I read a good article in the Echo recently by Tony Gillan, who, when hearing that Manchester United had sold Adnan Januzaj to Real Sociedad for £10 million, felt moved to write:
Ten million quid for him. THAT’S when you know that football – and not just the Premier League – has lost its mind.
Hard to disagree with that statement, but I’m sure the writer would agree that Januzaj’s transfer is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to knowing that football has “lost its mind”.
Take Wayne Rooney’s debut for Everton for instance – you might have missed it as it was in Tanzania. Ask Wayne about Tanzania either before or after the game, and he’d probably hazard a guess that it was the name of someone on ‘Love Island’ – (except he wouldn’t, because he’d know all of the contestants on ‘Love Island’).
And yet, Everton flew to East Africa just for a pre-season friendly.
They’re not even cleaning the boots of the real pre-season globe-trotters. Take Arsenal – private Emirates jumbo done out in their own livery to fly the team to Australia for two games, followed by China for two games, then back to the Emirates for the Emirates Cup – two more games. That should set them up nicely for the start of the season and earn the sponsors a few bob.
Man Utd fancied a bit more glamour and spent the week in Hollywood meeting the cast of Lord of the Rings and famous people I’ve never heard of, all to play a game against... Man City, in Houston on Thursday. Then they play Real Madrid in California, Barcelona in Maryland, before trips to Norway, Ireland, and Macedonia. Then home to count the money from the TV rights and the merchandising.
Chelsea are in China and Singapore, Leicester and Liverpool are in Hong Kong, Man City also in Iceland. And just to show that’s it’s not just the big clubs, Mansfield took a private jet to Malta for one game, staying in a five star hotel to boot. And they won – which helps no doubt.
Has football ‘lost it’s mind’? Of course it has, the amount of money it generates is beyond imagination, beyond obscenity, and results in all the excesses that such a situation encourages. Flying to Tanzania for a single friendly is the footballing equivalent of driving your Rolls Royce into a swimming pool or throwing a hotel bedroom out of a window.
And it’s not just the travel. Chelsea this week are paying up to £40 million for midfielder Tiemoué Bakayoko, who, not so long ago was being kept out of the Monaco team by Mario Pasalic, a German-born Croatian international six months older than Bakayoko - who for the past three years, has been a Chelsea player.
At last count, Chelsea had over thirty players out on loan - players that’ll probably never get a game for their parent club - who, when it comes to filling a perceived hole in their squad, will reach for the cheque book to buy a ready-made replacement off the shelf rather than utilize one of their own existing players.
And it seems to be a good time to be a woman right now. I can’t speak from experience of course, but we have a woman prime-minister, (for now), a female Dr Who and The Lionesses – the England women's national football team playing in the Euro’s in Holland where they face Scotland this week. I for one hope that they do brilliantly and redraw the image of women’s football in this country in huge letters across the sky.
Because although the image is improving it still doesn’t get the attention that it deserves, and I have no time for those people who compare it in disparaging terms with the men’s game. That’s like holding Wayne Rooney up to Wayne Sleep and dismissing him because the pirouettes in his pas de deux were less than sublime.
The England women’s team - or any female team for that matter - should only be viewed in the light of their female peers.
It’s like comparing Stanley Matthews cup-winning side of the fifties with Chelsea’s league winners last season and condemning Matthews side for not being good enough. It’s meaningless. People wouldn’t do it and those who run the women’s game down by comparing it to the Premier League should have a good hard look at themselves.
Finally, Man Utd have made it plain that although he left for Everton, or maybe perhaps because he left for Everton, Wayne Rooney still has the offer of an ambassadorial role for the Club when retirement eventually comes. Why? As nice as he is harmless, he could possibly be the dullest man on the planet – why would you want someone like that to represent Manchester United?
If you want him as a talisman, get a cardboard cut-out and stand it in the corner at receptions, have his profile on the croissants, name the visitors toilet ‘the Rooney Suite’ but don’t dress him in a tux, stand him in front of the next big sponsor, who’s first question could well be: ‘So Wayne, what did you think of Tanzania?’
However, despite all the lunacy and excess and sheer bloody-minded disbelief that football engenders - I’m ready. I’m ready for the new season with a feeling of optimism that wasn’t there a couple of weeks ago, let alone at the end of last season.
A fortnight ago I wanted the break to go on longer, the depression and apathy from last season was still there. I don’t know if it was Glastonbury or Wimbledon or Game of Thrones, or just the fact that we’re going to be playing two games a week and we may win some of them, but I can’t wait to get started again. We’ve got some new faces in and some old ones out - it’s starting to sound a bit like the hokey-cokey - but bring on the new season!