A gloriously romantic return for Wayne Rooney with the right signing sent the other to unlock Manchester United’s true potential up front or a naive miscalculation from Everton followed by Romelu Lukaku flopping on the big stage at Old Trafford?
Depending on where loyalties lie, Premier League viewers will be hoping for one scenario over the other, or a mix of doom and glory. Yet regardless of how the two deals ultimately turn out, there have already been winners and losers, even beyond the confines of Ronald Koeman and Jose Mourinho’s squads.
Below are three parties set to benefit from the moves and three who may have missed out.
Winner: Paul Pogba
The Frenchman’s first season in England was a qualified success. He won the EFL Cup and the Europa League but faced criticism for failing to live up to the lofty expectations set by his record-breaking transfer fee.
Much is expected from his second campaign in the Premier League, and both the departure of Rooney and the arrival of Lukaku should set him up for a big year at Manchester United.
Last season, as Mourinho tried to cram in Rooney, Pogba and Zlatan Ibrahimovic into a single starting line-up, the Englishman and the Swede tended to both try and drop back into the same sort of space that the Frenchman wanted to move into from deep.
That created a log jam in the middle of the pitch and deprived United’s midfielders of the sort of movement and fluidity up front needed to make the most of their quality on the ball. No central midfielder attempted more through balls in the Premier League in 2016/17 than Pogba. He needs runners rather than stagnation.
Lukaku could be just the ticket. He doesn’t just look to beat the last man but also moves across the final third, drifting out to the wings to bully full-backs and angle diagonal runs from wide to hit the channels or attack the penalty area, opening up space for others to slip into.
That could be good news for the likes of Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Henrikh Mkhitaryan, and exactly what Pogba wants to see in order to make sure next year his incisive passes lead to goals and assists, rather than disappointment.
Winner: Sandro Ramirez
The ex-Barcelona academy prospect capped off his final season in Spain before moving to Everton with an impressive haul of 14 goals and three assists in 30 La Liga appearances for Malaga. Only Lionel Messi scored more goals from outside the box.
However, he is an exciting forward with a worrying injury record, and has suffered serious problems with both his knees in the past. The Premier League can be relentless. It would be wise to ease the 22-year-old into life on Merseyside. Too much toil could prove costly to all parties.
With Rooney back in the fold – and other signings such as Olivier Giroud likely – there will be less pressure on the Spaniard to run himself into trouble, and he should have more time to adapt to the English game and build himself up to cope with the lack of any winter break and the physical demands of the Premier League.
Winner: Mino Raiola
A year on from pocketing millions by organising Pogba’s record-breaking move from Juventus to United, super agent Mino Raiola is about to enjoy another pay day as he sorts out the details behind a deal for another one of his clients, in Lukaku. He was also involved in bringing Ibrahimovic and Mkhitaryan to Old Trafford in 2016.
If anyone is a winner in a financial sense, besides the striker and Everton, it’s the Dutchman.
Antonio Conte wanted to sign Lukaku as a replacement for Diego Costa. The Belgian appeared all set to seal a return to Chelsea, the club he apparently left for good in 2014 to join Everton after two years spent out on loan with West Bromwich Albion and the Toffees.
Unfortunately for the Blues and their Italian manager, they didn’t move quick enough to nail down a deal before United snatched the striker from underneath the noses of the Stamford Bridge hierarchy.
It’s an ignominious end to a transfer saga that has seen the reigning champions of England miss out to a club that finished sixth last season.
Loser: Alvaro Morata
Chelsea aren’t the only wounded party by Lukaku’s shock switch to United. Real Madrid striker Alvaro Morata had been led to believe he was the forward that Jose Mourinho wanted above any other to come in and replace Zlatan Ibrahimovic for next season.
After the news broke that the Belgian would be on his way to Old Trafford, and interest in the Spaniard had cooled, he was taken aback by the move – assuming he was about to put pen to paper on a deal of his own, according to the Independent.
He may still get a transfer to a Premier League club this summer, with Chelsea weighing up a bid to bring Morata to Stamford Bridge, three years after he was signed by Juventus at the behest of Antonio Conte. The 24-year-old may yet be able to turn this loss into a win.
Loser: Ross Barkley
Following a season in which Koeman took to the media to criticise Ross Barkley, and held out on offering him a new contract due to his frustrations over the Evertonian’s decision-making in the final third and use of the ball, the signing of Rooney on a better contract, to play in a similar position, is a slap in the face.
Not least due to the former United captain’s own struggles to show his quality for his former club. In his final couple of years at Old Trafford, he regularly seemed to find it hard to get a grip of games and appeared off the pace. Given the very public feedback that has been handed out to Barkley, he may feel hard done by depending on how his situation develops with another rival for game time at Goodison Park.