I would’ve argued that world football’s summer transfer window is the most entertaining period in sports, but then NBA Free Agency happened and blew up the entire league as we knew it.
Second best is fine though.
So far we’ve seen elite players like Antoine Griezmann and Eden Hazard move to new teams; with Griezmann joining Barca and Hazard finally signing with rival Real Madrid. Young stars like Joao Felix joined Atletico Madrid; and young upstart Ajax watched two of its phenoms: Frenkie De Jong and Matthijs De Ligt join European powers Barca and Juventus respectively.
The English teams haven’t been slouching though: Chelsea had already sealed a move for American Christian Pulisic, Manchester City signed Busquets clone Rodri from Atletico and Tottenham brought in Lyonnais’ destroyer Tanguy Ndombele. Even Mats Hummels left German giants Bayern Munich to return to the yellow wall of Borussia Dortmund.
There are still big names left who may be on the move too. Bayern is looking for replacements for the retired Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben and was hot on the heels for Callum Hudson-Odoi and Leroy Sane, before being rebuffed.
Now they will wait to see what happens with Neymar and Barca before making a potential run at Ousmane Dembele. Strikers Mauro Icardi and Gonzalo Higuain of Inter and Juventus are also available for the right price. Even Paul Pogba and Romelu Lukaku, who just yesterday appeared to be celebrating their union at Manchester United, are rumored to want away from Old Trafford.
Tottenham is even loosening the purse strings diving into the market for Real Betis’ Giovani Lo Celso and Juventus’ Paulo Dybala.
With less than a month left in the window, there is still a great chance of another big move or two taking place.
Gareth Bale Saga
One of those moves will be Gareth Bale’s forced departure from Real Madrid. It’s been rumored for a few years now that Bale would be sold, possibly back to a club in England. But it now appears that his salary demands are too great for any club in Europe.
It’s surprising that Chelsea didn’t insist on getting Bale back in either the Thibaut Courtois transfer or this year’s transfer of Hazard. So instead, Real will let him walk for free to join a team in China. Yes Bale, who was just the hero of the Champions League for Madrid last June, could end up spending the rest of his prime toiling away in the Chinese Super League. That’s akin to Thomas Mueller spending the rest of his career in MLS, albeit with much more money on the table.
It’s hard to tell why Madrid would want to rid themselves of Bale. This team underachieved last year, but there are others who would make much more sense to force out before Bale such as Sergio Ramos, Marcelo, Toni Kronos or Luka Modric.
Zinedine Zidane clashed with him during his first go-around as coach yet it seems like some time away hasn’t allowed them to mend their relationship. Nevertheless, it’s hard to believe that Madrid is truly better off choosing between Lucas Vazquez, Rodrygo and Vinicius versus sticking with Bale. If he is destined for China, hopefully it will be a short spell before he returns to Europe.
Neymar’s Return to Barca?
Neymar also appears to be on the move. The Brazilian has been unhappy since leaving Camp Nou for fortune and glory in Paris. And the Blaugrana are the apparent favorites to land the forward this summer. He reportedly told Barca players in a group chat that he’d be back soon. He’s now told PSG officials that he wants out.
The possibility of a Neymar transfer is fascinating because there’s a large number of Barca supporters that don’t want him back. He forced his exit to PSG, aspiring to be “the man”, to eventually be usurped by a younger prospect—who is now being compared to Messi in terms of his greatness—in Kylian Mbappe. Mbappe not only has become the star attraction for PSG, but he’s also a World Cup winner, too.
Couple this with Neymar’s injury history and PSG’s failed Champions League campaigns and it’s easy to see why the star wants out.
My surprise came from his desire to go back to Barca. Many thought that he’d be angling for a move to Real Madrid, especially after last season when Ronaldo left a gaping hole in the left side of their attack (Neymar primarily lines up as a left winger). But Real added Eden Hazard instead, seemingly leaving Neymar with fewer options. None of the other powerhouse clubs have the resources or attractiveness that either La Liga giants have.
So Barca—who have already spent 200M Euro on Griezmann and De Jong—have the ball in their court. Rumors were rampant that a deal between Barca and PSG were imminent but they’ve cooled since. My guess is that Neymar will spend one more season in Paris before leaving for one of the Manchester clubs, Real, or Barca (and I pray to the old gods and the new that it’s Barca).
Electronic Arts, publisher of the massively popular and infinitely frustrating FIFA series, actually saw a dip in their stock price the other day due in part to its rival Konami’s inking an exclusive rights deal with Juventus. Now Cristiano Ronaldo’s Juve team cannot be featured in the video game and FIFA will have to use a fake name and badge for the club. My hope is that PES can continue to make deals with the bigger clubs like Juve to annoy EA into a stalemate on licenses.
Last year I was given the chance to play a beta version of FIFA 19 and was disgusted at how similar it felt to the previous iteration. I was even more turned off when I learned that the big upgrades for last year’s game were a timed finishing mechanism that I didn’t care for and a new skin for Champions League matches. That was it. So I jumped ship to PES and didn’t look back. It’s true that FIFA’s licenses go a long way to making the game feel more realistic. PES has an amazing community that recreates all of the domestic leagues with proper kits, logos, and stadiums though, so what was I really missing?
Also the gameplay in PES is a phenomenal upgrade over FIFA’s. I’m also not 12 years old, so opening card packs in FIFA’s Ultimate Team doesn’t appeal to me either. Maybe if FIFA had to fight on a level playing field (i.e. both games had to share licenses the way Live and 2K currently does), they’d focus on putting out a game that its customers have been clamoring for instead of coming up with gimmicky ways to make money.
The Worst Penalty I’ve Ever Seen
Simone Zaza’s missed penalty at the 2018 European Championships was the most horrific PK attempt I’ve seen.