FOOTBALL is back. The fans are back. The excitement is back. The rave reviews and commentaries are back. Wives don’t have to wait endlessly for their husbands to return home. Daddy hurries back to stay with the family to watch the most exciting of the European Leagues – The Premier League. Some other wives know where their husbands are – with the boys in a known friend’s house. Many homes are either divided among the teams or cajoled by the leader of the house, most times to back his team. For such daddies, no room for his family members to pick their clubs when he calls the shot at home.

But the real fun resides in those homes where Daddy’s club is Arsenal. The first son backs Chelsea with the mother tacitly identifying with her son – daddy mustn’t know. The daughter likes Manchester United while the last child prefers Manchester City. The house is on fire anytime any of these teams lose. It gets worse if Daddy’s club loses to the kids’ clubs. No peace for Daddy. He takes the jokes on his chin, knowing that his days hover around the corner – preferably the next game. Real fun and the families are now united by the most beautiful game in the world – football. Some call it soccer. Others refer to it as the round leather game. Whichever name you choose to call it.

This new season is different because the fans would throng the stadia to watch their favourite teams which would invariably increase their revenues from the gate-takings not forgetting revenue from merchandising, television rights and other avenues for recouping cash spent on big buys ahead of the new season. Last season was a marketing disaster for all the clubs with many of them going bankrupt while others are still ruing the loss of revenue, which hopeful could be recouped this year, barring a fourth surge of the Covid-19 pandemic. Players, coaches, backroom staff, and anyone connected with the teams’ operations have taken mighty salary cuts to stay afloat. Clubs such as Liverpool depend a lot on the energy from their teeming fans at the stands to propel them to victory. Surely one of the beneficiaries of the return of the fans to the stadia.

The English game is anchored on the tremendous media coverage by the English laced with records of events with the television stations anchoring their football shows with legends of the game sharing their experiences and educating viewers on controversial decisions. There is never a dull moment watching the English. This 2022/2023 season is expected to be one of the best given the way big teams strengthened their squads with quality players. They were careful in picking who they wanted not just crowding the camp with big stars as in the past.

The 2022/2023 season is quite significant considering the fact it would be stopped middle of November to allow the Qatar 2022 World Cup to hold without distraction. Indeed, the World Cup lurking around the corner has focused players who aren’t regulars in their teams to seek shirts in clubs where they are sure of regular first-team jerseys. Players with one year left to the contracts have refused to extend theirs with the present clubs, preferring to wait for the end of the season when they can walk away as free agents. But clubs with such players are looking to make sure ageing stars are redundant by recruiting better and younger players to make them realise their services are no longer required.

For Manchester United, these are interesting times given the headache they are having with Cristiano Ronaldo. A year ago, it was celebration time for fans of the Red Devils when Ronaldo rejoined the club from Juventus, the Old Lady side. Ronaldo justified his return with some outstanding displays, scoring goals with aplomb much to the consternation of critics who thought he was a spent force. Of course, Ronaldo is a class act, meaning he thrives best among the big boys in the elite category of the European clubs’ competition, largely known as the UEFA Champions league. And with the Red Devils not playing in the Champions League, Ronaldo has told his employers at Old Trafford that his time at the Theatre of Dreams was over.

As a prized gem whose stock is known to all clubs, Manchester United’s management would prefer to go down fighting to convince Ronaldo to remain with them than to watch helplessly as the football icon walks away leaving hands on their cheeks, sulking. Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag is unhappy with Ronaldo and has labelled his conduct so far as unacceptable after the Portuguese superstar left Sunday’s friendly early. Interestingly, Ronaldo has given Manchester United until Sunday to decide his future. Whatever that means.

Should Ronaldo be allowed to keep the Red Devils too long on their knees than to allow him to satisfy himself? No way. And former Red Devil, Louis Saha  addressed the issues arising from Ronaldo’s seeming truancy when he told SKYBET in an interview that: ”In some way, from Cristiano Ronaldo’s point of view it’s a bit unrealistic to ask now a club of this size to adapt to him and his dream.

”Even last year, I’m sorry but the magic could have happened and everything could have gone well and they won the Champions League and the Premier League and there we go, he could say that he could stay because he had participated in that. It was unrealistic that just his arrival would have changed all this.

”Asking that again after a poor season and maybe not great transfer market business in his view, I don’t understand how dramatic it is to change and to do all those things. I think that last year he had been in Juventus but they hadn’t won the Champions League,” Saha told SKYBET.

So, what does Ronaldo want beyond playing in the Champions League? He should be told pointedly that his time is coming to an end and that he needs to be more circumspect in the way he conducts himself in the twilight of his illustrious career.

Ronaldo played on Thursday at the Red Devils’ Carrington training base and boss ten Hag has a big decision on his hands.

The Dutchman may have to start Ronaldo, despite his lack of pre-season training with fellow forward Anthony Martial reportedly set to miss their opening game of the season due to injury, according to THE ATHLETIC.

The Frenchman, who notched three goals on tour, suffered a minor hamstring problem and the timing of his return is unclear. Whether he starts or not, Ronaldo is still hoping to leave Old Trafford in the coming weeks.

Whereas Ronaldo’s headache is for everyone to ponder over, their noisy neighbours, Manchester City have sold off Raheem Sterling to Chelsea, Gabriel Jesus and Oleksandr Zinchenko to Arsenal at a cost of more than £100million without qualms, Haaland has made champions Man City even stronger, Liverpool’s attack has evolved with Darwin while Ten Hag embarks on his huge Man United rebuild. Chelsea has begun direct talks with Barcelona over Frenkie de Jong as the Blues attempt to gazump Manchester United, while Man City turn attention to Sergio Gomez. This year’s transfer transactions are bursting on their seams with fans hopeful for a fight to the finish race across all the leagues this season.

Chelsea’s captain Cesar Azpilicueta’s continuous stay at Stamford Bridge has been secured with the Spaniard signing a new two-year deal on Thursday to ease Thomas Tuchel’s defensive crisis, leaving  Barcelona boss Xavi on the lurch having been dealt a huge blow to his Nou Camp rebuilding plans. Leicester rejected Chelsea’s opening £60m bid for centre-back Wesley Fofana. In fact, the Foxes fear Blues are prepared to break the £80m world record fee Man United paid them for Harry Maguire to sign the Frenchman.

No doubt Chelsea has missed the deep pockets of their former owner, who was ready to splash the cash for any player who could bring glory to the Blues during matches.