THE GLADIATORS ARE BACK!

THE GLADIATORS ARE BACK!
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At long last, the wait is over.  The pre-season training and trial matches are all but over and done with. Europe is gearing up for another roller coaster season.  Tell you the truth, football lovers the world over, simply can’t wait.

There’s though the irritant issue of movement of players yet to be concluded till the end of August.  Some players are still yet to know their fate.  For the lucky ones like Batshuayi with Chelsea and Xakha with Arsenal, Nolito with Manchester City, Zlatan Ibrahimovic with Manchester United, they don’t have such distractions. Their deals were settled early so they can just go about their business of playing football.

Yes, forget about all that happened during the pre-season.  Forget about Messi’s inability to win a major trophy with Argentina and his weeping like a baby after the fact.  Forget about his new hair style to hide his shame and the fact that he has been overlooked for Europe’s top 3.  Yea, forget even about Ronaldo’s triumph with Portugal at Euro 2016.

Football Soccer - Portugal v France - EURO 2016 - Final - Stade de France, Saint-Denis near Paris, France - 10/7/16 Portugal celebrate with the trophy after winning Euro 2016 REUTERS/Carl Recine Livepic

Pic: Ronaldo celebrates with his Portuguese team mates after annexing the Euro 2016 title

But hey, there would be enough time and space to cover the whole of Europe later.  My focus and review this week is on the English Premier League (EPL) which kicks off on Saturday 13th of August, 2016.

I don’t recall nor believe that there has been such expectancy to a season ever! Remind me, dear reader if you do.  In addition to the huge pool of players brought in by the teams to shore up their chances of winning the premiership, there is the matter of the managers. The EPL has never had the honour to play host to such an assembly of renowned football managers.

With Jose Mourinho pitching camp at Man United, Pep Guardiola at Man City, Antonio Conte at Chelsea, Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool, Claudio Ranieri at Leicester City and good old Arsene Wenger at Arsenal, there would be nothing but excitement galore.  These great guys will pitch their technical knowledge against each other to see who comes up tops. Who among these great men of football will outfox the others and reign supreme come season’s end? Good question!

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Pic: Antonio Conte of chelsea

I can’t help but salivate at the prospect what is going to unfold as it’s going to be something else.  How would the ice-cool Pep, the Master tactician that has overseen success stories at both Barcelona and Bayern Munich fare in his new environs in England? How would the serial winner and highly decorated Mourinho fare at Man United?  What about the ever pacing on the touch lines like a terrier Conte, fare under the most demanding of club owners in Roman Abramovich? Will Klopp lose another pair of glasses and what would Arsene do beyond kicking bottles and attacking Mourinho this time round?

Another feature of the pre-season that has also caught the imagination of pundits is the excessive and prohibitive fees charged for players.  None in their wildest dreams a few years ago, would have thought of a player(s) commanding a hundred million pound fee? Did you say none?  That’s where we are headed now.  And leading the way is Man United with their audacious $100m fee for Paul Pogba eclipsing anything before it.ogba 2

You know the EPL is sponsored by Barclay’s bank whose motto is “A big world needs a big bank.” It’s no wonder that a big club like Manchester United need a big player like Paul Pogba. Forget about whether it is deserved or not.  The market is simply crazy!

Just imagine Everton demanding £75m from Chelsea for Romelu Lukaku.  You ask yourself what the player has achieved in his career to command such a fee.

In the 21st century, when you want something, you go for it.  When a club realizes that you badly need a player it has nurtured, it will make you pay through the nostrils.  The financially weak clubs without clout are thus blown out of the water.

Enough talk of fees and whether deserved or not.  The important thing is that the season is here and the big question who will stand tall come season’s end.  Would it be Man United who have brought in Jose Mourinho and strengthened their playing body with the acquisition of high profile players, like Ibrahimovich and Pogba?

Will Ibrahimovich stand aside and watch Pogba steal the spotlight? I doubt that very much! How the egos of the two stars will play out in Man United would also be known sooner or later

Would Pep Guardiola be successful in England and thereby help Man City to the title?

To spice things up, we would know before long who would be lord and master of Manchester.  Can two supremos co-exist in one enclave? Remember, we are told that two tigers cannot stay on the same mountain. Pep and Mourinho would make you forget about the traditions of the two clubs and focus on their characters.

Would it be the highly successful Conte and his new-look Chelsea who seems to have recovered from a mediocre side last term?

Would Arsene Wenger be able to give his beloved Arsenal some spine to finally launch a credible bid for the title?  Though they have been quiet on the transfer market, the team is pretty solid.

We will have the answers in due time.  One thing is for sure though and that is lightning will not strike twice.

I don’t think Leicester City would be able to successfully defend the title. They haven’t strengthened the team in any way but have rather lost the irrepressible Ngolo Kante in the middle of the field.

Time will tell who will lift the trophy. But my hunch tells me that come May, the winner would come from either London or Manchester.


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