Manchester United’s £100m chase for Paul Pogba has drawn a heavy veil over this summer’s transfer window obscuring our view of every other move that might actually have a beginning, middle and end.
Indeed if the entire window was E4 then the French midfielder’s expected departure from Juventus would be The Big Bang Theory: inescapable and omnipresent. So protracted has been the speculation that I described it on this very site last week as an (Orwellian nightmare).
So will he come? Can we anticipate a crudely shaven devil on the side of his bonce come August? Will the player’s agent negotiate his much-deserved £25m slice of the action? It certainly looks imminent at the time of writing but truthfully not many care anymore because if somebody is whispering into your ear non-stop 24/7 after a while the words lose all meaning and you simply hear static.
That’s not to say that this latest drawn-out saga is unique for each summer we are subjected to a similar never-ending-story that casts a long shadow over the close-season and beyond. Remember Real Madrid’s stalking of David De Gea last year? At least that one had a comedy pay-off.
But these examples didn’t; they just went on and on and on, sapping our will to live…
An unresolved epic that ran parallel with Real’s pursuit of De Gea this had far less of the cat-and-mouse element that usually accompanies these marathons and was more of an assault of entitlement that lasted several months.
Though he is a very different type of defender Stones was regarded as the heir apparent to an aging John Terry and from the position of strength that a recent title brought Chelsea waded in with brute force and a media siege. Only Everton resisted. And resisted. Then resisted some more.
The 21 year old did his bit to push through a move handing in a transfer request and ultimately sacrificing his bond with Evertonians in the process while Chelsea reportedly tabled four separate bids all in the region of £35m and all in vain.
A year on and you can still find reports suggesting the London giants are willing to match any offer Manchester City makes along with conflicting news of their unhappiness to be drawn into a ‘bidding war’. As bad bluffs go the latter is hilarious.
Just let it go Chels. Everton are just not into you.
We can only put Rafa Benitez’s stubborn determination to lure Gareth Barry from Villa Park to Anfield in 2009 as a form of mid-life crisis. Only being the arch-contrarian he is the Spaniard didn’t simply invest in an impractical sports car like cliché dictates: instead he wanted to off-load his sleek Porsche in Xavi Alonso and replace him with a Fiat.
Barry may well have gone on to win titles at Manchester City and prove his doubters wrong as an astute midfield anchor but the Liverpool gaffer’s willingness to break up a superbly balanced trio in Alonso, Gerrard and Mascherano perplexes Reds to this day. Ultimately too his quest was lose-lose as Barry went elsewhere and a slighted Alonso moved to Madrid twelve months later going on to become the best player of his ilk in the world.
Barca’s standing as a club of integrity took a major pounding following their summer-long harassment of Arsenal’s Cesc Fabregas that utilised every trick in the book including getting his Spanish amigos to publicly plead for him to join them.
So drawn-out was their aggressive courtship that it’s tempting to believe that nothing else of note occurred in 2011 save for a footballer returning to his native country and Pippa Middleton showing off a rear in a bridesmaid’s gown that had the nation’s dads drooling.
As unscrupulous as their attempts undoubtedly were at least the Catalans put in several official bids during this eternal saga. United take note. That’s the way to do it.
History has a habit of condensing dragged-out affairs to a memorable soundbite. Thus the Battle of Trafalgar is chiefly recalled by Nelson asking Hardy for a farewell smooch while Caesar’s long reign over the Roman Empire is encapsulated by him condemning his mate Brutus to be forever known as a traitor.
Ashley Cole’s contentious switch across the capital in 2006 was a prophetic tale of where modern football was heading and lasted longer than Stephen Hawking reading aloud the Chilcot Report but really all we took with us was Cole’s quote from his autobiography. “I was so incensed. I was trembling with anger,” the aggrieved left-back wrote on recounting the Gunners’ insulting offer of 55 thousand a week. That’s okay though because in a later statement (once he had secured the much more reasonable sum of £120,000 a week from his club’s arch rivals) Cole ‘forgave’ Arsenal for their behaviour.
It marked him out as the most unpopular player around as we wearily embraced football as we now know it.
August 31st 2008 was a remarkable day in English football. Manchester City had been taken over just a week earlier by a family richer than Bill Gates and King Croesus combined and were frantically attempting to buy a marquee name to commemorate their union.
Their chief target was Tottenham’s Dimitar Berbatov with the London club accepting an offer in the region of £30m but in the event they settled for a Brazilian superstar instead in the form of Robinho.
They did so because Sir Alex Ferguson personally intervened and essentially kept the Bulgarian hostage at Carrington until the papers were signed.
Like I say, August 31st 2008 was a remarkable day.
The months that preceded it however, as United pursued the haughty striker like Mrs Doyle in Father Ted asking if anyone wants tea, was not remarkable. It was dull. So, so dull.