Well then, as ever when you reach the semi-finals of a tournament the whole momentum starts to slow down thanks to the increasing gaps between the games and the cagey nature of knockout football at international level, and unless you’re Welsh you are probably more interested now in the avalanche of transfer speculation from the Bestest League in the Whole Wide World.
The Welsh victory over a Belgium team that appeared to be hitting its stride in the previous game, was on a par with Iceland beating England in terms of shocks. What was most impressive was that it was hardly some smash and grab effort, they played some good stuff and thoroughly deserved to reach the semi-finals. The highlight, obviously, was the outrageous turn by Hal Robson-Kanu, the player who just makes you want to shout ‘Dan. Dan! DAN!’ whenever you see his face.
A titanic struggle between Germany and Italy ended with a wild assortment of dreadful penalties in the shootout, with the Germans ultimately scraping through.
France absolutely battered Iceland while the tedious Portuguese beat Poland on penalties. That winger Kamil Grosicki who Everton have been linked with set up the opener for Robert Lewandoski but otherwise he looked very ordinary. A grafter, but on this evidence no way an improvement on what we already have.
Talking of which, there was a story online yesterday that had a video clip of all of Romelu Lukaku’s goals from last season embedded in it. What leapt out immediately was just how many of them, during the first half of the season especially, were created by Gerard Deulofeu. So while there’s already been talk about how new manager Ronald Koeman will try to get the best out of Ross Barkley, he will be just as well to find a way to best utilise the singular talents of the little stink-eyed Spaniard.
And while we’re on the subject, the Blues are being linked big time with Manchester United’s Juan Mata. Quite frankly, someone with his intelligence and cunning in and around the box was exactly what we were lacking last year, especially when Deulofeu was missing from the side.
The affable 28-year-old seems to have fallen from grace quite rapidly since being the two-time Chelsea player of the season.
Let’s not forget though, that when he moved to Old Trafford it was seen as something of a coup for David Moyes as he stood there, shielding his eyes, his ‘Villareal suit’ flapping in the wind, the helicopter emerging from the watery Cheshire skies bearing the little stubbly schemer to Carrington. Even over the thump-thump-thump of the rotors, some observers could hear him singing a snatch of Montell Jordan to himself.
‘…we do it. Dave Central does it like nobody does…’
Indeed, once the deal was completed, and he lay in the arms of Mrs Moyes that night, she coyly said to him, ‘I don’t know, there’s just something different about you now. I mean I loved you when you were agonising over whether to bring Sean Gregan to Everton and everything, I mean I’ll always love you. But there’s just something even in the way you walk now, how you carry your shoulders. I don’t know, it’s almost…primal.’
You never thought you’d hear yourself say such a thing like, but at £20 million Mata looks like a decent buy. He’d be the main man at Everton. Peak of the Empire. Top of the Rock. And you could see him flourishing in front of a crowd who would absolutely adore him. What’s more, if the Toffees do keep hold of Romelu Lukaku, and a £75 million valuation would suggest they intend to give it the old college try, then it’s hard to imagine the Belgian not scoring ludicrous amounts of goals with that sort of experienced, imaginative player supporting him.
Let’s be honest, whether Wilfried Bony or Graziano Pelle would dovetail with Mata is not something we are that excited about finding out.
While we’re talking about lashing dough about, we continue to be linked with Axel Witsel, one of those European ‘names’ that have been doing the rounds for ages. The suggested fee of somewhere in the region of £30 million sounds absolutely batty for a midfield destroyer-cum-sideways-passer though. ‘Keeps it simple, the other professionals really appreciate that unglamorous job he does.’
Maarten Stekelenburg has signed, although it seems to be accepted that he is going to be back-up for a more high profile keeper. Loads have been linked, including Wayne Hennessy and Kasper Schemichel.
Schemeichel may be a league title winner like, but you would be wary of buying anyone other than N’Golo Kante or Riyad Mahrez from that Leicester team. You can see loads of them moving on for big bucks and being like Brian Clough sells – thoroughly underwhelming when outside of that particular perfect storm.