Is anyone else getting the feeling that the current transfer window is building up to be more speculative, more aggressive and generally more dramatic than recent ones?
Of course there is always speculation and, as media space and time expands, rumours will expand to fill them. But it does seem that at the moment virtually every sellable player is being linked with almost every conceivable suitor - and the World Cup has only just started.
I wonder if this is because this transfer window is so vital to many of the top clubs. The English Premier League (EPL) hasn't been so open for years now the dominance of Manchester Utd (and Liverpool before them) appears to have been broken.
Even the hundreds of millions of pounds that Manchester City have spent didn't guarantee them easy passages to either of their title triumphs. Indeed many would say they were lucky to win at all as other teams threw their chances away.
So where do the top teams stand at the moment and how critical is it that they spend well and wisely in the close season? Here we'll take a lot of those teams that qualified for the Champion's League (CL).
City themselves are going to have their net spending capped at £49m - still a significant amount and this could be boosted if they decide to sell on some of their squad players.
Most people would look at their squad and think it doesn't need much enhancement. True, they have yet to break into the Champion's League bigtime but they did have quite a lot of injuries to key personnel last year and players like Alvaro Negredo, Stevan Jovetic and Jack Rodwell have yet to fulfill their potential.
Manuel Pellegrini has only had one season and won two trophies so he might feel most of the squad deserve the chance to take it on from here.
Liverpool are in a completely different position. They were very reliant on their core squad for last season's heroics and were fortunate in having no major injuries to key players throughout the whole season.
For all of their players to maintain their form of last year, remain fit and deal with the extra pressure of the CL is a big ask and Brendan Rodgers knows it. That is why he is out there looking to boost the squad considerably and why Liverpool seem to be linked with a new target almost every day.
Whether Liverpool maintain a challenge at the top of the EPL will depend on how Rodgers negotiates this window. He didn't really enhance the squad with his dealing last close season; from six transfers in (costing nearly £45m), plus two loans, only Simon Mignolet played a significant number of games - and many Liverpool fans wish he hadn't.
Rickie Lambert looks like a solid start; Emre Can looks a bit of a gamble. A repeat of last year's performance however, and it would be hard to see Liverpool really challenging on any fronts.
Chelsea seem to be generating the biggest headlines at the moment with the capture of much-sought after Cesc Fabregas and possibly Diego Costa to follow. It looks very much like Jose Mourinho is staking his future on bringing in his own men and, largely, dispensing with the existing squad.
Romelu Lukaku doesn't look like he can do anything to convince his manager he is worth a place despite 32 EPL goals in two seasons. In the two windows since Mourinho rejoined, Chelsea have signed 15 players and let 21 go.
On top of this they have an extraordinary 28 players out on loan. This makes it pretty clear that Jose is heading for a total overhaul at the club and few of the players who were there when he arrived will remain.
Whether this is arrogance or pragmatism remains to be seen but the manager is going to have to oversee not just a successful transfer window but also the integration and adaptation of practically a whole new squad. Dangerous - but it is Mourinho and he likes to do things the hard way.
Arsenal appeared to have finally thrown off the shackles of Arsene Wenger's tight appraisal of player values when they splashed £42m on Mesut Ozil and the first part of the season seemed to suggest he was a good capture.
A few months later this was being severely questioned and Arsenal's failure to build on this with any further significant signings, and the farcical January window acquisition of an injured Kim Kallstrom, did nothing to dispel the doubts.
Wenger has undoubtedly come up with some of the most inspired signings of all time - Marc Overmars, Thierry Henry, Cesc Fabregas, Nicolas Anelka - but his recent record hasn't been that brilliant. He will need to refind his touch if Arsenal are to become genuine contenders for the big prizes - the EPL and CL.
So that is my assessment of last season's top 4. But what about those challenging just below CL qualification? Part 2 of this piece will look at their prospects and requirements.
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