The Premier League summer transfer window opens on Thursday. Just let that sink in as you continue to assess your team's campaign during the 2017-18
Don't even think about the World Cup, which begins June 14 in Russia when the hosts take on Saudi Arabia in Moscow, because that will just get in the way. Almost five weeks of international football this summer is bad news only for those Premier League clubs that must now get all of their incoming transfer business done before a ball has been kicked next season.
With the Premier League and EFL voting earlier this year to close the English transfer window at 5 p.m. BST on Aug. 9, there will be an almighty scramble for new players this summer.
The sensible clubs will look to get the majority of their business done early -- as Manchester City did by announcing the signing of Bernardo Silva last May, closely followed by the capture of Ederson a few days later -- but even City took it to the wire with their failed attempt to sign Alexis Sanchez from Arsenal in August.
With the dust still settling on the end of the 2017-18 campaign, how many clubs can say they are prepared to hit the ground running when the window opens Thursday?
Arsenal don't have a new manager yet, despite Arsene Wenger's departure being announced almost a month ago, while Chelsea, Everton, Leicester, West Ham and Watford still have to decide whether to stick or twist with the men currently in charge. With uncertainty as to who is running their teams, what are the chances of those clubs rolling out a smart, strategic transfer strategy later this week, designed to avoid a panic-stricken spending spree in the first week of August?
Some within the game have little confidence that the new window -- it is not shorter than before because FIFA insist on a 12-week summer market -- will lead to better planning. It will more than likely be the same old story.
"Most clubs are better run nowadays," a prominent transfer negotiator told ESPN FC. "But there are so many reasons why it's almost impossible to get all your business done early. Selling clubs, especially those abroad, are in no rush to sell early because they know that English clubs are now even more likely to panic and pay exorbitant fees if they have to get their business done by Aug. 9.
"Don't forget that continental clubs still operate to the Aug. 31 deadline, so most of them see the new Premier League deadline as an easy way to make money this summer by selling players to clubs desperate enough to pay over the odds.
"But before all of that, there is a World Cup to consider, and a lot of clubs and players will want to wait until after Russia because they may get a better offer if the player has a good tournament."
Another obstacle to early business is that player contracts do not expire until June 30, so most business must wait until the beginning of July. That is not ideal for players performing in the World Cup at that point. If Belgium reach the latter stages, will Marouane Fellaini be prepared to wait until mid-July before moving as a free agent from Manchester United, or would it be wiser to agree to a deal before Russia to ensure that he is not distracted by concerns over his future?
Managers tend to want their new players signed and added to the squad before the start of preseason training -- usually the first week of July -- but that rarely happens these days. The beginning of a summer tour is another cut-off point, but some clubs will fly out to the United States or Far East before the World Cup final is played on July 15, which is another problem to deal with.
Managing the new window will be a challenge, especially as English clubs could find themselves vulnerable to big offers from Spanish or Italian clubs after the Premier League window closes. If they decide to cash in on a player, he cannot then be replaced until January, but if the money is too good to turn down, which route do they take?
With only 25 days between the end of the World Cup and closure of the English transfer window, there will be plenty of rushed decisions and mistakes made this summer. Some of them will be costly.