The Premier League has never been better placed to attract an Erling Haaland or a Kylian Mbappe. Man United could break the Galactico mold.
“Would it be the most galactic signing in Premier League history if Chelsea were to succeed?”
It was a question I asked Twitter as Chelsea looked to bring Erling Haaland to Stamford Bridge. Various candidates were proposed, but all could be challenged in one way or another.
Juan Sebastian Veron and Andriy Shevchenko were big hits and it was perhaps only the hindsight that convinced us that they did not belong to this very high level of signing. Mesut Ozil has moved of Real Madrid, the homeland of the Galacticos, who are not feeling quite well. Dennis Bergkamp was perhaps the best cry after finishing third for FIFA World Player of the Year in 1993 before moving to Arsenal in 1995.
The Premier League is where the greats are created – Thierry Henry, Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney and the rest – but the megastars of the rack don’t arrive on these shores in their prime. Chelsea have just signed one of the best strikers in the world for £ 98million, but there was no competition for Romelu Lukaku and the excitement seems to be strained compared to the mass hysteria that would have set in if the Blues had instead hit their main target.
Haaland and Kylian Mbappe are the first Galacticos: football’s Kim Kardashians whose transfers would break the internet.
The Premier League has perhaps never been so attractive for the biggest names in Europe. Two English teams played in the Champions League final, England have reached the final of a major tournament for the first time in 55 years, clubs continue to offer extraordinary contracts to players despite a global pandemic and most importantly, Barcelona and Real Madrid are in trouble.
Barca had no choice but to allow the greatest player of all time to leave but they still have to reduce their payroll; Real Madrid – despite reports suggesting they are raising funds to sign Mbappe this summer – have debts close to € 1 billion.
But the Spanish duo, and Real Madrid in particular, keep that draw for real stardom. They are still the clubs that players “simply cannot refuse”. For them it is not about being the best bet to win the Champions League – Bayern Munich, Paris Saint-Germain and the top four clubs in the Premier League are surely in a better position to succeed in these terms. This is right where the best players have always been and where the new generations of Galacticos have always dreamed of playing.
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History, not current quality, dictates that whoever Madrid and Barcelona want, they tend to have.
But United are well placed to break the mold. Edinson Cavani took a bit of persuasion to sign a one-year extension and will likely leave next summer. And with United not signing another striker now, although some believe that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s options are limited in this area, a place will be open for one from Mbappe or Haaland.
United may be missing their chance right now. If Mbappe and Haaland stay at their respective clubs this season, Real Madrid could sign the two for just £ 64million next summer: Mbappe will be available on a free transfer and Haaland’s release clause will take effect. And Real Madrid will be confident to do just that, for no other reason than they are Real Madrid.
United’s hope will be that a three-decade-long Galacticos obsession with moving to Madrid based on White Shirt status as well as glory on the pitch fades over the next year as he becomes clear that the two decoys no longer go together. The European Super League was clear proof of Florentino Perez’s concern to follow Jones from the Premier League and another year of English European domination over their Spanish rivals will only reinforce the feeling that La Liga is being left behind.
The winner of the UEFA Male Player of the Year award will be a Premier League player and with Lionel Messi now at PSG, no La Liga player has made the top ten. The Premier League has never been such a dominant force in Spain as it is today. Haaland and Mbappe may go for the glitz and glamor that Real Madrid cling to, but the Premier League would be football’s choice. And Manchester United could be the team to take advantage of, tearing up the Galactico rulebook in the process.