Preseason is now well underway. The majority of Europe’s elite have already concluded their big money transfers, and what signings they have been. Manchester City have snapped up the most sought-after striker in world football, Erling Braut Haaland, as well as Leeds’ deep-lying playmaker Kalvin Phillips. Sadio Mane has traded Merseyside for Munich, and Arsenal have been busy attempting to breach the Premier League’s top four, sealing deals for City duo Gabriel Jesus and Oleksandr Zinchenko. Then of course there is Barcelona who, despite being more than €1bn in debt, have somehow managed to secure the signatures of Robert Lewandowski, Raphinha, Franck Kessie and Andreas Christensen. Now, however, attention is turning toward prestige friendlies between the world’s finest. And last weekend did not disappoint.
European’s finest clubs were all in action in locations as varied as Green Bay, Florida and Las Vegas. Let’s take a look at a few things that we learned from the weekend’s action.
Erling Haaland continues to prove that he will score goals at any level
Manchester City have won four of the previous five Premier League titles, and last year, they did it without a recognised striker. Since the decline of Sergio Aguero thanks to a number of injuries sustained courtesy of the huge demand on modern-day footballers, Pep Guardiola has preferred to play without a recognised striker. Admittedly Gabriel Jesus did start up top on occasions last term, but those starts were few and far between. But with the addition of the planet’s most in-demand striker, Erling Braut Haaland, who signed for a reported £50m from Borussia Dortmund, that looks set to change.
And it didn’t take long for the giant Norwegian to get himself on the scoresheet. In fact, it took him just 12 minutes to score against his old foe, Bayern Munich. The goal was his sixth against the German behemoths, but the 1-0 victory for his new side at the Green Bay Packers’ Lambeau Field was his first victory against the record Bundesliga champions in eight attempts. That was a fact that he was more than happy to mention to reporters after the game, and it looks as though the former RB Salzburg man is going to be amongst the goals in the upcoming campaign.
Another interesting subplot was his budding relationship with record signing Jack Grealish. It was the former Aston Villa man who provided the assist for Haaland’s winner, and that partnership could be one to watch in the upcoming Premier League campaign.
Arsenal mean business
Arsenal supporters could be forgiven for falling out of love with their club, especially toward the end of the last season. They lost two of their final three games and ended up being pipped to the top four by arch-rivals Tottenham Hotspur. But this summer, the club has strengthened significantly. The arrivals of Jesus and Zinchenko were statements of intent, as was the addition of playmaker Fabio Vieira from FC Porto. But most crucially of all, the return of William Saliba from his loan spell with Marseille is as important as any new signing the Gunners will make this summer.
The young central defender broke into the France national team setup last season and looks set to be a rock at the heart of the defence at the Emirates next term.
Enthusiasm at the club was already high, but the 4-0 drubbing of Chelsea in Orlando has sent excitement levels into a different stratosphere. Gabriel Jesus has already bagged four goals in preseason and it’s very possible that he will be the missing piece of Mikel Arteta’s puzzle.
There is no such thing as a friendly when it comes to El Clasico
Finally, new signing Antonio Rudiger — who arrived at Real Madrid on a free transfer from Chelsea — and Barcelona’s Ronald Araújo proved that there is nothing remotely friendly when it comes to Barcelona vs Real Madrid.
The pair clashed after Barca’s Uruguayan centre-back smoked the Germany international in a footrace, despite the latter being statistically the fastest player in the Premier League last season. And to add insult to injury, Raphinha’s thunderbolt ensured that the spoils will return to Catalonia.