KL: This past summer, I got to celebrate USA winning the Women’s World Cup, while my friend and colleague G.P. celebrated Liverpool winning the Champions League and England winning the Cricket World Cup for the first time ever. Now, we get to suss out the players’ moves in men’s soccer that happened while we were away. G.P., nice to have you back.
GP: What a summer. The USWNT win never felt in doubt. Liverpool settled my considerable nerves in minute one of the final by winning a PK successfully converted by the unflappable Mo Salah. Divock Origi nabbed the second goal later in the game, and the trophy came home. Conversely, the England cricket team secured the trophy on home soil with the mother and father of all “you have to be kidding me” finishes to a sporting event.
KL: I see why they’re calling that the greatest cricket match ever played. Now, where do we start with England? Manchester City acquiring Rodri and looking even stronger? Spurs finally buying some players? Manchester United doing whatever the hell they just did? Which of the top six teams won the transfer window?
GP: Liverpool won the transfer window. They spent no money but effectively have two new players as Joe Gomez and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain return from long-term injuries. Add in Origi with a newfound verve and directness and Firmino finally hitting his straps as the midfield general, and my team looks formidable. Manchester United will be comically mediocre between now and Christmas, leading to speculation of them canning the coach they should have never hired.
KL: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer doesn’t look like he’s up to that job, but he’s also handicapped by the incompetents in his team’s boardroom. In other news, you won’t like hearing this, but Liverpool’s crosstown rivals Everton did some good business, shoring up their defense by snatching Alex Iwobi from Arsenal and bolstering their offense with 17-year-old Moise Kean, who was last seen scoring goals for Juventus and being racially abused in his native Italy while Juve didn’t say boo about it. Meanwhile, Newcastle (a.k.a. The New York Knicks of the English Premier League) continue to light themselves on fire, as Champions League-winning coach Rafa Benítez finally got tired of billionaire owner Mike Ashley’s penny-pinching and left, taking with him all semblance of hope.
GP: I have no ax to grind toward Everton. To Liverpool fans, they are of no consequence. They finished last season strongly and added a couple of interesting signings. A place in the Europa League for next season will be greeted like back-to-back EPL titles by the Toffees. Newcastle has doomed itself to life in the Championship for 2020-21. They have replaced a coach with a record of success with Steve Bruce, who has an undeniable knack for failure. Ashley appears not to care so long as he feels like he gets to throw around his considerable weight.
KL: Speaking of Juventus, what are they doing? Snagging Cristiano Ronaldo last year seemed to indicate an all-out push for the Champions League (since they’ve now won the last nine Serie A titles), but now they’ve acquired admittedly brilliant youngster Matthias de Ligt and castoffs like Danilo, Adrien Rabiot, and Aaron Ramsey? Then they hired Maurizio Sarri as their new coach, a man who famously takes a few years to implement his attacking system, which just got him sacked at Chelsea. How does that fit with Juve’s win-now approach?
GP: At this point, I feel like Juventus is just phoning it in, expecting to win Serie A while hoping that CR7 pulls a magical soccer rabbit out of his ass in the Champions League.
KL: Which isn’t completely out of the question. They now need to replace stud defender Giorgio Chiellini, who just tore his ACL. Do we think anybody might catch them in Italy? Inter Milan brought in some big names in Diego Godín, Romelu Lukaku, and the decomposing remains of Alexis Sánchez, not to mention highly touted midfield prospect Nicolò Barella and badass coach Antonio Conte. Also, last year’s second-place finishers, Napoli, grabbed fearsome additions to their defense (Kostas “The Greek Wall” Manolas) and offense (Hirving “Chucky” Lozano). Can one of these teams do something?
GP: If anyone can loose the Juve stranglehold, I’d put someone else’s $10 on Napoli.
KL: Over in Germany, Bayern Munich are undertaking a tardy rebuild, losing longtime attackers Franck Ribéry to Fiorentina and Arjen Robben to retirement and replacing them with Barcelona flop Philippe Coutinho and Ivan Perisic. Their defense is now bolstered by two starters from France’s World Cup-winning squad in Lucas Hernandez and Benjamin Pavard. Does this make them more competitive in Europe or less?
GP: Bayern can be expected to not repeat their slow start to top the 2018-19 season and effectively lock up the Bundesliga before “Auld Lang Syne” is sung. This should enable them to focus on the UCL. That said, I see no reason to believe they have made themselves superior to Liverpool, Manchester City, or Barcelona in a notional two-leg match-up next spring.
KL: In late-breaking news, Real Madrid just traded Keylor Navas to Paris St.-Germain for fellow goalkeeper Alphonse Aréola. How d’ya like that? Real won three straight Champions League titles with Navas between the sticks with no real dip in his play, and this is how they treat him. If anything could make me root for PSG and their filthy Qatari oil money, it’s this.
GP: Is it just me, or does that last line sound a bit near the knuckle on the xenophobia front? I have no love for PSG from a soccer fan’s perspective. The best thing they can do is give Mbappé to Liverpool in the January transfer window. I don’t understand the logic of trading Navas, a proven winner, as you point out.
KL: On the homefront, FC Dallas’ biggest acquisition would seem to be Edwin Gyasi, a winger with five caps for Ghana who has bounced around the Dutch first division. MLS loses a big name in Giovani dos Santos, who leaves L.A. Galaxy for the glamour and big paychecks of Club América, while Emerson Hyndman (the son of former Hoops coach Schellas Hyndman) comes back to America to sign with Atlanta United following an unproductive spell at Bournemouth. Also, possible future USA goalkeeper Zack Steffen is a Manchester City player, though a loan deal will see him with much more playing time at Fortuna Düsseldorf.
GP: Unfortunately, MLS continues to bolster its reputation as a refuge for players who couldn’t cut it in Europe and faded stars looking for a golden handshake. I’m not sure how the league breaks out of being on the wrong end of soccer’s virtuous cycle.
KL: One last note: Carli Lloyd does not transfer to the Chicago Bears after a viral video surfaces of her kicking 55-yard field goals in practice, instead sticking with soccer so she can play in the 2020 Olympics. What do we think? I say at this stage of her career, becoming the first woman in the NFL would be a bigger achievement than another gold medal.
GP: I’m with you, Kristian. Why not make history and, one would safely assume, way more cash while setting yourself a new challenge? Olympics? Schmalympics!