Bobby McMahon, Contributor, FORBES, The Soccer Trade,August 27, 2013
A couple of weeks ago Manchester United manager David Moyes was venting that a computer software program had assigned his new club “the hardest start for 20 years.”
First up was a tricky trip to Swansea that turned out to be not nearly as problematic in reality as it was on paper. A 4-1 win for United made sure that the label of “crisis-club” remained firmly attached to Arsenalrather than the Premier League Champions – for the first week of the season anyway.
But although the trip to Wales was successful Manchester United still has to go to Liverpool and Manchester City in their first five games of the season as well as a tasty encounter with Chelsea coming up tomorrow (Monday). Sunday’s 3-2 loss by Manchester City away to newly promoted Cardiff City may have offered some media “cover” in the lead up to the Monday night game for Moyes and United but you do get the feeling that a loss to either Chelsea or to Liverpool next Sunday and the media will pounce – especially if no money has been spent.
As much as Arsenal and Arsene Wenger have got it in the neck for not spending the large transfer kitty that Chief Executive Ivan Gazidis bragged about months ago United seem similarly culpable.
United’s only deal so far has been to sign the young Guillermo Varela for around $2.5M. In fact, an argument could be made that Manchester United has even less reason not to have got their transfer business completed given that Arsenal had to negotiate the play off round of Champions League before being assured of a pay day of around $31M.
The transfer trail for David Moyes and newly installed vice-chairman Ed Woodward has, to date, been largely an exercise in futility.
A rumored interest in Barcelona’s Thiago Alcântara was never consummated and instead the young midfielder moved to Bayern Munich. Then came two (or was it three bids?) for another Barcelona midfielder. This time it was former Arsenal star Cesc Fabregas who lobbied mightily for a move back to Barcelona just two summers ago. United must have been given some sign of encouragement for their approach but it was a move that from the outside looking in never seemed right.
A double-bid of $42M for Everton’s Leighton Baines and Marouane Fellini was evidently spurned with a $60M prize tag a more realistic asking price.
The “Cristiano Ronaldo back to Old Trafford” is good for web hits but the chances of that happening are almost zero – Gareth Bale or no Gareth Bale.
All of this has been played out with “will Wayne Rooney stay or be sold” echoing in the background. Chelsea is said to be committed to another bid for Rooney although the surprise and now imminent signing of Brazilian Willian might cool such a move.
But although a move for Ronaldo doesn’t seem realistic there is a very good reason why Real Madrid and the Bernabéu would be a good place for transfer groupies to camp out over the next seven days.
It was Arsene Wenger who opined in 2010 that the entrance to Real Madrid’s stadium was a great place to hang-out. The reason – to snag some of the stars Real Madrid regularly toss out the door having grown weary of them for a myriad of reasons.
In the last few weeks Rafa Benitez appears to have taken Wenger’s words to heart signing three Real Madrid players. Gonzalo Higuain was shown the way even though at 25 you would think he has a lot of goals left in him. Centre back Raúl Albiol was rarely a first choice over the last two seasons and he also left for Naples along with Jose Callejón. Also leaving since last season have been Ricardo Carvalho and Michael Essien (on loan from Chelsea).
A version of a youth movement seems to be taken hold at the Bernabéu. Asier Illarramendi (23), Isco (21) have cost around $75M from Real Sociedad and Malaga. Midfielder Casemiro (21) cost a more modest $8M from Sao Paulo and right back Daniel Carvajal was a buy back from Bayer Leverkusen for around the same amount. There are also “graduates” who have a good chance of stepping up to the full squad. Alvaro Morata and Jesé are two that come to mind.
Toss in Gareth Bale at a world record fee and Real Madrid look a little over staffed and that is not even considering a possible late move for Liverpool’s problem child Luis Suárez.
Xabi Alonso suffered a broken bone in his right foot last week during training and it has been suggested that the injury puts a spanner in the works as far as any departures are concerned. Injuries can and do happen at any time and it seems a stretch to think that the likes of Real Madrid would not have taken the possibility of injuries into their transfer plans.
For once rumors linking Manchester United to Real Madrid players seem to make some sense.
So don’t be surprised if by this time next week someone has swapped the white of Real Madrid for the red of Manchester United.