So as expected, in comes Mr Hleb from Stuttgart, and now the hard work begins: What the hell do we sing?
At up to €15m, he’s the biggest signing we’ve made since Reyes, and interestingly, it’s a similar kind of performance related deal that we struck with the young Spaniard. That probably means the initial outlay is something like half that, with the rest being bolted on depending on how many goals he knocks past Chelski or how much he manages to win on the away bus poker night.
It’s great news, and it’s good to get a player in from the former Soviet Union. Since Oleg Luzhny left, we’ve had a gap there.
So what shirt number will young Mr Hleb sport? Well, we’ve got quite a few good ones we can offer him, though sadly, none of the traditional midfield numbers (4, 7, 8 or 11) are available. At least not right now.
We’ve got 2, 5 and 6 free, basically. To me it wouldn’t feel right to give a winger a defensive number, so next nearest would be 13 (unlucky for some, particularly so as it turns out for Stuart Taylor), or 21, which is quite a nice number, the key to the door and all that.
Talking of the lack of a 2, 5 or 6, is there some sort of a plan going on to retire the traditional numbers of the back four? All we need now is for Ashley Cole to relinquish his number and we’ve got a full hand. Not that I’m urging him to go or anything.
And finally, Stuart Taylor. I’ve always defended him – possibly overly so, I agree – but as predicted, he has left, for Aston Villa, in search of first team football. Based on his 15 or so performances a few seasons back I thought he was at least good enough to be our number two, but for the sake of his career he had to go, especially when he could not dislodge a keeper as middling as Manuel Faulty. With him gone, Stack out the frame and Almunia, well, just plain Almunia, I think another keeper is now a must. Lehmann shoved his critics’ criticisms down their gobs in the latter stages of last season, but he needs a good keeper to give him serious competition, a keeper ten years his junior who is A) Good enough to win the jersey and B) A long-term successor.
So, back to Hleb: Is it a silent H? Or does pronunciation require a guttural rasp? The kind you make when you have a fly lodged in your throat, maybe? So many questions, and so few answers.