newyorker.com - 8 days ago
Looking Ahead to the English Premier League’s Game of Thrones
Last December, NBC Sports rebranded its Sunday coverage of English Premier League soccer with a new promotional trailer modelled after the intro sequence to “ Game of Thrones ”—a camera swooping over a 3-D map of the U.K., majestic stadiums rising from the landscape.
“They are the great Houses of Football,” a voice-over intones. “Where city battles city as they march toward laying claim to the crown.” But the official Premier League season, which starts up again this afternoon, is only the physical manifestation of the heated battles that the clubs have been waging against each other all summer with their checkbooks. Half the fun for the viewer is in finding out whether all that money was well spent. Manchester City, which finished third last year, paid around sixty million dollars for Kyle Walker, a formidable right-back from Tottenham; Walker is now the most expensive defender and the most expensive English-born player in league history. For upward of ninety million dollars, Manchester United acquired the striker Romelu Lukaku from Everton, and Everton in turn gained, effectively for free, United’s Wayne Rooney, maybe more for his jersey-selling power than for his aging legs. Liverpool paid Roma more than forty million dollars, a club record, for the ferociously quick winger Mohamed Salah, but they’ve so far failed to sign the center-back they want, Southampton’s Virgil van Dijk, and may yet lose Philippe Coutinho, their Brazilian playmaker, to Barcelona.
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