A sign of the times

José Mourinho could finally be getting his man.
José Mourinho could finally be getting his man. / Reuters
  • This summer's talk has been mostly about who the big guns can offload rather than who they can bring in

Remember when transfer market headlines were all about who would sign the most desired player on the planet?

If this was a decade ago, we'd be discussing whether Kylian Mbappé would hit the ground running or if Neymar would fit in again at Barcelona.

Instead we have Spain's leading two clubs having a fire sale. Gareth Bale finally appears to have broken out from the escape room, Luis Suárez is filling in Italian passport forms and James Rodríguez is house hunting on Merseyside. The priority hasn't been recruitment, but getting rid.

It's been a recurring nightmare for Bale since he packed his suitcases for China a year ago, only to be told he wasn't going anywhere. Finally, seven years after leaving Tottenham for a world-record fee, he's heading back as an accomplished player with a sack full of medals, a bristling bank account, an improved golf handicap and hopefully a desire to get back to business.

Spurs chairman Daniel Levy is renowned for being an astute dealmaker and he seems to have pulled off quite a coup by getting Real Madrid to pay a fair percentage of the Welsh star's wages. Nobody loses out here. The English club will get a true talent in his peak years, without having to commit to going beyond that; the Spanish club rid themselves of a problem, although they have to take a financial hit.

Bale gets a chance to show that he still has a desire for the profession, and it was indeed Zinedine Zidane's judgement that was wrong.

He's not alone in being a surplus superstar. In the summer of 2013 when the bank was broken for Bale, Luis Suárez was getting all sulky at Anfield. Liverpool appeased him, but a year later he was heading to Barcelona.

Now Suárez is resigned to applying for an Italian passport via his wife's qualification to entice Juventus to sign him. He'd only get the move to Italy if he was a non-EU player. It has been a cruel summer for the rich and famous.

James Rodríguez became the forgotten man at Real Madrid, yet he's been heralded as a messiah by the excitable Everton fans. They remember the player who lit up the 2014 World Cup and justified the fourth most expensive fee in the world. He made a favourable first impression, although I fear he may go the way of Alexis Sánchez and Mesut Özil, who left the Spanish giants for the Premier League. Another two who fell from grace and are seeking new opportunities.

It's a sign of the times. Clubs are now concentrating their minds on who they can rid themselves of rather than who they can sign.

Real Madrid haven't made a signing. Barcelona must fill an enormous financial hole before they can even consider bringing in a new name to emblaze across the back of the newly designed shirts.

Long gone are the days of the Galácticos.