Thanks for nothing, Chelsea. We must all live with the consequences of what you have done.
The signing of Alvaro Morata heralds the latest facile and pointless debate of our time, up there with Ronaldo versus Messi, Playstation or Xbox or whether to pour the milk in first or last when making a cup of tea.
Even before the Twitter droves implored Manchester United to ‘announce Lukaku’, Red Rom was being compared with the devil who could have been. Up popped shiny graphics comparing goals per minute, height, weight, BMI, star signs, which phase of the moon both players were born under (Morata’s waning crescent to Romelu Lukaku’s last quarter, if either can play the whole 90 surely it is the big Belgian).
It is of course a compelling storyline. United would have ended up with Morata if Chelsea had not been so slow to react on Lukaku, and they are to be the spearheads of their new teams.
And while of all of these factoids make for an interesting natter next week in front of office water coolers, ‘Morkaku’ – sport’s new celebrity relationship – is set to get very boring, very quickly.
Let’s instead try what the Hollywood types call a conscious uncoupling.
Lukaku is strong, tall, skilful, scores a lot of goals, is young, important to his country and has already played more than 200 club games in his career.
Morata: 40 goals in 4 years— GeniusFootball (@GeniusFootball) July 21, 2017
Lukaku: 105 goals in 4 years
Slight difference. pic.twitter.com/iOZRs3Fd4p
Morata is strong, tall, skilful, scores a lot of goals, is young, important to his country and has already played more than 200 club games in his career.
Quibbles can be made – and oh my how they have – over Lukaku’s record against ‘big’ teams, and whether Morata will adapt to the Premier League. But all of this is useless conjecture.
Both players are excellent in their own right and the minute differences between them equate to whether you’d prefer to drive around in a Ferrari or a Porsche. Indeed, either of those two can quickly help you get to where you want to go.
The only factors that now matter are the people behind the steering wheel: Jose Mourinho and Antonio Conte.
United and Chelsea both had imperfect attacks last season, and whether their two new No9s are upgrades on the ones that went before will be the most fascinating element of the next campaign.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Diego Costa scored 37 league goals between them last year, yet neither club were completely happy with their contributions.
United did not have a choice in having to replace an injured Ibrahimovic, but were likely to pounce for a new striker regardless. The Swede conjured up many magical moments, yet some of his hold-up and link-up play with his wide forwards bordered on the dismal at times.
Then there is Costa, who despite fluctuating in and out of form, struck up a fine partnership with the individually minded Eden Hazard last season. One text message from Conte later and he’s out of the picture.
But if Lukaku and Morata are to hugely boost their respective sides, the big question marks lie instead with their team-mates.
Chelsea have taken a far larger gamble in midfield by seemingly ridding themselves of Nemanja Matic in order to accommodate Tiemoue Bakayoko from Monaco.
The thought process is that the ground-guzzling Bakayoko can do much of the heavy lifting in midfield to give N’Golo Kante a little more freedom to roam forward, though it is some leap to think Kante can provide a creative spark on such scant – if promising – evidence thus far. Bakayoko, don’t forget, only came of age last year for Monaco, having played just 23 times the season before.
Then over at United there is the problem of releasing Paul Pogba, who is either too ill-disciplined or too talented – it’s hard to discern which – to be shackled in a midfield two. With Mourinho so far frustrated in his efforts to sign a Matic or Eric Dier, an imbalance may persist in the middle.
So whether Morata and Lukaku flourish or fail in their first seasons, beware those who sell you a story of two strikers. The players behind them are as big a part of the scripts that Conte and Mourinho are writing.
Initiations for new players at clubs can always be fun, and Aston Villa showed that with their latest recruit – a certain John Terry.
The former Chelsea captain had to sing Stand By Me as an initiation song, and didn’t do too bad a job.
Soccer AM put together a list of the best initiation songs done by footballers, with some showing off some fairly decent singing skills. Others, however…let’s just say it’s a good thing they chose football as their day job.
Who do you think was best?
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp on Friday brushed off a reported $93 million offer from Barcelona for Brazilian playmaker Philippe Coutinho, insisting: “We’re not a selling club.”
“We want to work together and we want to make the next step, and to do this we need to stay together,” the German told reporters before his side face Leicester City in the final of the Premier League Asia Trophy in Hong Kong on Saturday.
“The very important message is that we are not a selling club,” added Klopp.
As Barcelona circle for Coutinho, Liverpool midfielder Adam Lallana backed the mercurial Brazilian to help lead the Reds to success in the new season.
“He’s a fantastic player so it’s no surprise that there’s teams interested in him,” said Lallana. “I feel like we’re going to achieve big things here and I feel like Phil is going to be a big part of that.
“He’s in that elite bracket and there is no reason he can’t continue to be in that elite bracket and continue here at Liverpool,” added Lallana. “We’re a massive club. We’re in the Champions League — okay we need to qualify — but if we are going to win competitions like that, and the Premier League, we need to keep hold of players like Philippe.”
Fan favourite Coutinho signed a new five-year contract at Anfield in January that did not include a release clause.
“He can improve his consistency but there is no doubt about his quality,” Klopp said of the 25-year-old.
“He’s a really good player but the nice thing is he’s still young and he can improve. Phil is a very, very important player.”
Klopp, whose side beat Crystal Palace 2-0 in midweek in their first run-out in Hong Kong, was less keen to discuss Liverpool’s pursuit of Leipzig midfielder Naby Keita.
The German club rejected an $86 million bid for the Guinea star from Liverpool earlier this week.
“I have nothing to say about this,” shrugged Klopp, looking to strengthen as he attempts to end Liverpool’s 27-year title drought.
“Obviously these stories are without my saying, so why should I disturb this process? Do whatever you want with this news, I’m not interested. But keeping the group together would make sense.”
Leicester boss Craig Shakespeare, meanwhile, revealed his club had received an offer for Algerian winger Riyad Mahrez from Roma.
“It was politely declined on the basis that it was a low offer,” said Shakespeare, who watched his team overcome West Brom on penalties earlier this week.
“What that offer is I don’t know. Riyad is a Leicester player and until we hear otherwise we expect him to perform at the standard we set.”
* Provided by AFP