The new season had not even begun before managers voiced concerns about the uniquely timed World Cup in Qatar this November and its impact on the transfer market.
"The players are very focused on this World Cup already, which is a good thing because they come in in shape and take care of themselves," Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel said on Aug. 5. "It is also a bad thing. They are focused on the World Cup and not here [on their clubs]. A part of them, I have a feeling, is already thinking about November."
A week later, Tottenham head coach Antonio Conte joined in. "Every season there are different targets; this season there is the World Cup," said the Italian. "Many players ask to play regularly to give [them] more time to play games."
If Sunday's "Battle of the Bridge" is anything to go by, Tuchel and Conte rarely agree on much nowadays, so perhaps we should all take notice this time. There are less than 100 days to go until the World Cup begins in Qatar. In a typical season, when an international tournament would take place in June and July, the January transfer window would feature players reconsidering their futures and weighing up short-term moves as the scramble to stay relevant for their country accelerates.
Some feel the clock ticking louder than others. With a fortnight to go in this transfer window, players on the fringes of the first team everywhere will be weighing up whether to stay patient and wait for their chance, or push for a move to keep their World Cup dreams alive. ESPN takes a look at some of those facing the Qatar conundrum.
Christian Pulisic (Chelsea/United States)
The warning signs have been there for a while. Chelsea signed Raheem Sterling, narrowly missed out on Raphinha to Barcelona, and are still trying to land at least two more attacking players with two bids rejected for Everton's Anthony Gordon and talks continuing over Barcelona's Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
The widespread upgrade being sought in those positions -- especially after allowing Romelu Lukaku and Timo Werner to leave -- suggests Pulisic has a battle to be much more than an impact player at Stamford Bridge this season. He did feature in Chelsea's opening two games, but only from the bench, playing a combined total of 30 minutes. A continuation may be enough, of course, given he is a guaranteed starter for the USMNT in November regardless, and there is even an argument that limited game time will keep him fresh for Qatar.
Pulisic also has two years left on his Chelsea contract, so the situation could be reviewed after the tournament or next summer -- but an offer of first-team football at a progressive club may have an appeal for both the Blues and the player. Manchester United's loan enquiry for Pulisic could therefore be a game-changer. It remains to be seen if Chelsea would be willing to allow him to join a domestic rival -- Newcastle, Juventus and Atletico Madrid are also monitoring the situation -- but United can at least offer European football without the upheaval of moving to another country three months before the World Cup.