LONDON • In many ways, the pictures of David Luiz bounding through St Pancras Station on Wednesday night, en route to Stamford Bridge to finalise personal terms, seemed like the perfect image to sum up the English Premier League's summer of transfer madness.
There he was - big name, known for his hurly-burly style rather than his finesse - welcomed off the Eurostar like a conquering hero rather than the beneficiary of another Chelsea trolley dash.
Never mind that the London football club's hierarchy still congratulate themselves on the £50 million (S$89.7 million) they received from Paris Saint-Germain for Luiz two years ago. Never mind that the French club were happy to sell him back at an £18 million loss, having tired of his erratic ways.
EPL clubs' transfers report card
ARSENAL: 6 OUT OF 10
Their deals were late, but Shkodran Mustafi and Lucas Perez will improve them.
Jack Wilshere is a coup, signing Jordon Ibe was a statement, but losing Matt Ritchie is a blow.
They needed more than Jeff Hendrick. Still, if they go down, they are in great shape.
David Luiz's return baffles, but Blues got Michy Batshuayi on the cheap.
CRYSTAL PALACE: 7
Christian Benteke, Andros Townsend and Loic Remy will form an aggressive attacking force, but Alan Pardew needs it to work.
Yannick Bolasie can do things others cannot but missing out on Moussa Sissoko is a big loss.
HULL CITY: 5
After losing Steve Bruce, Hull began the season without a new signing. They have not done enough.
LEICESTER CITY: 8
Repeatedly broke their transfer record. Ahmed Musa will add a lot to their established players.
Benteke's sale is good business and Sadio Mane is a good buy. Will their defence hold up?
MANCHESTER CITY: 8
Pep Guardiola deserves a high mark for outgoings. John Stones and Nolito improve them.
MANCHESTER UNITED: 9
Jose Mourinho has re-ignited their midfield with Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Paul Pogba.
Most like the signing of Alvaro Negredo, but Adama Traore was poor for Aston Villa.
Fans will be hoping for miracles after the losses of Mane, Victor Wanyama and Graziano Pelle.
STOKE CITY: 5
Wasted time chasing Saido Berahino. Joe Allen will do well. Wilfried Bony may not arrive fit.
Huge fee for Didier Ndong. They needed more support for Jermain Defoe.
SWANSEA CITY: 5
Andre Ayew was their best forward, Ashley Williams their leader. A relegation fight beckons.
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR: 7
Wilfried Zaha bids were too low. Left Sissoko deal late. Vincent Janssen is unspectacular.
Bullish in the market but this season will be a test, with their strikers still to fire.
WEST BROMWICH ALBION: 5
A summer of frustration for Tony Pulis.
WEST HAM UNITED: 6
Great unknowns, so difficult to judge. A team full of new signings.
THE TIMES, LONDON
Never mind that Chelsea manager Antonio Conte had spent all summer looking for a more reliable centre-half. Luiz was there for the taking, like he had been 51/2 years ago. Easy come, easy go, easy come again. Ker-ching.
Even at the modern Chelsea, where it often seems that there is an endless procession of players being brought in and farmed out, the story of Luiz's comings and going is quite something.
January 2011, transfer deadline day: Luiz arrives from Benfica in a £25.5 million deal in which Nemanja Matic, the Serbia midfielder, is used as a makeweight after playing just 65 minutes for Chelsea.
January 2014: Chelsea re-sign Matic for £21 million. Five months later, they sell Luiz to PSG for £50 million.
August 2016: At the end of a summer in which they also tried to re-sign striker Romelu Lukaku from Everton, they re-sign Luiz for £32 million.
Throw in five managerial changes and just as many trophies over the same 51/2-year period and you are left with some hint of the glorious mayhem of Roman Abramovich's empire.
"I'm delighted to return to Chelsea," said Luiz, 29. "We had a fantastic story during my first time at the club and I want to help the team and Antonio Conte achieve a lot."
If it suggests muddled thinking, then that is what you get when you chop and change endlessly.
That, for all the investment in the youth academy and the cynical exploitation of the loan market, is the way it is at Chelsea.
It is the way of it across much of English football these days.
Manchester United would once have considered themselves above such capriciousness. But they are still crowing about breaking the world transfer record to re-sign Paul Pogba from Juventus for £89 million four years after he moved in the opposite direction for £800,000.
The Premier League spending more than £1 billion is obscene, but England's top flight can afford it.
Leicester City were among 13 Premier League clubs to break their club transfer record, paying an initial €30 million (S$45.58 million) to sign Sporting Lisbon striker Islam Slimani.
It was the third time they had set their club record in the window.
The concern is no longer for the welfare of the spending clubs but for the wider European and global football community, in which a financial divide has become a chasm.
THE TIMES, LONDON, REUTERS