With just under seven weeks to go until the 2013/14 Barclays Premier League season begins, the race for the title is already heating up.
The league's leading contenders are starting to come back for pre-season and with that comes the annual transfer rumour mill.
Within the last month, an unprecedented amount of managerial change has taken place amongst the top end of the league.
Champions Manchester United saw club icon and manager of 26 years Sir Alex Ferguson retire beckoning a new era for the club. His replacement was handpicked as Everton’s David Moyes.
Neighbours Manchester City sacked Roberto Mancini after failing to win a trophy all season and replaced him with Malaga’s Manuel Pellegrini, whilst Chelsea replaced interim manager Rafael Benitez with former manager Jose Mourinho from Real Madrid.
As the dust settles from the manager merry-go-round, there is one thing that unites these three clubs: each and every one of them must spend to enhance their squads before embarking on another long domestic season.
Add Arsenal and Tottenham to that trio, clubs who stayed loyal to their respective managers, and you have two more strong squads that must also spend to enable them to step up a level from European spot contenders to potential league winners.
Manchester United have perhaps been the most active so far this summer. Despite only making one signing to date in the form of youngster Guillermo Varela from Uruguayan club Atletico Penarol, Moyes’ side have been linked with the most upheaval.
With top-rated players such as Barcelona’s Thiago and Cesc Fabregas being lined up for high profile moves to Old Trafford, the annual Cristiano Ronaldo rumours as well as Moyes’ former player Leighton Baines have been touted as reported targets.
Moyes knows he must sign one, if not two or three high-profile players, if he is to retain the Premier League title with others guaranteed to strengthen their squads. Thus we could see a couple of those names make the move to Manchester in the coming weeks.
Manchester City have already wasted no time in picking up highly-rated Brazilian Fernandinho along with talented Spanish winger Jesus Navas for big money each in the close season.
As usual with the Citizens, it is unlikely that the spending will end there as the owners have pinpointed that Mancini’s lack of spending was one deciding factor in his downfall this season.
Like United’s Moyes, Pellegrini is rumoured by the Spanish press to be keen on signing a former player: Malaga’s 21-year-old attacking midfielder Isco. Should the deal go through, City’s already strong squad will look a match for anyone come August.
Mourinho’s Chelsea are many people’s favourites for the title. With a squad which under the right leadership is capable of big things in the league, despite winning the Champions League and Europa League in previous years.
The league title has evaded them in recent years, so spending is viewed as a necessity at Stamford Bridge. There is doubt about record signing Fernando Torres’ future at the Bridge, and there is increasing speculation that Jose is keen to make a big-money approach for Napoli striker Edinson Cavani.
If Mourinho manages to turn the club’s domestic fortunes around along with making a few big signings of his own, Chelsea could well be in the mix of things come May.
Arsenal have kept with stability under Arsene Wenger. They know they must spend to drag the club back towards the top two of the division amongst unrest in the Emirates faithful with no trophy since 2005.
Rumours have hit the press surrounding the £22m signing of Real Madrid’s renowned goal-poacher Gonzalo Higuain, who is allegedly on the brink of signing for Wenger. A goalscoring striker is one of the few things missing in the Frenchman’s master plan of style and elegance at Arsenal.
With developments in the right places, stability and quality could be the boost that Arsenal have needed for the past eight years.
North London rivals Tottenham's fortunes rely heavily on keeping hold of star Welsh winger Gareth Bale.
The speculation has surrounded Bale all season and has heightened in the past few weeks with interest reported by Manchester United, Real Madrid and PSG amongst others.
Spurs have been interested in signing Brazilian midfielder Paulinho and striker Leandro Damiao in recent weeks. A striker is what has been missing this season for them so attacking flair in the shape of the two talented young Brazilians could be the key.
Should Andre Villas-Boas keep hold of Bale, add Paulinho and sign a top striker, Spurs could finally break their bad luck of previous years and get ever closer to challenging the top of the table.
The destination of this season’s trophy is anyone guess. With so much upheaval and unrest, anything could literally happen.
One thing is for sure, though: financial investment and activities in the transfer market will prove to be key in deciding each team’s fate.
Just who will come out on top this year?
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