If asked to name members of the Real Madrid squad, there are few who would struggle to list the majority in Carlo Ancelotti’s Galactico squad, so in terms of a surprise package, there are few candidates. Madrid’s spending in recent years has been so frequent, parting with £70m or £80 million is now almost a thoughtless action.
New stars Toni Kroos and James Rodriguez pack an already saturated midfield whilst Keylor Navas is arguably their best piece of business if Iker Casillas’ torrid spell continues. The additions have quelled the progress of some of Madrid’s brighter players, notably Isco and Jese Rodriguez, whilst Angel Di Maria could also be shown the door.
For the stars that remain, only Gareth Bale will have seen his situation alter during the summer, having enjoyed a pre-season in the weights room and adjusted nicely to La Liga. Repeating his feats from last season will take some doing however in what is likely to be his final challenge before people generally accept the Welshman is world class. If he continues the way he has progressed in recent years, the results could be astonishing.
Another summer, another sale, this time it was Antoine Griezmann who departed. Last season the club floundered in the Champions League having lost Asier Illarramendi, but bounced back to finish in the Europa League spots, largely thanks to Griezmann. The Frenchman has made a long awaited move away from Anoeta to Atletico Madrid, and has shorn Sociedad of their focal attacking point.
Carlos Vela remains a clinical finisher, although the departure of an attacking ally of such quality will have an effect. Instead he must learn to play next to Sociedad’s new striker, Alfred Finnbogason, and forge a partnership which will hopefully reinstate the club as the Basque Country’s number one. The Icelandic international was the Eredivisie’s top scorer last year, and comes with plenty of promise.
Although Real Madrid found the European Super Cup pretty easygoing, there were signs that Sevilla could have another season challenging for the top five or six spots in La Liga. Grzegorz Krychowiak and Denis Suarez showed neat touches and promising play in the defeat, suggesting they won’t feel the loss of Ivan Rakitic too badly if they can continue to supply ammunition to striker Carlos Bacca.
However, Sevilla’s most exciting talent didn’t play in the game last Tuesday. Gerard Deulofeu, on loan from Barcelona, had been tipped to get some game time for the club this season, will have to ply his trade at the Andalucian side first. The Spanish international showed his quality on loan at Everton last season, and could be one of the revelations of this season if played in a system that suits him. Sevilla is a perfect fit for him as the club successfully brought on Jesus Navas, a similar type of player, and are likely to take Deulofeu to their hearts if he plays like he did in the Premier League.
The club had a falling out with defender Jeremy Mathieu after rejecting his move to Barcelona, although the Frenchman eventually got his way, following an open letter to the club’s board. As a replacement, Valencia have acquired the World Cup winning defender, Shkodran Mustafi, for a bargain €8m. The centre-back, only 22, showed enough in Serie A last season to force his way into the Germany team for Brazil, joining the majority of recent graduates from the youth teams.
Mustafi is a class act, capable of winning aerial duels and reading the play well. Almost a decade younger than Mathieu, Valencia have landed on their feet with this piece of business, and will surely stand to make a greater profit when the defender comes of age in the near future. However, Valencia’s season depend heavily on the current boardroom situation involving Peter Lim. A takeover could mean a positive season, although La Liga is notorious for chairmen who make matters worse for managers.
So impressive were Villarreal last season that it feel daft to mention the possibility of ‘second season syndrome’. However, the club will be looking to consolidate their top 6 place and head on back into the Champions League quickly. Their chances this season lie heavily on whether Mateo Musacchio will leave for Spurs. The centre-back was a huge presence last year and has attracted interest from elsewhere, but he is imperative to Villarreal’s play.
Of the outstanding performers from last year is Giovanni dos Santos, looking to repeat his form and become one of the league’s most dangerous players. Sergio Asenjo will be brilliant between the sticks, and the duo of Tomas Pina and Cani should maintain their decent form, though another European finish would be sensational amidst the distraction of the Europa League.
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