Thursday, July 12, 2007

La Liga news round-up: more transfer market insanity

Transfer insanity continues apace, with the rich clubs splashing the cash like there's no tomorrow and the less rich clubs trading players like a particularly demented version of Wife Swap. If you speak Spanish, reputable newspaper El Pais has a good list of all the transfer activity so far.


Our 4th and last signing of this transfer window, barring any unforeseeable events, has finally been officially confirmed: Argentinean central defender Gabriel Alexander Milito is now a Barca player for a cool 17 million euros, with an additional 3.5 million conditional on trophies. The Real Zaragoza captain will arrive after the conclusion of the Copa America, where he is currently preparing for the final against Brazil, and sign a 4 year deal.

Most Barca supporters seem quite happy with this move, although some are wincing at the price tag. Given the currently ridiculous levels of inflation in the transfer market, though, I'm not sure we could have done much better. If you've been watching the Copa America, you'll have noticed that Milito's pretty slow. But having said that, he's also got a fantastic sense of positioning and I've been particularly impressed with the way he copes with high balls.

Welcome, Gabi.

The club have indicated that having achieved their signing objectives of a forward, a centerback, a leftback and a defensive midfielder at considerable expense (65 million euros total, and that's not counting the trophy bonuses), they will now turn their focus towards ushering those deemed surplus to requirements out the door. Rijkaard's preference for a small squad of 23 players or less is well known, so we can expect at least 3 more players out of the current group of 26 (including Gio Dos Santos and Bojan Krkic, who are being promoted to the first team, with both expecting to agree professional terms with Barca) to leave.

For those of you who were concerned about the various transfer rumours surrounding Ronaldinho, Samuel Eto'o and Deco, president Joan Laporta has promised that none of them are for sale. Although, frankly, if Milan really were crazy enough to shell out for Ronaldinho's buy-out clause, I could see the logic in letting him go, much as I admire the Brazilian's skills. That buy-out clause? 125 million euros. Some second division teams' entire first XIs aren't worth that much money. More to the point, that much money could fund Barca's transfer spending for a good 3 seasons.

Laporta also spoke his mind on Javier Saviola joining Real Madrid as a free agent, more on which later on in this post. He didn't condemn the move, but he didn't exactly sound approving, either. Not that Saviola will care what Laporta - who, it must be said, was the cause of some of Saviola's problems at Barca - thinks.

Confusingly, Belletti's agent claims that his client isn't looking to leave Barca, despite having complained loudly about lack of playing time at the end of the 06-07 season and having threatened to look elsewhere for opportunities. He also confirms Roma's interest. So let me get this straight: he's definitely leaving, and you're just trying to drive down the price so he can get a decent deal. Great.

Lastly, Yaya Toure speaks about his desire to win the Champions League with Barca (join the club, lad, you're far from the only one thinking that) and his admiration of Frank Rijkaard.

Real Madrid

Real shocked everybody by announcing the prompt signing of Porto's young Brazilian-born defender Pepe for - allegedly - a whopping 30 million euros. At first glance, this is a puzzling bit of business, although the quiet efficiency with which the deal was done is very impressive. Real are probably in need of a defender, but they just signed the highly rated Christopher Metzelder for free. Surely 30 million euros is a bit much to be spending on an uncapped young player who's unproven in Spain. I have no doubt that Pepe is very talented and will prove useful for Real, who've had trouble with the centerback position in the past. (For more discussion of Pepe's signing and issues associated with Real's defence, see the recent posts by Gonzalo at All In White.)

Iker Casillas has already come out in defence of the price tag. He makes a lot of sense, as always, although my personal theory regarding the price tag is that the 'blame' can be laid squarely at the door of the Porto chairman, who has done some very good business in the past: 30 million euros for Ricardo Carvalho, 20 million euros for Paulo Ferreira, 15 million euros for Maniche (!) and so on.

More boardroom business: Sergio Ramos has got himself a much deserved pay rise after his impressive performances of the last few seasons and striker Roberto Soldado has earned himself a nice five year contract after having a good season on loan at Osasuna.

