All the Prem moves you've missed
This is where the phony war begins. The 2014 World Cup in Brazil is now part of history. Even if it was a tournament to re-assert the importance of international football, its passing marks the point where the club game reclaims its usual dominance.
In the absence of any high-level competitive action for a month, the transfer window must dominate the agendas of those who have still not had their fill of football. And that dominance will prevail until the staged madness of transfer deadline day, which now overshadows the season's start.
Summer transfer window roundup
- Premier League: Team-by-team ins and outs
- Transfer Centre: All the done deals
- Marcotti: Mind-boggling transfers
- Delaney: What did we learn on deadline day?
- Horncastle: European transfer grades
- Smith: Transfers more important than the game?
- Macintosh: We worship goals, not balance sheets
In England, the transfer market has been raging on for three weeks or so, such was the prematurity of the national team's exit. Most of the Premier League's powers have already done business. Chelsea claimed Cesc Fabregas on the day the World Cup began and have since tied up compatriot Diego Costa with funds made available by that sale of the century of David Luiz to Paris Saint-Germain.
Fabregas fills a Frank Lampard-shaped hole for Jose Mourinho's team, while Costa is a vital addition to a forward line that the coach could not stop complaining about all last season. Mourinho's concerns were confirmed when a punchless performance against Sunderland cost Chelsea a shot at the title.
With Demba Ba gone to Besiktas, and Samuel Eto'o departing on bad terms with his one-time mentor, it would be little surprise if another forward was sought; there is also the perennial question of Fernando Torres. Can Chelsea find anyone willing to take on what must undoubtedly be classed as damaged goods? And what of Romelu Lukaku, recently on loan to Everton but never given a proper chance at Stamford Bridge, who revealed for Belgium just why he is yet to be trusted by his parent club's boss?
Deepest interest lies perhaps in the rebuilding at Manchester United. It is perhaps a good thing that Louis van Gaal considers that "holidays are for wimps," as the need for overhaul remains immense even after two rapid purchases of the type David Moyes was denied a year ago by a combination of his own dithering and the naivety of executive vice chairman Ed Woodward. Ander Herrera needs to be the type of creative midfielder United have lacked since Paul Scholes' legs went -- about five years ago.
ANDER HERRERA - MANCHESTER UNITED - £28.5m
Almost a year after a proposed move fell through, Ander Herrera finally completed a switch from Athletic Bilbao to Manchester United, marking an exciting new stage in the midfielder's career. Herrera was born in Bilbao, Spain, where he would later go on to shine as the fulcrum of Athletic's midfield, but was raised for the most part in Zaragoza, and it was there that he received his football education. Read
Luke Shaw has the pressure of a price tag on his head and furthermore a sense of being thrown in at the deep end at his new club. He is first choice without having to prove himself. Patrice Evra's exit, to follow that of Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand, leaves United bereft of three defenders who have been United's bedrock since the second half of the 2006-07 season. Does Van Gaal go Dutch? What are the possibilities of Ron Vlaar taking Vidic's place? Mooted moves for Arturo Vidal or Paul Pogba could augment a midfield in which Herrera will be not nearly enough.
Van Gaal must also usher out the deadwood, with Marouane Fellaini, that formerly mop-topped symbol of all that went awry for United, to almost certainly lead the list. Unfortunately for United's chances of recouping the 27.5 million pounds they paid, Fellaini did little in Brazil to pep up his value or attract wealthy suitors.
Across town, Manchester City's focus may well lie on preventing a transfer; Yaya Toure's possible departure would trigger the need to enter the market for the likes of Pogba. England's best squad does not require too much finessing, though a central defender is surely on the shopping list, even in the light of Martin Demichelis continuing his fine end-of-season form in Argentina's campaign. Eliaquim Mangala's imminent arrival from Porto also necessitates the need for City to ship out a foreigner, following sanctions imposed on them for breaches of UEFA's financial fair play regulations, which also leave City with not as much transfer-spend wiggle room as they would desire.
ALEXIS SANCHEZ - ARSENAL - £30m
One of the most talked-about young players in the game, Sanchez attracted the attention of Barcelona and Man City in 2011, eventually signing for the Spanish side. Now, in the summer of 2014, with three years of brilliance in La Liga under the belt, he has become another signature signing for Arsene Wenger. Read
Arsene Wenger's habit of leaving things late has been broken by the arrival of Alexis Sanchez. The sight of Yaya Sanogo and Sanchez in tandem is already a must-see for the 2014-15 season. Following last year's Mesut Ozil snaffle, perhaps he has developed a taste for marquee purchases, with Sami Khedira possibly next in to swell the number of world champions in the Gunners' ranks. Wenger has again used his wiles to benefit from the aftershocks of a continental giant's blockbuster deal. Khedira's probable arrival is the result of Real Madrid clearing the books to buy James Rodriguez and/or Toni Kroos, just as when Real Madrid needed to recoup Gareth Bale cash and sold Ozil to Arsenal.
Sanchez, meanwhile, was shunted on by Barcelona's need to find cash for Luis Suarez, who takes toothy leave unlamented by few, save for those Liverpool fans who are not sure how life now goes on. Last season's success seems unlikely without Suarez, though Brendan Rodgers and "transfer committee" have already tucked in to a significant portion of the purported 75 million pounds they received. Rickie Lambert and Adam Lallana have joined from Southampton, while Dejan Lovren is being chased but guarded jealously by the Saints.
Liverpool's fears may lie in "doing a Spurs," to follow the path of receiving 85 million pounds for Gareth Bale and squandering it on players who miss the mark. Sanchez was supposed to cushion the blow, yet headed to London.
Six more weeks to go of this; club football is officially back.