing terribly both in German Cup and in the Champions League. And what about PSG? What about two clubs from Manchester that want to contest Chelsea’s success next year?

 

Especially Real are going to be under close observation. Their chairman Florentino Pérez has the power not only to bring world-class players to Santiago Bernabeu but also to spend huge money for those players’ services – money that can in turn, induce the whole chain of other transfers, as the receivers of money usually put it back on the table immediately. This time, the “feeder club” will probably be Manchester United. Just like six years ago, the leading star of Red Devils’ eleven will be looking to leave Old Trafford. It won’t matter that Real hired Keylor Navas just year ago only to make him rot on the bench. It won’t matter that Perez got rid of experienced Diego Lopez, who’s now performing miracles for A.C. Milan. It won’t even matter that Iker Casillas has actually been playing very good near the end of the season. No. De Gea is a level above them – thus, let’s sign him at all cost.

Contrary to the normal circumstances, this time around, ‘the fee-receivers’ are going to be extremely wealthy and capable to make their own moves regardless whether Pérez clinches De Gea deal or not. Having Memphis Depay’s signature in their pocket, United management have just made a claim to be one of the leading buying powers on the market this summer – and the rumoured £150 million war chest, they’re going to provide Louis van Gaal with, only make the nearest future even more interesting. Mats Hummels might’ve refused to leave Dortmund for Manchester yesterday, but there are still many other players in contention – including Lazio’s Felipe Anderson, Atletico’s Koke, Southampton’s Nathaniel Clyne, Chelsea’s Peter Cech – and couple more names that deserve more than just a mention – for they are directly contributing their big share to this parade of madness.

First in line – and perhaps the most mind-boggling case as well – is Gareth Bale. His example proves best how quickly good memories fade in a club like Real Madrid. For about 18 months, the Welshman has been a huge asset to the team, essentially winning them Spanish Cup as well as the Champions League final. The heavily hyped race between him and Neymar for the title of Best Big-Money Signing in Spain has been slightly in Bale’s favour – even though pundits almost unanimously doomed him in a competition against Brazilian wonderkid. Fairy take ended abruptly with the year 2014. After winning insane 22 games in a row, Real lost to Valencia in January, letting Barcelona to catch up with them in a title race. Bale and his selfishness in front of the goal were directly responsible for that result. He was never the same again – at least not until now, when it’s all over.

 

What’s his future in Madrid now? Slammed by the press, unsettled in the dressing room, known to be creamed behind his back by Cristiano Ronaldo, who reportedly asked Benzema “what the fuck is he doing?” after Bale’s yet another missed chance… What’s even worse, is that despite all this negativity around him, ex-Tottenham winger has been given one more chance after another – and he went on to waste them all. Way too many times, his task was to finish a scoring chance instead of what he does best – running past defenders and crossing the ball. Against both Valencia and Juventus, it was precisely the finish that evaded the British lad and subsequently costed Real two of the three trophies they were challenging for. And with that, the memories of winning La Decima and triumphing over Barcelona in Copa del Rey were immediately erased.

Fortunately for all Madrid amnesiacs, the season of utter insanity is back again. Let’s forget the 100 million fee paid to Daniel Levy back in 2013; let’s forget the fact that in case of Bale’s departure, Real is unlikely to reclaim more than half of the money they’ve spent for the lad. Hell, let’s forget one more detail – that even in this, ‘disastrous’ season, Bale has scored 17 goals and registered 12 assists in 48 appearances. While this level of performance was being dismissed in Spain, Eden Hazard’s 19 goals and 12 assists in 51 appearances allowed him to win the Player of the Season award in England. In other words – by imploding in two critical games of the season, the Welshman has somehow invalidated dozens of good ones. And now, instead of being a prized possession, an expensive jewel in Los Blancos’ crown, he is supposedly ready to pack his bags and return to England.

Or… is he? Does the madness really know no limits? Most recent backdoor news suggesting that he is already a Red Devil and accepted a Wayne-Rooney-size contract offer remain beyond human comprehension. On the other hand, Louis van Gaal will surely be getting rid of Falcao, whose wages could cover most of Bale’s contract expenses. If Robin van Persie leaves the club as well, there will be more than enough spare funds to afford Real Madrid’s winger. As Gary Neville suggested, MU can also use David de Gea as a potential leverage in this deal. So far, the most recent offer from Perez involves £14.5 million fee plus Fabio Coentrão in exchange. However, as for the team that earned £80 million on Ronaldo and watched Liverpool sell Luis Suarez for £75 million – this figure is way too low. Especially since MU don’t really need another left-back…

David De Gea – is this the end of his era in Manchester?

