Johan Cruyff used to say that “football should always be a spectacle”. The man who was one of the most influential figures in the history of the game and a LaLiga legend believed the sport should be fully attractive. The passing of time has indeed taught us that the spectacle of football goes far beyond the 90 minutes. The fans, the culture and the stories are fundamental to understanding all the passion that surrounds the sport, with the transfer market a fundamental part of this.
This summer, LaLiga Santander clubs have strengthened their squads ahead of the new challenges they’ll face this season. There have been exciting signings, the return of familiar faces, players who committed to staying with their teams and a whirlwind of reports predicting which players would move to which teams. Now, with the summer window having closed, it’s time to take a look at the most interesting operations that were completed by LaLiga clubs.
International stars to strengthen LaLiga clubs
This year, the big splash of the window was made by Robert Lewandowski with his arrival at FC Barcelona. The player who has won the last two The Best awards and claimed the past two Golden Boots has landed in LaLiga Santander. But, the Pole isn’t the only reinforcement to arrive at the Spotify Camp Nou. Jules Koundé swapped Sevilla FC for FC Barcelona to form part of Xavi Hernández’s squad, as did Raphinha, Franck Kessié and Andreas Christensen, who’ll each enjoy their first Spanish experience this term. Furthermore, Ousmane Dembélé signed a new contract with the Blaugrana. As such, there are several new internationally renowned players who’ll give their all to bring joy to the Culés.
Meanwhile, Real Madrid have also reinforced with proven talent, signing Antonio Rüdiger and Aurélien Tchouaméni to strengthen the defence and the midfield of the current LaLiga Santander and Champions League winners, boosting their chances of retaining those titles and leaving the present and the future of the club in good hands.
However, these aren’t the only two clubs to have secured the services of highly-rated players this summer. Atlético de Madrid have signed Axel Witsel and Nahuel Molina, two of the most important players in their respective leagues last season, as well as securing the loan signing of Sergio Reguilón. Plus, Sevilla FC have acquired Isco Alarcón, who previously displayed his best form under current coach Julen Lopetegui, and, in the days before the market closed, Valencia CF finalised the arrival of Edinson Cavani, the Uruguay international who has been one of the most lethal goalscorers of the 21st century.
Arrivals, departures… and reunions
Who said that summer was a time for farewells? In LaLiga Santander, it has also been a time for reunions. Moving out of the comfort zone can sometimes lead to greater appreciation of what was in place at home and this has happened with Álvaro Morata and Saúl Ñíguez, who have returned to the Cívitas Metropolitano after their journeys around Europe, ready to take on important roles in Diego Simeone’s plans.
There was also space for some romanticism in the summer market. Ander Herrera, after his time at Manchester United and PSG, has returned to Athletic Club, while Sergio Asenjo is back at Real Valladolid, the club where he made his LaLiga Santander debut in 2007. Pepe Reina has similarly gone back to Villarreal CF, doing so 17 years after his departure for Liverpool, and Héctor Bellerín will play for the first time in the first team of the club where he was formed: FC Barcelona.
There are also more and more cases of players who seemed to simply be on loan at a club, before their performances earned them a permanent transfer. There are clear examples of this, such as Hugo Duro at Valencia CF, Borja Mayoral at Getafe CF, Vedat Muriqi at RCD Mallorca and Willian José at Real Betis, as they have all been kept on. Meanwhile, others such as Giovani Lo Celso (Villarreal CF) or Alexander Sørloth (Real Sociedad) are repeating their loans of last year.
Future talents want to prove their worth
During this window, LaLiga Santander has also seen the arrival of players who are sure to make the headlines over the coming decade. There are various emerging talents who Spanish clubs are already backing, meaning this competition is still a place for talent to thrive. Mohamed-Ali Cho, the 18-year-old French football gem, has arrived at Real Sociedad to bolster their attack and will be joined there by Japan’s Take Kubo, who is already familiar with the competition. In Seville, the Brazilian Luiz Henrique will dazzle the fans at the Estadio Benito Villamarín, while, on the other side of town, Tanguy Nianzou will look to provide defensive solidity at the Estadio Ramón Sánchez-Pizjuán. There’s also Justin Kluivert (Patrick Kluivert’s son) playing for Valencia CF with the Brazilian Samuel Lino, who’ll play on loan following his move to Atletico Madrid earlier this summer and, at Girona FC, Argentine forward Taty Castellanos will be looking to show why he was last season’s MLS top scorer as he plays alongside the Brazilian midfielder Reinier, who is on loan there from Real Madrid.
Changes in the dugouts too
Cruyff’s vision of football as a spectacle was one he achieved as both a player and a coach. A coach is the leader of a project, the captain of the ship, and that is why the arrival of a new figure on the bench arouses as much interest, if not more, than that of a player.
Following the managerial changes of the summer, Ernesto Valverde is beginning his third spell in charge of Athletic Club, where he has reunited with some of the players he coached in the past, ready to provide the fans with an intriguing project. Diego Martínez, who led Granada CF to the quarter-finals of the Europa League, has now joined RCD Espanyol to try to repeat this feat with Los Pericos. Then, Italian football legend Gennaro Gattuso is the new coach of Valencia CF, having accepted the challenge of trying to lead them back towards the top of the table.