It really has been one of those ‘modern football, eh?’ weeks.

I’m not going to tearfully clutch my pearls and proclaim ‘despair’ at the state of the elite game in 2023 – firstly because you didn’t come here for forced melodrama, and secondly because much of it is has a way of making you feel detached to the point it’s impossible to get truly upset.

Three things, though, caught my eye over these past few days as a succinct summation of what it’s like at the very top these days: the grim, the ridiculous and the dreadfully banal.

At the risk of losing you before the 200-word mark, we’ll start with the latter, and Lionel Messi. There was once a time when the greatest footballer of perhaps any generation being issued with a two-week suspension for off-field misdemeanours would’ve been a thrilling tale, dripping with intrigue and enough to launch a thousand SEO articles on everything from Messi’s net worth to his preferred choice of newspaper.

In the highly unlikely event that it’s this one: sorry Lionel, but this is probably the dullest ‘scandal’ to ever leave a superstar football ‘heading for the exit door’. Say what you like about footballers’ professionalism back in the day, but there was once a time when reports of a star striker’s unauthorised absence from Monday morning training would be followed by sordid claims of boozing until the early hours, snaps of said player - no longer in control of their limbs - being bundled into a taxi, and a club bouncer well renumerated for spilling the details to an eager reporter.

Instead, Messi has incurred the wrath of Qatar-owned Paris Saint-Germain for taking his family on a definitely-not stage-managed trip to Saudi Arabia as part of his rather murky role as a ‘tourism ambassador’. So authentic was this jaunt that a near-1000-word press release on it dropped unsolicited into my e-mail inbox this morning, complete with photos of the Messi family at various places of interest, all of the images completely candid.

Presumably, none of these ‘immersive’ experiences touched upon the subject of human rights.

A previous Messi excursion to Saudi Arabia in 2022 reportedly left PSG irked. It has been two years since a three-year long Saudi boycott of Qatar was lifted, and some diplomatic tensions remain. The Argentine's camp maintain this newest visit had been pre-agreed, and previously cancelled, while PSG seemingly insist the 35-year-old was expected to train on Monday after a 3-1 defeat to Lorient on Saturday.

READ MORE: Lionel Messi set to leave PSG this summer

It’s hardly a stretch to reason that the optics of Messi on a Saudi PR offensive in the immediate aftermath of this defeat, coming amid an already tense period at the Ligue 1 giants, may not have sat too well with PSG’s owners. Indeed, the word from France is that relations between club and player have reached the point of no return.

Aside from the whole episode being depressingly dull, there is something very ‘modern football’ about possibly the greatest player of all-time willingly inserting himself into the political posturing of two states with decidedly dodgy human rights records.

Such jostling could be about to hit much closer to home on these islands should Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad al-Thani emerge from an increasingly drawn-out bidding process as the new owner of Manchester United.

Only Sheikh Jassim and Sir Jim Ratcliffe remain in the running to take control at Old Trafford, and the only certainty at this point is either victor is certain to leave moral compasses in an irreconcilable spin when it’s all said and done. For United fans, finally being rid of the Glazer family is an intoxicating prospect.

Their ownership has become synonymous with the failure of the post Sir Alex Ferguson years, so much so that Ratcliffe’s alleged intention to acquire a majority stake that would not oust the Glazers entirely has proven deeply unpopular with a section of supporters. A protest staged before Sunday’s 1-0 win over Aston Villa, one that puts a return to next season’s Champions League within touching distance, demanded ‘full sale only’ and the complete removal of the club’s current custodians.

The problem with this slogan, though, is at this stage of the takeover process anyone getting behind it knows full well what it really means: a de-facto endorsement of the Qatari bid. There’s a distinct feeling this is a position that suits people who want Sheikh Jassim to buy United, but also don’t want to be heard saying it out loud.

The protests seemed fuelled by the romantic idea that the club could be returned to the people in the event of a full Glazer exodus. But in what world does that mean throwing out the welcome mat for a billionaire Sheikh, whose plans for United remain entirely vague aside from the injection of limitless wealth?

READ MORE: Jude Bellingham close to agreeing move to Real Madrid

Don’t get me wrong, Ratcliffe hardly screams authenticity either. Any billionaire petrochemical magnate publicly leaning on his affinity with England’s working class north west is to be viewed with the appropriate degree of suspicion. And then there’s the question of whether he would actually be any good at running United.

Ratcliffe’s INEOS company took over Ligue 1 side Nice in 2019, with wholly unremarkable results so far. It’s understandable he is not an entirely inspiring prospect for the United fanbase, but there is something a bit gross about the clamour for the Qatari money, until now mostly confined to faceless hordes on social media, spilling over into the streets of Manchester thinly disguised as something more noble.

For those that believe the flagrant flaunting of cash would solve all United’s problems, there is a cautionary tale staring them in the face, one that brings us from the grim to the ridiculous. Whether it’s fair or not, I can’t be sure, but the fact that less than a year into Todd Boehly’s ownership there are already discussions about whether this Chelsea team are, in relative terms, the worst ever assembled in the Premier League is probably less than ideal.

The decision to fire Thomas Tuchel seemed premature, hiring Graham Potter from Brighton felt at odds with the obscene spending on big names, and then replacing him – albeit on in interim basis – with Frank Lampard when the only other person in the world who thought it was a good idea happened to be Richard Keys was… questionable, shall we say.

Bringing Lampard back seemed based entirely on the notion he could re-instil some passion to spark a short-term bounce until the end of the season. He has lost six games in a row, and only the campaign running short of remaining fixtures is keeping Chelsea from being dragged into an ugly relegation battle.

READ MORE: Alejandro Garnacho urged to kick on and meet ‘higher demands’

It has been a truly ridiculous few months for the London club, who have spent £600m on transfers to find themselves in a mess that is borderline comical. Who’d have thought throwing all that cash around with no discernible strategy would blow up so spectacularly?

With these three examples, I really do hesitate to come out with phrases such as ‘surely all this is unsustainable’ or similar, because it feels as though people have been expressing such sentiment about elite football for time immemorial, and yet all that ever happens is the relentless continuation of a trajectory that takes the very pinnacle of the sport even further away from the people who matter.

Still, though, at least we’re getting Big Sam back for a few weeks.