Regardless of whether those antics fail or go through, there will surely be more issues on the transfer market that simply escape the understanding of a rational mind. As I was reporting elsewhere, Raheem Sterling has refused new contract at Liverpool and will be looking for a way out from Anfield Road this summer. The winger, whose every update on social media is rapidly answered with countless ‘sign da ting’ requests from annoyed Liverpool fans, has snubbed £70.000 per week wage and will be looking to at least triple his earnings, either in LFC or some other club. Manchester City, Arsenal, Bayern Munich and… Real Madrid have reportedly considered him in their plans, and so did Manchester United – by launching an inquiry about the lad, that was quickly rejected by The Reds and described by media as ‘cheeky’. What Brendan Rodgers is going to do next?

Of course, in a normal world, player who contributes just 11 goals and 10 assists in 52 appearances doesn’t get his hands on this kind of money. However, let’s not forget that we live in a world where Wayne Rooney makes about £0.5 per second – and he isn’t even the best player in the league. Sterling, obviously guided by his greedy agent, knows that the salaries in this business have transcended the common sense long ago – and that the hot conditions of transfer summer can only work in his favour. His main advisor during this saga – Aidy Ward – recently fought back by claiming that the lad isn’t interested with earnings – he only wants trophies. Too translate it into the actual English language: ‘LFC are a weak team and Raheem is outta here’. AKA – another slap in the face of a club that gave Sterling the chance to grow into a top football talent when he was just another anonymous youngster.

 

Ward’s calculations aren’t without solid foundations, though – even if those foundations further confirm the craziness of this transfer window. Young, pacey wingers with reasonable experience on a top level are fairly rare treat to find for clubs that would like to strengthen their flanks. Besides, in 2015, several teams are going to run into trouble regarding their quality down the right-hand side – exactly the side Sterling prefers. For example: Arsenal’s Theo Walcott still hasn’t signed a new contract yet. In Manchester City, James Milner will be leaving the club on a free transfer while Jesús Navas has somewhat disappointed his employers. Elsewhere, Bayern, frustrated with the injury problems of their wingers, are looking for some fresh blood too. And, last but not least – there’s Real Madrid and their right wing position that was so ‘poorly’ covered by Bale during the last five months.

Aside from De Gea, Bale and Sterling, this summers’ madness can involve couple more names and clubs. For instance: Kevin De Bruyne. Manchester City, PSG and Bayern are all eyeing the Belgian attacking midfielder and, judging from their lineups, they could easily fit him in their starting elevens. His price tag? ‘Only’ £50 million – which, in this case, should be a fair fee for the author of 15 goals and 28 (!) assists in 49 appearances this season. The same three teams, along with Barcelona, are also expected to place their bids on Paul Pogba’s services: in this case, PSG are expected to offer £60 million and City – up to £70 million. Citizens could also lure Juventus into an exchange deal that might involve Edin Džeko, Aleksandar Kolarov, Stevan Jovetić or Yaya Touré. If any of these two possible moves was to happen, the Pandora Box of big transfers might open very wide…

 

Meanwhile, on the dark side of The Force: Manchester United wouldn’t mind to offload Ángel Di María to PSG if the French side are interested; Yaya Touré, who’s been in all kinds of arguments with MC management regarding his wages, is now set to leave the club and join Inter; despite getting relegated with QPR, Dutch midfielder Leroy Fer openly states that he wants to still play in the Premier League next season; Sampdoria are considering taking the hot potato called Mario Balotelli from Liverpool’s hands; after failing to sign Julian Draxler from Schalke last time around, Arsenal are now adding Bayern’s misfit Mario Götze to their wishlist… What all these names have in common? They’ve all underperformed this season and are more or less the by-products of increasingly mindless, ridiculous spiral of higher and higher fees or higher and higher salaries.

The carousel is speeding up and only few get to leave it without a scratch. Few days ago, Steven Gerrard had his farewell at Anfield; today, Xavi announced his departure from the grounds of Camp Nou. If Juventus wins in Berlin, we probably can expect the same from their midfield general, Andrea Pirlo. But… at this speed, aren’t we approaching the future in which icons like those three veterans will not exist anymore?

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