Chelsea’s bad James Bond impression as Man Utd and Man City place their bets

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All the latest Premier League transfer rumours plus Jose Mourinho’s potential return to Chelsea.

I was reading my colleague Jason Jones’ article discussing who would win in a fight involving every Premier League mascot (you should read it here, it’s ridiculously funny) and he made a passing reference to Casino Royale, the first Bond movie starring Daniel Craig, and it immediately reminded me of one of the most annoying film scenes in history – the final showdown in the poker game.

You see, I used to play poker quite a lot, and I was pretty good. Not “make millions at the World Series” level, by any stretch, but I could run the tables at my local casino with some degree of regularity and in my early twenties it made me enough cash to keep me in double vodkas without always needing to hold down a regular job. Basically, this was the era when I wasn’t a student any more but was still acting as though I was. Anyway, this is a transfer rumours article and I promise I’m coming to a football-related point eventually.

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In the aforementioned climactic scene, Bond, Le Chiffre and a couple of nameless minor baddies all end up shoving the totality of their chips into the middle on the same hand, and Bond takes down the villainous Le Chiffre’s full house with a straight flush, causing Mads Mikkelsen to puff heavily on his inhaler and setting up the bloody carnage of the movie’s closing chapter. The problem is that, if you know the first thing about poker, the setup was utterly insane and only served to prove that either or both of the main protagonists knew nothing about fundamental poker strategy. Either Bond was throwing bad money after good like a steaming drunk off a losing streak at the roulette table, or everyone else was somehow placing such comically low bets that they somehow priced Bond in to chasing an inside straight flush on a paired board. Basically, they were all idiots, throwing money around like crazy and only convincing people watching that they knew what they were about because they were rich and suave and looked all cool and controlled.

Anyway, this display of strategy-free cash-throwing is more or less the scene I now imagine whenever I think about Chelsea negotiating a deal. See, football, we got there in the end. And the negotiation I’m thinking about in particular right now involves Jose Mourinho, suddenly linked with an unexpected third stint in charge at Stamford Bridge. And according to Italian newspaper Corriere dello Sport, behind a paywall I’m afraid, they face stiff competition from an unspecified Saudi Arabian club who will offer the Portuguese an eye-watering £105m to manage in the Arab state.

Trying to keep up with those kinds of offers for a third crack at a manager who’s surely odds against to be the right choice would be much akin to Bond blindly pursuing the one card in the deck that he could win with, but then this is Todd Boehly and he’s got the right combination of money, disregard for its value and inability to resist a bad idea that suggests he may be liable to raise the Saudi offer the hard way. He did just appoint Frank Lampard again, absolutely nothing is off the table now.

Quietly making substantial but more realistic bets in the background are Manchester United, who are apparently considering the €50m buy-in required to get Jeremie Frimpong from Bayer Leverkusen – according to Bild. The 22 year-old Dutchman is very much in the Alexander-Arnold category of modern full-backs, by which it must be said that he’s an awful lot better going forward than he is defending, but is also very exciting to watch and extremely dangerous on his day. Their hand is currently Wan-Bissaka high, so you can’t blame them for wanting to see a fresh card.

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Lastly this week, let’s take a quick peek at the strategy employed by high-rollers Manchester City. Sat in a plush casino’s salon prive playing chemin de fer for unimaginable stakes, Pep Guardiola likely has the easy gambling grace of a man who knows that he can afford to lose a few big bets and shake it off with a nice martini. Stirred, not shaken, because Bond is an absolute maniac for that drinks order as well, and it’s a testament to the patience and experience of high-class waiters the world over that we never see any of them give him a look and ask if he’s absolutely sure about that, sir.

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Anyway, current bets on the table include Alessandro Bastoni, who Calciomercato report could be on his way to the Etihad if Inter Milan can’t persuade the centre-half to sign a new contract, while City are also considering whether to fold to Barcelona’s bid for Joao Cancelo, who is looking unlikely to make his stay in Munich a permanent one. Sport suspect that the Blaugrana are ready to push some chips in the full-back’s direction, although no figure is mentioned.

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