KL: While local NBA fans are all legitimately excited to see Kristaps Porzingis in a Mavericks uniform, I’m bringing back my biannual soccer transfer column, which I missed last September. Just like with the World Cup last summer, I’ve ditched the brain-dead guy who was asking me questions in previous columns and instead brought in G.P. Kennedy to discuss which players moved where.
GP: What happened to the brain-dead guy? Did you switch him off at the wall? Who was this hail fellow un-well met? Anyhoo, good to be back with you, Kristian. It seems like only seven months ago we were redefining World Cup coverage.
KL: Our readers won’t have to wait four years for our double act, so let’s get to it. One of the biggest moves happened right off the crack of the new year and involved America’s best talent, as Christian Pulisic signed on to move to Chelsea come next summer, for a $73 million fee that dwarfs any other paid for an American player. G.P., how do you see this playing out?
GP: I feel bad for Pulisic. Not because he did not join my boys at Liverpool, where he would’ve hooked up with his mentor, Jürgen Klopp. I feel bad for him because I think he has genuine talent. Chelsea is known for its revolving door to the manager’s office and keeping a comically deep squad. All of which adds up to young master Pulisic being paid very handsomely to warm the bench, save for the occasional run-out in minor cup competition. I hope I am wrong and that we have a true star who will be given chance to shine. However, it is more than likely that Chelsea will prove to be a black hole.
KL: If Real Madrid gives into their usual temptation for the shiniest toy in the shop window and throws silly money at Chelsea, they’ll sell off Eden Hazard, which would free up a lineup spot for Pulisic. Even though Hazard and Pulisic are different types of offensive players, under normal circumstances I would have confidence in Coach Maurizio Sarri being able to use Pulisic. Thing is, Sarri just put himself on the hot seat by bashing his own players in the press. We’ll have to see whether he’s still there when Pulisic arrives.
GP: Kristian, based on past form, I would be very surprised if Chelsea retains the services of Sarri beyond late May. Then, a new broom comes in to potentially sweep clean. Who knows where that leaves Pulisic?
KL: This window’s player movement in the EPL was almost as boring as the Super Bowl. Will Liverpool regret not bringing in another right back? Why didn’t Arsenal shore up their defense or Tottenham Hotspur their attack?
GP: The January transfer window offers little value for the elite clubs. Most world-class players do not want to move mid-season; value is at a premium for buying clubs; and teams such as Liverpool and Spurs trust their squad depth. That said, as a fan I would like to have seen Liverpool try to get a short-term deal for an aging midfield general. I am not sure that player exists and/or was available, however. By the by, James Milner is just fine at right back.
KL: Milner is a nice Swiss army knife to have. Still, given Spurs’ injury troubles up front, I wonder why they didn’t bring in Mario Balotelli when he was available for nothing (he was picked up by Marseille) or do what Barcelona did and buy up an aging but still capable Kevin-Prince Boateng on a cheap short-term deal? They’d better hope nothing happens to Son Heung-min, or else they might have to (gulp!) play Vincent Janssen.
GP: Fernando Llorente is doing the business for Spurs, but, yes, they cannot afford any further injury problems. Balotelli has proven himself to be more adept at scoring parking tickets in England than Premier League goals. He is the head of the Who Needs Him? Club.
KL: Of course, we have to talk about my favorite transfer story. Fulham loaned out striker Aboubakar Kamara to a Turkish team because he and teammate Alexander Mitrovic had a fistfight during a team yoga class! Cue jokes about how they were working on warrior pose.
GP: Yoga class, FFS! Not during a highly competitive session of five-a-side or in the weight room while metaphorically measuring dicks at the bench press. Yoga! The calming part of the day.
KL: If the EPL was quiet, MLS might have been the busiest league this past window. Bayern Munich bought up Canadian Alphonso Davies and American Chris Richards from here in FC Dallas, while their rivals RB Leipzig took on U.S. youth prospect Tyler Adams. Besides Germany, Scotland also acquired Americans, with Celtic borrowing Tim Weah from Paris St.-Germain and their archrivals Rangers bringing in Matt Polster from Chicago. That’s not even counting Newcastle breaking the fee for an MLS player by paying more than $20 million for Atlanta’s Miguel Almirón. What do we make of all this business?
GP: The hyperactivity of European clubs in the MLS can be taken one of two ways. Has the MLS suddenly sprouted a crop of talented youngsters for whom the world’s top clubs is their destiny? Or is the MLS a market that offers value for buying clubs at a time when all major European and South American markets demand high transfer fees and their players kings’ ransoms? I take the latter view. In actual fact, it does not matter to the MLS or fans thereof. The league is happy to take the money. Their ex-players will likely improve for playing in Europe. The net result should be that USMNT rises, making it more competitive internationally. Look at the slew of very good African teams — Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Egypt, Senegal. Now, think back to the early 2000s when European clubs saw value in signing players like Didier Drogba, Nwankwo Kanu, and El Hadji Diouf.
KL: You can probably tell us how Diouf didn’t endear himself to Liverpool fans. We should say something about the home side. FC Dallas can brag that they sold a player to Bayern, but they also brought in Honduras international Bryan Acosta to shore up the midfield and Czech forward Zdenek “The Cobra” Ondrásek as a physical option up front.
GP: With a Honduran international onboard, Dallas can look forward to topping the league in yellow and red cards. Joking not joking. Ondrásek looks like exactly the kind of burly citizen that can score a hatful of goals in MLS.
KL: We conclude by extending condolences to the family of Emiliano Sala, the Argentinian striker who is presumed dead after his plane crashed into the ocean as he was flying to join his new team at Cardiff City.
GP: Very sad news. He died in pursuit of a better life.