THURSDAY'S BIG STORIES

Hey Big Spenders

And there we were, worried that the pandemic might have seen off the big money transfer for good. What were we fretting about? It looks like City will complete the signing of Jack Grealish today, for a cool hundred million. Meanwhile, down in London, Chelsea are trying to bring Romelu Lukaku home.
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All the ingredients are present and correct. Inter could do with the money. Chelsea have it. And Lukaku, who probably has some say in all this, seems to be up for it as well. Just over £100m, according to the papers.
The prospect of Lukaku up front for Chelsea is a tantalising one, unless you (a) support any other team in the Premier League, or (b) are Timo Werner. Freed from the shackles of Mourinho-ball, freed from his mysterious fitness issues, Lukaku has become that rarest of footballers: a player that would improve literally any team on the planet.
He runs at defences. Then he runs through them. Then he runs past them. And then he scores. Who doesn't need that in their life?
However, it's only the richest of the Premier League rich that can afford him. And there's a certain symmetry in the fact that it's the two sides that were quickest to pull out of the Super League — saying, basically, "we don't need this hassle" — that are looking to break the English transfer record twice in the next week or so. Apparently some business models are more pandemic resistant than others.
Another symmetry: each of these sides is chasing what the other already has. Chelsea want to become league champions, and the best and surest road to that is a reliable source of goals. City, meanwhile, want magic, for it's magic that transforms league winners into Champions League winners. Well, magic and not picking weird formations in big games, but apparently that's not an option.
The long-term impact of the pandemic on football's finances will takes years to shake out. Short term, however, it looks like there's been a splintering of the rich. Real Madrid and Barcelona fret around their debt mountains; City, Chelsea, and Manchester United open up their wallets. A helpful reminder, then, that the dynamics that brought us the Super League aren't going anywhere.

Flashing The Cash

Typical, isn't it? Come into a bit of money, start thinking you're too good for everybody else. Yesterday Aston Villa announced the signing of Danny Ings entirely out of the blue. No long weeks of rumour and counter-rumour. No negotiations, no advanced negotiations, no collapsed negotiations. Not even a chance for Ings to go on strike. No fun.
All told, profoundly un-Premier League behaviour. But you're not above all this, Villa. You're right down here in the muck with the rest of us.
Leaving Villa's offences against the spirit of Barclays aside, what are we to make of this, Villa's first official use of the Grealish money? A front four of Ings, Emi Buendía, Ollie Watkins and new arrival Leon Bailey seems, in theory, a pretty exciting collective. And Ings, having been around the block a few times, brings that mysterious and precious commodity: Premier League experience.
We've never quite been sure how that works — come closer, youngsters, and let me tell you of the monster that roams these fields: a vengeful creature with eyes of flame and a card of yellow that calls itself … Mike Dean — but managers love a bit of experience around the place. Here's Dean Smith explaining things:
Danny is an outstanding Premier League footballer who has scored goals wherever he has played. He is also a top professional with a great character who will be a leader in our squad and a role model for our rapidly developing young Academy players who are now in and around the first team.
In any case, Villa have enough depth in their squad that Ings will be useful but not utterly crucial, which is important when signing a 29-year-old with occasional injury problems. It's Southampton we're really worried about here. This season was already looking like an awkward one, and now they've just sold their best player with nine days left of preseason. Not much time to spend the money. Even less to get the replacement up to speed. Ché Adams, your time is now. Shane Long, your time is also now.

Since We're Talking About Money

Would you like to buy a percentage of a football league? Well, tough. You can't afford it. A 10% share of La Liga's future profits has just been sold for to private equity firm CVC for €2.7 billion, which is a lot of Jack Grealishes. Even more Danny Ingses. And countless Michus.
CVC will get their 10%, plus another 10% stake in a newly formed company devoted to La Liga-related commercial activities. Spanish football, meanwhile, will get a great big pile of cash, almost all of which will be heading out to the clubs in the top division. Everybody wins? Well, maybe.
You hear "cash injection to Spanish football", you immediately think "Right, who are Real Madrid going to buy now?" Or, more recently, "Does this mean Barcelona can afford to actually register a new signing?" But according to La Liga, most of this money must be spent on infrastructural improvements. Maybe Barcelona can register Messi as a new stand? Memphis as a bus stop?
A prediction: as football starts to reckon with the cost of the pandemic, we're going to see more deals like this, an exchange of long-term profits for a short-term cash boost. On the surface, this particular deal looks like a victory for La Liga, first of all, and also for the smaller clubs: the latter get better facilities across the board while the former gets more centralised control over commercial revenues. But that's a guess, and it comes with the caveat: who knows what Real Madrid and Barcelona will do next. The value of your investment may go down as well as up.

IN OTHER NEWS

Todd Cantwell. Flipping heck.

IN THE CHANNELS

Christian Eriksen returned to Inter's training ground for the first time this week. Which is, of course, extremely nice in all the good ways, but we also think it might be record-breaking. Just watch this clip. Handshake, hug, handshake, handclasp, back pat, hug, handclasp: the xG — expected greeting — of this video is like nothing we've ever seen. It's adorable.

RETRO CORNER

While we're worrying about Southampton's forward options, let's take a moment to remember Marian Pahars, who celebrates his birthday today. You know, he's only 45. If things get really desperate, Ralph …

COMING UP

If you're reading this in the morning, quick! The Olympics bronze medal match may have already started! The game that nobody wants to play! But if it's the afternoon, then never fear. Europa League qualifying is here, and St Johnstone, winners of both Scottish cups last season, are away to Galatasaray. Among other games.
Unless we receive a bid in excess of £100m today, Tom Adams will be here with tomorrow's Warm-Up
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