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Diego Costa’s goals propelled Chelsea to last season’s Premier League title. Philippe Coutinho was the focus of Liverpool’s attack, functioning as a creative outlet and a goal threat. Alexis Sanchez played a similar role at Arsenal, scoring key goals for one of the division’s best teams.
What do all three of these stars have in common?
They all missed the first two games of the season and are in various states of limbo at their clubs. These stars’ transfer status has overshadowed the start of the 2017-18 Premier League season and led to increasing demands for the transfer window to close before the season. Let’s examine each situation and draw a conclusion on this debate.
In theory, Costa should be the happiest player in the Premier League. He plays the role that gets the most plaudits, the leading goal-scorer for the league champions. Yet Costa never seems to be truly happy. When he excelled at Atletico Madrid, he always appeared to be angling for a move to a bigger club, which he achieved when Chelsea came calling in 2014. Yet, despite two league titles for the Blues, he never seemed content in West London either. He constantly feuded with opposing players, referees and occasionally the coaching staff. This time around, club manager Antonio Conte apparently texted Costa and let him know that he was no longer needed at the club.
Costa has not gotten over this message and has not played or trained with Chelsea this season. Furthermore, he not only demanded a move away from the club, but also insisted on a move back to Atletico. It looks likely that he will get that move near the end of the transfer window, yet this places Chelsea in an awkward situation as they scramble to replace him. New signing Alvaro Morata from Real Madrid brings an impressive resume and less of an ego than his Spanish predecessor, but he has not spent a season as the unquestioned top striker for a major club. This season will put Morata’s ability to the test as he attempts to replace Costa.
For Coutinho, the situation is changing by the day. The Brazilian playmaker seemed at home at Liverpool, yet Paris Saint-Germain’s world-record purchase of Neymar from Barcelona set off a chain of events that might entice him away. Barcelona, now flush with cash, trained their eyes on Neymar’s compatriot Coutinho for a role in their midfield. Being offered the chance to play with global stars including Lionel Messi and former LFC teammate Luis Suarez has clearly unsettled Coutinho. He has not played for Liverpool yet this campaign, but after Barcelona’s recent acquisition of Borussia Dortmund’s Ousmane Dembele, it is unclear if Barcelona remains interested in Coutinho. His transfer saga will be one to watch over the coming days.
Alexis Sanchez, formerly of Barcelona himself, was the star player at Arsenal last season. Time and time again, the team was in trouble and it was Alexis who stepped up and saved the day. Alexis just returned from an injury to make his season debut on Sunday, but he continues to be linked with Manchester City. It would be very rare to see such a talented player swap between direct competitors like this. There are other reasons this deal should never happen, namely Manchester City’s crazy spending already this summer on Kyle Walker, Danilo, Benjamin Mendy, Bernardo Silva and Ederson. Plus, the attacking positions are crowded at the Etihad Stadium. Kevin de Bruyne, Yaya Toure, David and Bernardo Silva, Sergio Aguero, Gabriel Jesus, Raheem Sterling and Leroy Sane could all start for Arsenal, for example, but at City, they are eight men competing for five or six lineup slots. Yet, City’s pursuit of Sanchez hints that City may have more cash and a way to fit Sanchez in their lineup. Keep an eye on the situation, but Sanchez will likely still be an Arsenal player when the transfer window slams shut.
Costa, Coutinho and Sanchez all shined last season, but have not played a part this year largely because of interest from elsewhere. Many pundits are calling for the transfer window to end before the season starts, and this would clearly be a benefit to the game. Moving up the deadline could help limit situations like the ones these players currently face: lose-lose situations where the player is not focused on playing for their current club, but instead focused on angling for a move.
These situations are on the rise; I also could have written about Gylfi Sigurdsson, who secured a transfer from Swansea to Everton, or Virgil van Dijk, a Southampton defender who clearly wants to move to Liverpool. Despite the change, coaches will still have several months to scout and bring in new talent, and they will still have exhibition games to judge needed additions. Preventing new transfers after the season begins will allow for a more settled squad and fewer distractions. Therefore, the Premier League should close the transfer window before the season starts.