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#HeadsGone in the transfer market

In the realm of technology, the singularity is the predicted moment when machine intelligence surpasses that of humans and technological advances become out of control, unpredictable and irreversible. In football, the transfer singularity is the inflection point where moves off the pitch become more significant and engrossing than those on it and the game spirals into a nonsensical and uncontrollable cycle of ridiculous transfers. The Warm-Up regrets to inform you that that moment was breached this summer. Specifically yesterday.
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The crucial difference between the two is that the technological singularity is a theory of rapidly increasing intelligence; the transfer singularity is a reality of rapidly decreasing logic. Yes, this is officially the summer when football totally lost the plot. And there’s no going back.
We should have noticed the warning signs when a distraught Messi was basically carted out of Camp Nou in tears to join a club he never wanted to join, in a league he never wanted to play in, because Barcelona couldn’t afford to register the greatest player in their history, losing arguably the greatest player of all time for free in what history will look back on as a basic accounting error. Someone please give Barca a crash course in Excel.
And then not one but two utterly bewildering developments yesterday which look likely to ensure that, with apologies to Erling Haaland, the three most significant players in the whole of football will all move clubs this summer in deals that you would kindly describe as illogical.

Mbappe on brink of Real Madrid move

In 127 days, on New Year’s Day, Real Madrid can sign Kylian Mbappe to a pre-contract which secures him on a free transfer. Just let that marinade for a second. That’s roughly as long as Gary Neville lasted as Valencia manager. A mere blink of an eye in the grand scheme of things. And yet, today they might pay €180m for him to seal one of the most remarkable transfers in history. But possibly only the third most remarkable in the past two-and-a-half weeks.
Messi to PSG, now possibly Cristiano Ronado to Manchester City today as well (more on which below). And as La Liga’s two former superstars begin what will presumably be their final postings at major clubs, the league is reinvigorated by the arrival of the most electric young player in football at a club which *checks notes* said it was so skint it had to lead the formation of a Super League, and is now paying almost twice its club record to sign a player who will be free next summer.
Amid the height of the Super League debacle, let’s revisit what Real Madrid president Florentino Perez told El Chiringuito...
“Many important clubs in Spain, Italy and UK want to find a solution to a very bad financial situation. Here at Real Madrid we've lost a lot of money, we are all going through a very bad situation. When there is no profit, the only way is to play more competitive games during the week. The Super League will save the clubs financially. Football is losing interest, TV rights are decreasing. We wanted to do the Super League, the pandemic has given us urgency: now we are all ruined in football."
And now 'ruined' Real Madrid are in a scenario where they could genuinely save more than €1m *per day* in the time between signing Mbappe for €180m and securing him on a free, but are still ploughing ahead. This is an interesting definition of broke.
But then money is all pretend anyway. If Real Madrid need more they’ll just sell off a training ground or try and destroy the very fabric of football again. What is real are goals, wins, trophies, fame, success, glamour, prestige and power. And Mbappe guarantees you all of that. Ultimately, if you can get a free run at Mbappe, and p*** off PSG in the process, it’s unlikely that Perez will pass up the chance.
It’s worth recalling that PSG and Nasser Al Khelaifi didn’t sign up to Perez’s Super League - “weren’t invited” according to the Madrid supremo - and as football’s nouveau riche paraded the prized jewel of Messi to sounds of people saying La Liga was finished as a major force, somewhere in Madrid, Florentino was probably fuming.
And so this is what football at the elite level has become. Mega transfers aren’t about players, they are political power plays, essentially massive w****-waving contests. And that’s only the first of the two which could remarkably be wrapped up today.

Ronaldo close to City switch

Juventus player Cristiano Ronaldo during the Serie A match between Udinese Calcio v Juventus at Dacia Arena on August 22, 2021 in Udine, Italy.

Image credit: Getty Images

The player Mbappe is essentially being signed to replace, albeit it three years after he left Madrid, is also on the move with Ronaldo apparently nearing a quite astonishing move to Manchester City. The latest reports last night had it that personal terms were all agreed, with Juventus and City just needing to close a gap around their valuations of the player, who has already informed Juve and all his team-mates he wants to leave.
Another amazing transfer, which is suffering from a huge logic void.
After seemingly announcing he will quit City in two years, Pep Guardiola now seems ready to basically abandon all the principles which have driven his career to sign a prima donna individualist whose understanding of pressing is limited to getting his range of perfect white designer shirts looking pristine. At 36, we can be fairly sure that Ronaldo isn’t coming back to Manchester to reinvent himself as the 2011 version of Pedro. Which begs the question of how exactly this is supposed to work - a question our own Graham Ruthven grappled with on Thursday.
With the outrageous service he will be supplied with at City, you can see a possible outcome where Ronaldo simultaneously ends up scoring about 50 goals this season but is also bad for the team. Which would be rather apt after the season where football stopped making sense.
And that’s without even getting into the debate of whether this transfer is coherent on an emotional level following the great success he enjoyed at Manchester United. Seeing Ronaldo take to the field in City sky blue after getting tactical instructions from Pep Guardiola will truly be one of the most surreal sights ever envisaged in football.
But again logic isn’t really the point. As with signing Mbappe. As indeed with signing Messi, which led to PSG losing their best player. This firmly has the feel of United appointing Mourinho as a response to City getting Guardiola, except this time it’s City’s UAE owners getting jittery at their Qatari rivals nabbing Messi, and who are signing up the big name without not enough thought on how it might actually work….

The replacements

And if all this wasn’t enough, PSG and Juventus have chosen to replace two of the greatest footballers striding across the globe with two-thirds of the Everton attack which lost 2-0 to Sheffield United on September 21, 2019.
Juventus are trying to replace Ronaldo with Moise Kean:
While PSG want Richarlison to come in for Mbappe - a fact that you’d already be across if you read our Inside Football column with Dean Jones.
Again, this is the summer when football totally lost its mind.

Kane carries on

Much as The Warm-Up isn’t a big fan of the tasteless pantomime that football has become off the pitch, the perils of failing to fully join up to it were apparent last night when, as Europe’s biggest names and biggest clubs were adding extra zeroes to everything, good old Harry Kane had to settle for scoring goals in the Europa Conference League.
A 3-0 home win over Pacos de Ferreira ensured Spurs a place in the group stage of Europe’s third competition and started the dance of redemption for Kane after he attempted to engineer a move to Manchester City.
But the moral of the story is: don’t sign a six-year contract with no release clause at a club run by Daniel Levy if you ever want to be part of football’s transfer feeding frenzy. With a more competent agent, and different contractual conditions, it would be Kane signing for City today.

IN OTHER NEWS

Okay that’s enough of today’s transfer special. Back to actual sport and the Champions League draw was made yesterday, with the pick of the groups seeing transfer-crazed, state-run City and PSG…. okay we said we’d stop talking about transfers. But they are in a group with RB Leipzig and Club Brugge.
Another group contains Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Benfica and Dynamo Kiev; another still has Liverpool, Atletico Madrid, Porto and AC Milan. With so much quality concentrated in a few groups, inevitably one was going to look like it could have wandered in from the Europa League by mistake. Step forward Group G, and Lille, Sevilla, FC Salzburg and Wolfsburg.

RETRO CORNER

We end with a palate-cleanser from Matt Le Tissier, a man who consistently shunned moves to any big clubs throughout his career. Here’s his 10 best goals for Southampton.

COMING UP

We’ve got two games for you live on site tonight as Borussia Dortmund take on Hoffeinheim and Inter Milan travel to fair Verona.
Barring a big-money move to Marca or L'Equipe, Andi Thomas will be back for Monday's Warm-Up.
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