London, United Kingdom, Aug 9 – Jaw-dropping new broadcast deals totalling 8.3 billion pounds ($10.9 billion, 9.8 billion euros) have enabled the English Premier League to assemble a dazzling galaxy of stars for the 2016-17 season.
Jose Mourinho will have Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Paul Pogba at his disposal at Manchester United, while Pep Guardiola has authorised a splurge of over 100 million pounds since becoming Manchester City manager.
With Chelsea and Liverpool also spending big and Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur looking to build on positive campaigns, Leicester City’s odds of repeating May’s fairytale title success are only 33-1.
Claudio Ranieri’s men famously defied odds of 5,000-1 to win the title in May, but he has warned: “We know very well we are the champions, but we are the underdogs.
“There are six big teams who want to win. They want to kill us.”
England’s 20 elite clubs took a month to break through the 500 million pounds barrier in transfer spending and they are tipped to surpass the one billion pounds mark by the time the window closes on August 31.
The beginning of the Guardiola era at City, who finished fourth last season, has heralded a rejuvenation of the League Cup holders’ playing squad.
Young talents such as Leroy Sane and Gabriel Jesus have arrived for combined fees exceeding 100 million pounds. Everton centre-back John Stones could yet follow.
While Guardiola’s arrival at the Etihad Stadium has been in the pipeline for years, his former El Clasico sparring partner Mourinho has alighted across town at Old Trafford with a degree of haste.
– Mourinho rebuilds –
After two years of stagnation under Louis van Gaal, for whom FA Cup success came too late to save his job, United’s board has tasked Mourinho with the responsibility of restoring the club to former glories.
He will be assisted by Ibrahimovic, whose late goal sank Leicester in Sunday’s Community Shield, and Pogba, who is poised to complete a world-record return from Juventus costing around 90 million pounds.
Former Italy manager Antonio Conte has been brought in to pick up the pieces at Chelsea, who recovered to finish 10th under Guus Hiddink after Mourinho’s dismissal last December.
Chelsea have prised N’Golo Kante from Leicester for 30 million pounds and spent a similar amount to sign Belgium striker Michy Batshuayi from Marseille.
With no European distractions, Conte will be able to plough all his resources into steering Chelsea back into the top four.
Amid the flux elsewhere, Leicester, Tottenham, Arsenal and Liverpool are trusting in the formulae that worked for them last season.
Ranieri has lost Kante, but talisman Jamie Vardy has committed to a new contract and Riyad Mahrez remains a Leicester player.
Mauricio Pochettino’s young Tottenham players, among them Harry Kane and Dele Alli, now have the experience of a title race under their belts.
In a show of faith to the team that challenged Leicester last season, the north London club have been content merely to add depth to their squad with the acquisitions of Victor Wanyama and Vincent Janssen.
– Arsenal anxiety –
Down the road at Arsenal, Arsene Wenger approaches his 20-year anniversary as manager facing the same old doubts about his capacity to inspire the team to a first league title since 2004.
Arsenal pipped Spurs to second place last season, but with Swiss midfielder Granit Xhaka the only major signing to have arrived at the Emirates Stadium and injuries already biting, fans are anxious.
Liverpool, beaten finalists in the League Cup and Europa League, are looking more and more like Jurgen Klopp’s team, bolstered by the acquisitions of Sadio Mane and Giorginio Wijnaldum.
“We are in a good way, 100 percent,” said Klopp. “And if we have a proper line-up, then we will be strong.”
There are seven new managers, with Ronald Koeman succeeding the sacked Roberto Martinez at Everton and Claude Puel taking the Dutchman’s place at Southampton.
David Moyes has replaced new England manager Sam Allardyce at Sunderland, while Walter Mazzarri has succeeded Quique Sanchez Flores at Watford.
Hull City are without a manager after Steve Bruce resigned and having not signed a single player, they start the campaign as outright favourites for relegation.
Their fellow promoted teams, Burnley and Middlesbrough, also face a battle to remain in a league that is now teeming with superstars both on the pitch and in the dug-out.
“We are not naive to the challenge we face, but we are willing to take it on,” said Burnley manager Sean Dyche.
“The Premier League is the place to be.”