After the mayhem of transfer deadline day finally subsides, we reflect on what has been a busy window for teams across Spain with a round-up of the most relevant moves this summer.
After three years of outrageous flirting, Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona finally got their man and former Arsenal captain Cesc Fabregas made an emotional return home to the Camp Nou in a €34m deal. It was one of the most drawn-out transfer sagas in history and also one of the most unusual in the fact that the former Barca academy player funded part of the transfer out of his own wages. Fabregas took no time in settling back in at his hometown club, scoring in his very first appearance against Porto in the UEFA Super Cup final.
The Catalan team also made another significant signing in July when they landed highly-rated Chilean international Alexis Sanchez from Udinese in a €26m deal plus variables, a deal which strengthens their already formidable offensive options. The arrival of Sanchez was followed swiftly by the departure of Bojan Krkic to Roma for the bargain price of €12m. However, there are strings attached and Barca can buy their home-grown player back after two seasons for €13m or Roma can pay an additional €28m to retain his services. It is hoped the move can help revitalise Bojan’s career after such a promising start.
Other notable departures from the Spanish Champions saw Jeffren Suarez sold to Sporting CP – once again with a buy-back option – and Martin Caceres make his loan move to Sevilla a permanent one.
In an attempt to usurp their adversaries from Catalonia, Jose Mourinho’s Real Madrid have inevitably strengthened their squad again in this transfer window. The versatile Portuguese international Fabio Coentrao arrived from Benfica for €30m on a six-year contract and has already been used at left-back and in central midfield – Ezequiel Garay went in the other direction as part of the deal. Coentrao has been joined at the Bernabeu by the exceptional German-born midfielder Nuri Sahin from Borussia Dortmund who, once recovered from injury, will provided much needed back-up for Xabi Alonso at the heart of Real’s midfield.
Another versatile player recruited from the Bundesliga is Hamit Altintop who arrived in Madrid on a free transfer from Bayern Munich. Former youth team star Jose Callejon has returned to the club for €5m after a three-year spell at Espanyol and Raphael Varane has been brought in from Lille to bolster the back-line in a deal thought to be worth around €10m. The acquisition of Varane means the team from the capital now have the world’s most expensive defence.
Other departures include the end of Emmanuel Adebayor’s loan spell and the loan moves of: Pedro Leon back to Getafe, Sergio Canales to Valencia and Fernando Gago to Roma.
This summers other big spenders are Malaga and with around €60m invested by the new Qatari owners, Chilean Coach Manuel Pelligrini will be expected to deliver this season, with European football likely to be a minimum requirement. The stand out signing from their extensive shopping list is undoubtedly the talented winger Santi Cazorla who made his mark by scoring from a free-kick in the opening day defeat to neighbours Sevilla. Cazorla was signed from Villarreal in a €20m deal and was the Chilean Coach’s most expensive purchase.
In an attempt to boost the firepower of the Andalusian side, veteran striker Ruud Van Nistelrooy has been drafted in on a free transfer from Hamburg. Joris Mathijesen has also arrived from Hamburg to strengthen the defence along with Nacho Monreal from Osasuna, bought for €6m. Rising Argentinean star Diego Buonanotte, who arrived from River Plate in a €4.5m deal, should get a chance to impress in the attacking midfield role.
Other pieces of Pellegrini’s hastily assembled jigsaw include: Jeremy Toulalan from Lyon, Joaquin and Isco from Valencia and Sergio Sanchez, recruited from Sevilla.
La Liga saw the departure of one of its biggest stars as Sergio ´Kun` Aguero left Atletico Madrid for Manchester City in an incredible €43m transfer. Atletico wasted no time in spending the money and replaced him with Porto’s Colombian striker Falcao. Arda Turan also arrived from Galatasaray for €12m. Atletico had a busy summer with lots of players leaving the club, the other notable departure being David de Gea who also left for the Premier League, joining Champions Manchester United for €20m. Perhaps the most significant change for Atletico came when Europa League-winning Coach Quique Sanchez Flores left to be replaced by the vastly experienced Gregorio Manzano, who made the move from Sevilla.
Other teams to see the arrival of new coaches were Athletic Bilbao, who welcomed controversial Argentinean and former Chile national Coach Marcelo Bielsa to the club, while another Argentinean Coach to return to La Liga was Hector Cuper, who replaced Marcelino Garcia Toral (who joined Sevilla) at Cantabrian side Racing Santander. Luis Garcia took over at Getafe, Philippe Montanier took the reins at Real Sociedad and Juan Ignacio Martinez joined Levante.
Valencia raised nearly €40m in revenue from player sales of which they re-invested around €30m. The most significant departure was the high-profile move of Juan Mata to Chelsea. The Valencian club are as keen as ever to prove that they can sell their best players and continue to compete in La Liga with astute signings and by bringing through new talent. Former Real Madrid youth midfielder Dani Parejo has joined from Getafe, Pablo Piatti arrives with high expectations from Almeria and defender Victor Ruiz has joined from Napoli on a five-year deal worth €7.5m.
Villarreal have gone some way to easing the loss of Cazorla after finally landing Jonathan de Guzman from Mallorca and they have brought in Colombian Cristian Zapata from Udinese to shore up their defence. However, Zapata endured a nightmare start to his career with the Yellow Submarine after his mistake led to the only goal of the first-leg Champions League Qualifier against Odense.
For many of the other clubs in La Liga it has been a case of working to very tight budgets with many clubs operating within extreme financial constraints. Getafe have sold well and the additions of Pedro Leon on loan and the purchase of Pablo Sarabia from Real Madrid should benefit a side that struggled so badly in the second half of last season.
Michael Laudrup’s Mallorca suffered a major blow in losing De Guzman to Villarreal and with no transfer budget have had to rely on free transfers to add to their already injury-affected squad. It is a similar story at Espanyol, Osasuna, Sporting Gijon, Racing Santander, Real Zaragoza, Levante, Real Sociedad and the newly promoted sides Real Betis, Rayo Vallecano and Granada, with free transfers and loan deals being the order of the day as the fight for La Liga survival both on and off the pitch begins for the financially-hampered teams.
Some of the more eye-catching loan deals include Rayo Vallecano’s deal for Liverpool’s Dani Pacheco via Atletico Madrid and the arrival at Real Betis of Roque Santa Cruz from Manchester City.
It certainly has been a busy transfer window and it remains to be seen who has made the shrewdest moves as another exciting La Liga season gets underway. It seems certain that Barcelona and Real Madrid will fight it out for the top spot again with Pep Guardiola trying to win his fourth consecutive title. The battle for European places looks set be closer this year with Malaga hoping to leapfrog the likes of Villarreal, Valencia, Atletico Madrid and Sevilla for a top six place and, just like last year, the relegation battle looks set to be an exciting contest.