By Greg Stobart
Another summer, another transfer window dominated by record bids, transfer requests and intense speculation as Premier League clubs look to bolster their squads and keep their best players ahead of the new season.
The end of the window is now a month away and several of the major summer sagas that have dominated the headlines - the futures of Gareth Bale, Wayne Rooney and Luis Suarez - are yet to be concluded.
Bale appears increasingly certain to join Real Madrid from Tottenham this month after the Spanish giants stepped up their interest in the forward, who has told the Londoners that he wants to move to the Santiago Bernabeu.
The price for Bale could eventually rise to a world record fee worth £90-100 million if their chairman, Daniel Levy, gets his way, meaning Spurs can expect a very busy final month as they try to replace their star man having already broken their club transfer record and spent more than £50m this summer on Roberto Soldado, Paulinho and Nacer Chadli.
|THE BIGGEST MOVES SO FAR|
|Jesus Navas||Sevilla||Man City|
Moyes is desperate for midfield reinforcements to boost United’s chances of retaining the Premier League title, but he has so far been frustrated in the market and to make his first real statement as the club’s new boss.
They lost out to Bayern Munich in the race to sign Thiago Alcantara from Barcelona, while their pursuit of Cesc Fabregas - with a third and final bid of £35m imminent - also seems doomed given the Spanish club’s reluctance to sell the former Arsenal man.
Two players Moyes knows well from Everton, Marouane Fellaini and Leighton Baines, remain summer targets but the 50-year-old’s biggest challenge so far has been dealing with the speculation surrounding Rooney.
Rooney has made it quite clear to the club, and to Moyes, that he wants to move on - with Chelsea his preferred destination following a £20m bid from the Londoners - and is convinced he has no future at United after eight years at Old Trafford.
Moyes insists Rooney is not for sale but with two years remaining on the forward’s contract and Robin van Persie now the focal point of United’s attack, the 27-year-old is expected to join Jose Mourinho at Chelsea, although any agreement is likely to be reached in the final week of the window.
Rooney would certainly be the major summer signing for Chelsea, with Mourinho desperate to sign a top class striker and unable to splash the cash in the same manner as when he started his first spell in charge of the Blues in 2004.
Andre Schurrle, Marco van Ginkel and Mark Schwarzer have, though, arrived in west London but speculation persists over the futures of two key players from last season, Juan Mata and David Luiz.
But while Chelsea supporters are prepared to wait patiently for Mourinho to land his man, frustration is growing up the road in north London, where Arsenal’s signing so far has been 20-year-old Yaya Sanogo on a free transfer.
The Gunners’ chief executive, Ivan Gazidis, said in June that Arsene Wenger would indulge on an unprecedented spending spree and that the club were prepared to spend the top wages to attract top tier players to the Emirates Stadium.
Yet Stevan Jovetic and Gonzalo Higuain, two early summer targets, have signed for other sides, leaving Arsenal’s hopes for next season resting on their success in luring Suarez away from Liverpool.
Liverpool have mirrored United’s stance on Rooney in their approach to Suarez by making it clear that they do not intend to sell the player unless their demands are met, with manager Brendan Rodgers understood to favour selling the 26-year-old overseas.
The Reds have signed the likes of Kolo Toure and Simon Mignolet but Rodgers will feel he still needs at least two additions - possibly including Atletico Madrid striker Diego Costa and Schalke defender Kyriakos Papadopoulos - before the close of the transfer window if the Merseysiders are to genuinely challenge for a top four finish.
One team that have now become Champions League regulars is Manchester City, and under new boss Manuel Pellegrini they have gone about their business in an efficient and ambitious manner.
Jovetic, Fernandinho, Alvaro Negredo and Jesus Navas have cost City the best part of £90m as they look to reclaim the Premier League title, with Carlos Tevez the only significant departure following his transfer to Juventus.
City look well set to start the season running but they are not the only top flight club to have conducted plenty of early business this summer.
Swansea, for example, have signed no fewer than eight players including exciting striker Wilfried Bony from Vitesse Arnhem for £12m and midfielder Jonjo Shelvey from Liverpool for £6m.
Another player who has left Anfield is Andy Carroll, who joined West Ham for £16m following a successful loan spell at Upton Park last term, although Hammers manager Sam Allardyce is desperate to sign a wide man and shown strong interest in former Chelsea forward Saloman Kalou.
Sunderland manager Paulo Di Canio has also been busy, with Italy international Emanuele Giaccherini the major arrival at the Stadium of Light; while bitter rivals Newcastle have done nothing of note in the transfer market under the stewardship of new director of football Joe Kinnear, a controversial appointment to say the least. Loic Remy and Darren Bent are both targets for Newcastle after Kinnear and Alan Pardew identified a new striker as their top priority.
Meanwhile, Roberto Martinez has raided former club Wigan to bring Aruna Kone and Antolin Alcaraz to Everton, with on-loan Barcelona attacker Gerard Deulofeu a particularly exciting arrival at Goodison Park.
Norwich have splashed out on a new forward line by signing Ricky van Wolfswinkel and Gary Hooper for a combined £14m while Southampton have bolstered their spine with the arrivals of Dejan Lovren and Victor Wanyama.
Elsewhere, Aston Villa have succeeded in their main summer task by keeping Christian Benteke at the club after he signed a new four-year contract. Paul Lambert has so far rejected offers for Darren Bent, but Fulham are in pole position for the England international as they attempt to unite him with summer signings including Derek Boateng, Fernando Amorebieta and Maarten Stekelenburg.
Of the newly promoted clubs, Hull have been the busiest as Steve Bruce has signed eight players, while Cardiff smashed their transfer record by spending £9m on Steven Caulker. Crystal Palace, however, will feel they need at least three more proven Premier League players to aid their chances of survival this season.
Stoke have released long-throw king Rory Delap but new boss Mark Hughes will want to strengthen his midfield if he is to change the team’s style of play, while West Brom have, so far, had a quiet window and need to replace last season’s loan star Romelu Lukaku.
A frantic summer window already, then, but Premier League clubs are still far from finished. Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea are still to spend big and Tottenham’s coffers could be bolstered by a world record sale.
It is fair to say the summer of the saga has only just warmed up, and all signs point toward a barnstorming finish.