However, so much has changed in the last two months. Sir Alex Ferguson has retired, Roberto Mancini was shown the door and Jose Mourinho has returned to England to manage his beloved Chelsea. The new season, as Henry Winter has beautifully put it, is also coming with a stench of duplicity. Luis Suarez and Wayne Rooney have taken centrestage in the lead-up. Suarezs contempt for an institution like Liverpool is appalling. A serial offender, Suarez has always embodied the darker side of the game. He was banned for calling Patrice Evra a negro and is now serving a 10-match suspension for biting Branislav Ivanovic at Anfield. Still, the Merseyside club stood by the eccentricities of the Uruguayan. But now, as Suarez is trying to engineer an exit for bigger money and Champions League football, Liverpool are regretting their mistakes. They should have offloaded him before and shouldnt have waited for this fresh round of controversy after Arsenal made a 40 million-plus offer for the player. Much to Suarezs chagrin, the offer was flatly rejected and now the Gunners are mulling on bidding a record 51 million.
Make no mistake, Suarez is a top-class footballer who guarantees goals. But Liverpool are too big a club to be rocked by an odd exit. Its good to see that manager Brendan Rodgers at last has decided to crack the whip and ordered Suarez to train alone. I will take strong, decisive action. He has shown total disrespect to a club that has given him everything. Our support has been unswerving throughout the whole of last season, despite a number of controversies. But the remarks (from Suarez) Ive read are bitterly disappointing, said Rodgers.
It is unusual of Arsene Wenger to be interested in a player who contradicts the spirit of the game. But trophy-less for the last eight seasons, Arsenal now appear to be desperate to win at any cost. It perfectly fits into Suarezs philosophy. Rooney, on the other hand, has become a perennial grumbler. He wanted to leave Manchester United three years ago but changed his decision after being given a 250,000-a-week contract. He wanted to join Manchester City then. He wants to sign for Chelsea now.
A prisoner of poor advice that Rooney is, he wants to leave United to work with Mourinho in spite of being on the verge of becoming a club legend. The 28-year-old is also just 53 goals shy from Sir Bobby Charltons club record of 249.
Rooney looked sloth and edgy last season and little wonder that Ferguson, who never differentiated between a youngster and a star, left him out of the starting XI for the Champions League return-leg fixture against Real Madrid. That was the start of a rift, which has now widened into a chasm. Rooney hardly featured in Uniteds pre-season fixtures this time and if eventually he hands in a transfer request and goes to Chelsea, he will be assured of a starting place in the new club. At the same time, he will leave a family and a culture.
He will lose respect of the United fans. Gareth Bales another mind-boggling story. Real Madrids reported 100 million euros bid for the Tottenham Hotspur forward is as astronomical as it is insane. It is quite damaging to the spirit of footballa sport that prides in offering a level-playing field. Also, its a rebuke to the UEFAs Financial Fair Play regulations. It is very likely that Bale will partner Cristiano Ronaldo at Real Madrid in the forthcoming season. Spurs will be poorer without their best player and Andre Villas-Boas, whose team was very impressive last season and missed the Champions League spot by a whisker, will have to start it all over again. Spurs, however, have signed Roberto Soldado from Valencia for 26 million. It would be interesting to see if the Spanish striker can make an immediate impact. Movements are very sluggish for United and Arsenal in the transfer market, while Manchester City and Chelsea have shopped well. United are looking for impact buying but are in a tight situation after losing Thiago Alcantara to Bayern Munich and failing in their effort to bring Cesc Fabregas from Barcelona. Marouane Fellaini and Leighton Baines remain decent options but they hardly provide that extra bit of edge needed for the continental glory.
Ferguson had the ability to produce champions out of mediocre resources. Can David Moyes do that The new managers handling of the squad will determine Uniteds season.
The Gunners have set their sights on Suarez and in all likelihood will get him. The player will ensure goals, but he will ensure trouble on and off the pitch as well. Looks like, Arsenal have another tricky season ahead.
City and Chelsea look stronger on paper, but Premier League is more about perseverance and winning mentality. Do they have that The lead-up has been turbulent. But come August 17, transfer sagas will take a back seat and real action will begin. Get ready.