There are two things this summer which managed to hang around a lot longer than anyone expected. The England football team, of course, but also Antonio Conte at Chelsea. It is not unreasonable to suggest that both were expected to have packed their bags well before the end of June yet here they both are, departing in the middle of July.
England, however, do have the small matter of a bronze medal play-off against Belgium tomorrow though if you want to save yourself a Saturday afternoon, I’d recommend just watching the highlights of the group stage fixture as it will be very similar. When they return to their homeland, the England squad will be invited to 10 Downing Street to meet the Prime Minister. I mean, really. Haven’t they suffered enough this week? It’s funny how in other countries, that invite would be viewed as a lot more sinister.
Harry Kane has declared himself fit for the Belgium game which is great and all that, but considering the lack of running around he did against Croatia I would imagine he is as fresh as the proverbial daisy. Harry was so anonymous that Dejan Lovren now believes he has shown that he is “one of the best in the world” when it comes to this defending malarky. Yes, Dejan. Yes, you are. And Loris Karius is one of the finest guardians of the net you are ever going to play in front of.
Antonio Conte has put in the perfect performance over the summer, considering he wanted to leave and he knew Chelsea wanted him to leave. He returned to take preseason training on Monday morning at the Cobham training ground wearing a tracksuit with “if you want me to go you really are going to have to sack me” on the back and put the players not at the World Cup through some paces whilst mentally counting his severence pay.
It’s not as if the Italian has done a bad job either so it will be fascinating to see where he turns up to next, his scowl at the ready. Serie A has missed him and there are no top Premier League jobs available right now. Well, apart from Chelsea, of course.
Stamford Bridge will likely have Maurizio Sarri in the dugout next season as there is no way on Earth Conte would have been fired yesterday if they were not close to announcing him. No way on Earth, I tell you. Chelsea like to do these things properly, you see.
What else has been happening whilst we’ve all been looking the other way? Blimey, it says here that West Ham United have made some decent signings. It must be July! Come on now, Hammers fans. We’ve been here before, no? You go out and you make some fine signings (in theory) every single year. Nobody disputes that at all. It’s what happens to them when they turn up that is the problem. So, yes. Jack Wilshere, Felipe Anderson, Andriy Yarmolenko and Issa Diop are all great names to see in the “transfers in” column but then so was Javier Hernandez the summer before. Shall we all wait and see?
There’s also a hat tip for Fulham who stolen a march on many a rival by signing Jean-Michel Seri from Nice for £25m. Seri has been perennially linked to Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United over the last couple of seasons but will be making his Premier League debut down on the River Thames before, no doubt, heading over to Stamford Bridge next season.
One of the longest transfer sagas in modern history has finally reached a somewhat anti-climatic climax. Riyad Mahrez has finally traded his Premier League winning status at Leicester City for, probably, a couple more Premier League titles in the not too distant future with Peppy G and Manchester City. I am sure Kevin de Bruyne, Leroy Sane, David Silva, Bernardo Silva, Phil Foden et al are all delighted to see another player come into their little band of attacking midfielders.
You might recall that Arsenal have a new manager in Unai Emery. Yeah, I’d kinda forgotten as well. But Unai was telling the world yesterday how he is going to build his team around Aaron Ramsey which tells us all one thing and one thing only. Arsenal won’t be winning anything anytime soon. Emery has plans for that midfield though, having shown Wilshere the door and signing Uruguay midfielder Lucas Torreira, and the young Frenchman Matteo Guendouzi. Torreira is a proper talent, something Arsenal haven’t seen in that defensive midfield role for many years.
Rafa Benitez has cracked open his transfer warchest and taken Chelsea’s Kenedy back to St James’ Park – on loan, again. Don’t spend it all at once, Rafa.
Marco Silva, now at Everton remember, has realised that Leighton Baines and Phil Jagielka may not go on forever so is looking to replace them with Barcelona left-back who never actually plays, Lucas Digne and Colombian giant who likes to bully Raheem Sterling, Yerry Mina.
What else is there? Oh yes, Juventus paid £105m for a 33-year-old and Steven Gerrard got his new life as Rangers manager off to a winning start, beating a team I have never heard of 2-0 in a Europa League qualifying match.