Like a creaky barn door in a fierce wind, the Premier League transfer window slammed shut Thursday evening, leaving a half-dozen prominent players who’d been strongly linked with an exit stranded at their parent club.
With four months to run until the winter window opens, these six players – whether by their own fault, or the club’s – all face uncertain returns to the farm at the end of the current international break. Here’s how each of them should deal with their awkward situations.
Few transfer sagas were as meaty as Diego Costa’s desire to ditch Chelsea for an Atletico Madrid return. Sunning on a Brazilian beach while his Blues brethren went through their pre-season paces, Costa and Antonio Conte were like two cars fighting for the same parking spot, and neither was willing to budge. Atletico’s transfer ban didn’t help matters, nor did reported low-ball advances from the club, and now, the impassioned striker languishes in football limbo despite being named to the 25-man Champions League roster.
Solution: Chelsea’s pursuit of Fernando Llorente came up short, and with just two first-team strikers in the fold, Alvaro Morata and Michy Batshuayi, an argument can be made that Costa would be a useful tool at Stamford Bridge ahead of a January sale. The Spain international would be wise to bring the gaffer flowers, embrace reticence, and get back to what he does best: driving centre-backs mad.
With seemingly speculation shrouding Alexis Sanchez’s alleged desire to leave Arsenal for a reunion with Pep Guardiola at Manchester City, it’s difficult to fairly appraise the situation without knowing any of the facts beyond Arsene Wenger’s insistence that he would not sell the tireless Chilean. It does appear that Sanchez wants out, and considering his penchant for emotional displays, it’s feared that his return to the Emirates following the international break may contribute to a toxic dressing room on the brink of mutiny.
Solution: Chin up, El Nino Maravilla. How many other clubs would hang a banner for your dogs? Have a brilliant campaign, lead the Gunners to Europa League glory and a fourth-place finish, then jump on the M1 in the summer to join City’s eight other attacking studs. A public statement about how you’re committed to the season at Arsenal wouldn’t hurt either.
Virgil van Dijk
This one reached soap opera status, as despite a brilliant spell of summer shopping, Liverpool’s one regret was not luring Virgil van Dijk to Anfield. Props to Southampton for sticking to its guns – and why not, after Liverpool has poached most of the south coast side’s good players (and Rickie Lambert)? Van Dijk is just 26 years old, and from Southampton’s perspective, with five years left on his current deal, the pony-tailed purveyor of aerial dominance could still fetch a lavish fee next summer.
Solution: Exiled to solo training, Van Dijk now returns to first-team festivities with three matches in the bag. He should walk right into the starting XI for two reasons: 1) he’s quite talented and 2) he’s not Maya Yoshida.
After spending the second-half of the 2016-17 campaign butting heads with Ronald Koeman’s sizable dome, Everton midfielder Ross Barkley’s Merseyside tenure appeared certain to end in the summer. Then, the England international picked up a hamstring injury that helped stifle transfer speculation, and only in the transfer window’s final days did talk of a move to Tottenham and Chelsea seem serious. He reportedly underwent a medical with the latter before deciding to ditch a move to London, though Barkley was quick to stamp out such rumours with a statement on Twitter, citing his aliment as a reason to reassess in January.
Solution: With summer signings Gylfi Sigurdsson and Davy Klaassen crowding a midfield that should also allow for Tom Davies’ continued progression, Barkley’s opportunities to put himself in the shop window will be few and far between. Regardless, the Liverpool-born 23-year-old is a technical marvel on his day, adept at carrying the ball forward, skills that might be better suited to a deep-lying position on another side.
You couldn’t make this one up if you tried. Football’s version of “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?” was in full flight courtesy of Diafra Sakho’s globe-trotting efforts to escape West Ham’s sinking ship. Instead of reporting to the club’s Rush Green training ground Wednesday, the Senegalese striker flew to France without the Irons’ permission to force a move to Rennes. That attempt to enlist with Les Rouge et Noir fell through as Sakho cited “off-field personal issues” as his reason for fleeing east London, and instead of returning immediately to meet up with his teammates, Sakho turned up at Chelmsford City Racecourse to watch his agent Mark McKay’s “Siege of Boston” cross the line first as a 9-2 favourite. Sakho even pocketed £550 for his troubles.
Solution: Lose eight stone and become a jockey. No, seriously, nobody at the London Stadium will notice if he’s gone, what with Chicharito and Andy “Don’t Mug Me Off” Carroll leading the line. By January, West Ham and “East Enders” may be one and the same.
For former PFA Player of the Year Riyad Mahrez, a summer exit seemed a certainty. Roma and Arsenal were in for the 26-year-old Leicester City star, and while away on international duty, Algeria permitted the La Havre product to fly to Europe to cement a move. “I am fiercely ambitious and feel now is the time to move on to a new experience,” Mahrez announced in May, though a move wasn’t to be. With four months to run until the January window, the tricky winger with three years left on his current deal will stay put.
Solution: Stay fit, hope that Roma comes back in January with an improved offer, and continue being the model professional who fancies a change but remains a fan favourite.
As in the Sanchez saga, it’s difficult to discern between canon and nonsense when it comes to Philippe Coutinho’s reported interest in a move to Barcelona. And like the Sanchez chronicle, the player’s manager was adamant that the crafty Brazilian was not for sale. With five years left on his current deal, Coutinho understandably had very little leverage in the matter. But even if the Inter outcast didn’t submit a transfer request, it’s hard to imagine that he’s completely focused on the 2017-18 campaign, and a supposed illness that kept him out of Reds training certainly hints at something fishy.
Solution: Grin and bear it, lad. If the Catalans like him now, they’ll fancy him next summer. Klopp and Co. likely know this and are scouting replacements with an eye on another shrewd move like those that landed Georginio Wijnaldum and Andrew Robertson.
(Photos courtesy: Action Images)