Fri | Sep 22, 2017

Guardiola, Mourinho spend heavily to dethrone Chelsea

Published:Thursday | August 10, 2017 | 8:00 AM
Manchester United's Romelu Lukaku (left) celebrates his goal against Real Madrid during the UEFA Super Cup final on Tuesday. At right is Nemanja Matic.

LONDON (AP):

The way Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho have been spending, the Premier League trophy should be returning to Manchester in May.

In an off-season that has seen more than £1 billion (US$1.3 billion) invested in players, Manchester rivals City and United have accounted for more than a third of that spending.

It was the inevitable reaction to feeble title challenges that saw Guardiola's City finish 15 points behind the victorious Chelsea side in third place and Mourinho's United drift over the line nine points further adrift.

For a serial collector of trophies at Barcelona and Bayern Munich, finishing his first season in English football without a single title was an unusual feeling for Guardiola.

If the overhaul of the squad, costing more than £200 million, doesn't deliver silverware, there will be further uncomfortable questions for the Spaniard.

Guardiola has started rebuilding from the back by recruiting fullbacks Benjamin Mendy and Kyle Walker for around £50 million apiece.

Signing Walker was particularly eye-catching. The England right back forced his way out of a Tottenham side that finished ahead of City in second place.

With its rigid pay structure, Tottenham lack the will to break their budget to offer big salaries, or, in this transfer window, spend anything yet on reinforcing a squad that delivered Tottenham's highest league finish in more than 50 years.

Rather than being a platform to build on to challenge for a first title since 1961, Tottenham's ownership appears more focused on building their new stadium. Still, the north London club has kept its key talent notably Harry Kane and Dele Alli, who scored 47 league goals between them last season.

 

SEARCHING FOR GOALS

 

In search of goals, Manchester United turned to last season's second-highest scorer. Striker Romelu Lukaku cost at least £75 million, while Mourinho offloaded captain Wayne Rooney in the opposite direction to Everton.

Lukaku isn't the only player being reunited, Mourinho also convinced former club Chelsea to sell Nemanja Matic to United. A fee of £40 million proved too substantial for Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich to turn down, even if manager Antonio Conte wanted to retain the midfielder he still called "very important for our team" yesterday.

Liverpool now appear to have a fight on their hands to retain attacking midfielder Philippe Coutinho as Barcelona look to reinvest some of their Neymar windfall in another Brazilian. Losing such a key player would hamper Juergen Klopp's hopes of using his second full season at Anfield to show his upbeat demeanor that can be matched with silverware.

Arsenal also embark on a new campaign uncertain whether it will hold on to a key member of its squad. Striker Alexis Sanchez, who has been ruled out of tomorrow's opener against Leicester, is in the final season of his Emirates Stadium contract.

Losing Sanchez would jeopardise Arsenal's attempt to rejoin the elite. For the first time in 20 years, Arsene Wenger's side will be missing from the Champions League as a consequence of their fifth-place Premier League finish.

But Arsenal has already reinforced its attacking options by signing Alexandre Lacazette and brought in burly defender Sead Kolasinac.