The summer transfer of 2021 is shaping up to be nothing less of a mystery thriller with thrills and twists at every corner. If the transfer of Lionel Messi from Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain took fans by surprise, was anyone prepared for Cristiano Ronaldo’s return to Manchester United?
It has been an exciting first few weeks around Europe’s top five leagues. The tempo set during these stages can prove to be crucial as the season progresses.
Misery for Arsenal
The Premier League is buzzing with anticipation for the return of Cristiano Ronaldo, who left Juventus to rejoin Manchester United on a two-year deal.
Manchester United’s performance against Wolverhampton Wanderers, however, was lackluster, to say the least. A Mason Greenwood goal secured all three points for United, but the lack of an efficient defensive midfielder was exploited on numerous occasions by Wolves.
Piling on the agony: Manchester City’s Ferran Torres scores his team’s fifth goal past Bernd Leno of Arsenal during the Premier League match at Etihad Stadium. – Getty Images
However, United created a new record in English football with the win – the longest away unbeaten streak (28 matches) and broke Arsenal’s record of 27. United last lost an away game against Liverpool at Anfield on January 19 last year when the eventual league champion beat them 2-0.
Arsenal fans were yet again left with a bitter taste in their mouth as the team suffered a third consecutive loss, a 5-0 thrashing by a rampant Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium.
The highly-anticipated clash between Liverpool and Chelsea did not disappoint. Close to the end of the opening half, the referee Anthony Taylor – after a VAR consultation – adjudged Chelsea full-back Reece James was guilty of impeding a clear goal-scoring opportunity after Sadio Mane’s shot ricocheted off James’ thigh to his hand. James saw a red card and Mohamed Salah converted the spot-kick to restore parity. Thomas Tuchel’s 10-man Chelsea, though, defended resolutely and goalkeeper Edouard Mendy’s heroics helped the team to a hard-earned 1-1 draw at Anfield.
Tottenham Hotspur’s win against Watford took the London side to the top of the table with three wins on the trot.
New Barca era
Auspicious start: New-signing Memphis Depay scored the winner as Barcelona defeated Getafe. – REUTERS
Current champion Atletico Madrid was involved in a thriller with current Europa League holder Villarreal. Unai Emery’s Villarreal looked certain for a win but an own goal from Aissa Mandi in the 95th-minute helped Atletico salvage a point (2-2).
Barcelona, starting a new era without its long-time talisman Lionel Messi, did enough to clinch a 2-1 win over Getafe. New signing Memphis Depay scored the winner.
The Real Madrid squad is still getting used to the ways of Carlo Ancelotti, back at the club for a second stint. The Los Blancos have won two and drawn one under Ancelotti and navigated a tricky game against Manuel Pellegrini’s Real Betis to secure a 1-0 win – Dani Carvajal scoring the all-important goal in the 61st minute.
Haaland to Dortmund’s rescue
Erling Braut Haaland stole the headlines in Germany once again with his stoppage-time winner against Hoffenheim. Hoffenheim’s Mu’nas Dabbur thought he had gifted his team a point after scoring the equaliser in the 90th minute but Dortmund’s Norwegian striker blasted in the winner in the 91st minute.
It was a special match for Robert Lewandowski as he scored a hat-trick to help Bayern Munich to a thumping 5-0 win over Hertha Berlin. He also reached the 300-goals mark for Bayern Munich.
It was not a good week for last season’s runner-up RB Leipzig as it slumped to a 1-0 defeat to Wolfsburg. Leipzig has lost two of its three matches and currently finds itself in the 10th position.
Stuttering start for Juventus
Italy’s top league has seen two of its best forwards leave for the Premier League in this summer transfer window. While Romelu Lukaku returned to boyhood club Chelsea, Cristiano Ronaldo secured a shock return to Manchester United.
Life post-Ronaldo did not start well for Juventus as Massimiliano Allegri’s team suffered a 1-0 defeat to Empoli. Juventus is yet to register a win in the Serie A for the current campaign.
Current champion Inter Milan secured a 3-1 win over Verona with debutant Joaquin Correa scoring a brace.
AC Milan secured a dominating 4-1 win over Cagliari as new-signing Olivier Giroud scored a brace. Jose Mourinho’s Roma also smashed four goals past Salernitana, with new signing Tammy Abraham scoring his first goal for the club.
Messi makes PSG debut
The Nice vs Marseille match on August 23 stole the spotlight for all the wrong reasons when the match was abandoned with 15 minutes left after a fight broke out between Nice Ultras and the Marseille players. The Ultras, known as the Populaire Sud group, later issued a statement condemning the action of its members and assured that action will be taken.
However, the biggest news in Ligue 1 and across the world was Lionel Messi’s debut for Paris Saint-Germain in its 2-0 win over Reims. Coming on as a 64-minute substitute to replace Neymar, he stole the limelight as fans of both PSG and Reims cheered vociferously for the Argentine. It was truly a magical atmosphere.
Kylian Mbappe, unperturbed by the transfer speculation regarding his move to Real Madrid, scored both goals in the game.