Global football re-cap: It’s like it never left

IN THE AFTERMATH of the best World Cup since 1970 – one in which the best team in the world actually won the 32-inch gold trophy – the world’s game has returned. Now it falls to me to sift through the cliches and comatose interviews to tell you what you have missed from the world of football as we look forward to a 9-month marathon.

Marco Reus PhotoIn England, Premier League Clubs have spent more than £800m on transfers – higher than the GDP of 19 countries – to ensure the best talent in the world goes to work in “Ingerlund”. Chelsea have made an efficient start and look every bit title winners, across town Crystal Palace have had to deal with the shock exit of Tony Pulis, Arsenal have bought well (before Deadline Day), and “The Best League In The World” looks to be going straight to form. After day 1, the Top Four was thus: Chelsea, Manchester City, Liverpool and Arsenal. Nothing more to report.

In the Bundesliga, Bayern Munich have pulled off the best piece of transfer business in Europe by acquiring the services of Xabi Alonso on a two year deal for a minimal fee. Borussia Dortmund have bought well in Immobile and Kagawa, and Reus is once again at his dazzling best after an injury lay-off which starved him of a World Cup Winners Medal. Schalke rely heavily upon Julian Draxler, and Nicklas Bendtner (Yes, that one) is now at Wolfsburg. The Top Four will be Bayern, BVB, Schalke and Leverkusen, but the bottom half of the table is far more intriguing. Hamburg still look weak over the summer, and Hertha have grown well with the acquisitions of Julian Schieber from Dortmund and Jonny Heitinga from Fulham. Augsburg will go down, but I think SC Paderborn 07 will suprise and stay up, they have already won 3-0 in Hamburg. VfB Stuttgart will falter, finishing in the Relegation Play-Off Spot in 16th.

France is an obvious one. PSG have flexed their muscles by signing David Luiz for £50m. They are already looking for the receipt. Somebody should put them out of their misery and send them a tape of the 2012 Uefa Super Cup or The World Cup Semi Final. That being said, this may be the year they do well in Europe, with the level of competition domestically being so minimal, they could target continental supremacy. Monaco fans are demanding refunds for season tickets after selling front-line players. Guingamp are looking forward to a rare Europa League Campaign.

In Spain it is so refreshing to have a legitimate three-horse race. Real should win it. Atletico will do. Mandzukic is a superb signing. Once again Real may suffer from their obsession with The European Cup. Forget La Decima (10th), it’s now La Undecima (11th). Valencia’s capture of Negredo on loan looks like total sense. There’s a theme here. PSG and Los Blancos aside, many European Clubs are frugal and smart with their business.

The Old Lady of Turin look compact and typically Italian, crucially retaining the services of Chilean Arturo Vidal. AC Milan have done their usual trick of replacing one of their finer players with a Premier League cast-off in Torres. Micah Richards and Florence might be a strange mix, but I suspect Fiorentina to finish in the Top 4. Inter Milan is more an old man’s club than serious contenders, with Vidic swapping Manchester for Milan. A great lifestyle choice.

The Eredivisie is arguably the most balanced and technically superior league in the world, but the frequent departures to bigger fish on the continent threatens to weaken it irrevocably. Twente, Vitesse Arnhem, Ajax, PSV, Feyenoord, and AZ Alkmaar all provide adequate competition. Memphis Depay will win the Player of the Year Award, shortly before we see him on our shores next year.

Meanwhile in Brasil, Gremio have been thrown out of the Brazilian Cup after their fans are found guilty of racially abusing an opposition goalkeeper. If only our Football Association had such backbone to make decisions.