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The suspense is on

With the new club seasons set to begin across Europe, here’s how the major teams have lined up as the transfer deadline approaches

There has been a sort of lull in the footballing world post the World Cup finals, where France lifted the coveted trophy. However, though there has been no professional action on field, the coming weeks will mark the commencement of the major football leagues around Europe. While the English Premier League begins on August 11, the other European leagues will commence on August 18.

The teams have already started chopping and changing their squads, with several players coming in and going out of the major clubs during the ongoing transfer window. However, for the first time ever, the transfer deadline will officially close for the English Premier League clubs on the midnight of August 9, a day before their season kicks off, instead of the usual date of August 31. For the others, however, the deadline remains August 31. So before the deadline closes, let’s have a look at how major teams from across the continent have lined up and who has the chances of being the footballing powerhouses.

Manchester’s noisy neighbours

While in the last couple of seasons, the two Manchester clubs — Manchester City and Manchester United — have spent the most amount of money on their transfers, this year, the club to the North-East of Manchester, Liverpool, has spilled the most cash to beef up their squad. To strengthen their force at their goal, they bought Brazilian goalkeeper Alisson Becker for 75 million euros, thus making him the most expensive goalie in history. While many attributed Liverpool’s loss at the Champion’s League final last year to the horrendous goalkeeping of Laurus Karius, Alisson’s addition to the squad could prove useful.
Liverpool have also latched up Swiss superstar Xherdan Shaqiri from Stoke City. His pace, dribbling and eagle-eyed shooting techniques, coupled with Mohammed Salah and Roberto Firmino’s attacking flair, will create one of the most lethal attacks, not only in England, but all of Europe.

Alisson Becker became the most expensive goalkeeper after his 75 million transfer to Liverpool (Photo: AFP)

To bolster their strength at the centre of the park, the Reds have brought in defensive mid-fielder Fabinho from Monaco and central midfielder Naby Keita from Leipzig. With so many options at their disposal, in addition to the players that made them reach the Champion’s League final last season, and also transfer of French forward Nebil Fekir expected to be completed in the coming week, Jurgenn Klopp’s Liverpool might just surprise everyone and clinch their maiden Premier League title.

Last year’s champions Manchester City were not that active at the transfer market, even though they made a great additions to their already world class squad in the form of 2015-16 PFA player of the year Riyad Mahrez. His pace on the wing, his precision passing and his impeccable shots at goal, coupled with Kevin De Bruyne’s creative genius and Sergio Aguero’s precision upfront, could prove to be a major factor if City want to clinch the title twice in a row. City, however, have been dealt a major blow in pursuit of signing a central midfielder as their primary targets. Brazil’s Fred and Italian Jorginho were swooped under their nose at the last minute.

Manchester United, on the other hand, are on high alert, as this will be Jose Mourinho’s third season with the Red Devils. Why, you ask? The “special one” has always faced the third season blues, as his stints with Real Madrid, Chelsea and Inter Milan, all terminated at the third season itself due to horrendous performances.

In the transfer window, United haven’t done much except the signing of Brazillian midfielder Fred from Shakhtar Donetsk and Portugese young right back Diogo Dalot from Porto. Though Dalot will act as a back up to Antonio Valencia, the arrival of Fred, in an already stacked pool of midfielders in the club, seems excessive. He may be used as part of a 3-man midfield, with Nemanja Matic acting as a defensive midfielder, Paul Pogba running from box to box and Fred acting as a link between the two, mainly as a passer.

The area where United need to address their woes is at the back. With injury-prone players like Bailly, Jones and Smalling, United need a solid defender at the back. With rumours of England and Leicester star Harry Maguire moving to the red part of Manchester before the deadline day, he would prove to be a very good addition to the squad, in pursuit of their record 21st league title. There have been rumours of Brazil star Willian reuniting with his former Chelsea boss Mourinho to bolster their wing attack, an area United need to add firepower to.

New bosses, new vision

One of the major changes in the managerial front in Europe has been the departure of Arsene Wenger as Arsenal gaffer after 22 years in charge of the North London outfit. The Gunners have recruited former Paris St-Germain boss Unai Emery at the helm of affairs, and he has brought in a host of players to bolster his squad ahead of the upcoming season. At the back, Emery has signed veteran Swiss fullback Stephen Lichsteiner from Juventus on a free transfer, and Greek centre-back Sokratis Papastathopoulos, much needed additions, especially ahead of the eminent departure of Laurent Koscielny.

However, the greatest addition to their defence has been German goalkeeper Bernd Leno, often considered one of the best young stars in the world. The signing of unknown quantity Lucas Torreira from Italian club Sampdoria should not be the last signing as Arsenal need serious firepower in the middle of the park if they want to qualify for Europe. However, with powerful squads in the form of Manchester City, Manchester United and Liverpool, it will be difficult for the Gunners to aim for the top prize.

Chelsea also appointed a new gaffer at their helm — former Napoli manager Maurizio Sarri — after they sacked Antonio Conte after a disappointing 2017-18 season. Sarri, along with him, has also brought in his player from Napoli, midfielder Jorginho, who they scooped up right under the nose of Manchester City. However, the Blues need to group up and make major tides in the transfer window, with imminent departures of Willian, Hazard and Courtouis. Jordan Pickford, England’s no. 1 has been heavily linked to a move at Stamford Bridge this season. But with only a week left for the transfer deadline, Chelsea need to chin up for a busy schedule ahead.

Who’ll replace CR7?

The biggest news in this transfer window has been the departure of Christiano Ronaldo to Juventus from Real Madrid for 95 million euros. Fans of the Spanish La Liga, will now have to adjust to the sight of an El Classico without the magical Messi vs Ronaldo rivalry. To fill this gap, the Galacticos under new manager Julen Lopetegui are looking for a major replacement in the left wing. Though they have signed highly rated Brazilian young winger Vinicius Junior from the Brazil league, they will look for a superstar to replace their biggest asset. With Chelsea and Belgium winger Eden Hazard the most likely to move to the Bernabeu, Brazilian superstar Neymar and World Cup star Kylian Mbappe are also heavily linked to the Spanish giants. However, this season just might be a transitional one for the Galacticos, so it’s better not to expect the level of success they had for the past two or three seasons

Real Madrid’s biggest rivals Barcelona have been much more active at the transfer market this season. The major signing of the summer for the Catalans has been rightwinger Malcolm who will bolster their already strong attack consisting of Coutinho, Suarez and of course, Lionel Messi. Arthur Melo, from Brazilian side Gremio will boost the already strong midfield and will likely form a good partnership with Ivan Rakitic at the midfield, especially after the departure of Andres Iniesta. With the addition of Clement Lenglet from Sevilla at the back, Barcelona’s defence also looks strong. With Ernesto Valverde hinting at a major midfield signing in the weeks ahead, Barcelona will most likely come out on the top of Spain’s top division this time around.

New ‘wolves’ on the block

One of the most surprising teams who broke the bank this transfer season has been newly promoted English Premier League side Wolverhampton Wanderers. The Wolves have couped up major international stars like Portugal’s premier goalkeeper Rui Patricio, veteran Portugal and Monaco midfielder Joao Moutinho, Raul Jimenez from Benfica and highly rated leftwinger Diogo Jota from Athletico Madrid. Can the Wolves pull off a Leicester? Or will they sink back to the second division? The question will be answered once the action kicks off on August 11.