I'm going to remain in denial about the latest Real signing until he's presented in a white kit, but it seems to be official: Javier Saviola has joined as a free agent. Isaiah over at the Barcelona Offside and most of the commenters there are taking it much better than I am. It's not that I dislike him - far from it. I'm quite fond of Saviola. But I'm cringing in anticipation of his first visit to the Camp Nou now.

It wasn't a wise move in that sense, in my opinion, although it's nowhere near a Luis Figo-type case, but also I can't see how he's going to get regular playing time, which is a concern of mine because I support the Albiceleste. This is Real's current striker list: Ruud van Nistelrooy, Raul, Robinho, Gonzalo Higuain, Antonio Cassano, Roberto Soldado. So how many of those are Schuster going to play in his formation? 2 or 3, most likely, and you'd think van Nistelrooy and Raul will be default starters. We'll see, I suppose. (Please correct me if I'm wrong about any of this, Madridistas.)


(Allegedly) batty president del Nido has reacted predictably to Freddie Kanoute's frank request for a (probably deserved) pay rise - I'm pretty sure he doesn't have a massive contract right now - by pretty much flipping him the metaphorical finger. Kanoute has already had a 15 million euro price tag slapped on him, so watch this space.

Meanwhile, the club have signed Malian international Seydou Keita from Lens on a four year deal for an undisclosed fee.


Atletico presented young Brazilian striker Diego Costa da Silva, but confusingly enough he's probably not going to play for them in 07-08.

Their failure to qualify directly for the UEFA Cup in 06-07 has seen Atletico's players 'punished' with having to cut their vacations short and start pre-season early to get ready in time for the Intertoto Cup. Coach Javier Aguirre held his first press conference of the season and discussed the impending campaign.


New Recreativo coach Victor Munoz spoke about the difficulties he anticipates for the club in their second season, and having had a glance at that list of departing players at the end of that article, I agree with him. Yikes. They need some signings, alright.

In departures, having already lost captain Arruabarrena to AEK Athens and Diego Forlan to Atletico Madrid, Villarreal have also lost influential midfielder Alessio Tacchinardi, who has ended his loan period and returned to Juventus, where he's looking to join another Italian club.

Relegated Real Sociedad have let midfielder Mikel Alonso - brother of Xabi - go on loan to Bolton. I promise I'll stop writing about La Real soon, but they've just been relegated after all.

Lastly, Depor, Mallorca and Betis can give themselves a pat on the back for one excellent signing each. Betis have secured themselves a replacement for dodgy 'keeper Toni Doblas in Sporting Lisbon's Ricardo Pereira - yes, that Ricardo, and he only cost 3 million euros. I'm looking forward to having the Portuguese no.1 in La Liga.

Mallorca have signed Cameroonian forward Pierre Webo, who just left Osasuna on a free transfer. They do need a goalscorer, especially after selling one of their only decent attacking players in the form of Bosko Jankovic (the other one is the Venezuelan Arango) and Webo's a fairly good one who knows La Liga.

In my last round-up post, I wrote about the hole Depor have found themselves in. They avoided a relegation struggle in 06-07 chiefly because they could defend a bit, and now they've sold several of their best defenders (Capdevila to Villarreal, Andrade to Juventus) and are looking to flog another decent one in the form of Fabricio Coloccini to Zaragoza.

Not sure how they're going to line up defensively in the new season, but at least they've started splashing some of the cash they got from those sales in order to solve their attacking problems. Signing promising young Mexican Andres Guardado from Atlas for around 7 million euros is a good start. He's a fine midfielder and I'm very much looking forward to seeing him play in Spain. Depor fans must feel slightly better about the next season now - although they're not out of the financial doghouse yet.


atleti said...

Dos Santos and Bojan sound like incredible young players. In terms of Mexico, their youth, from what I've seen, are promising. Some true gems in that lot.

I'd love to see Diego Costa stay, but club officials appear to only see him as occupying a crucial non-European spot. My only guess is that they plan on bringing in another non-European player. If they don't, though, it might be wise to keep him.

Gonzalo said...

Notas de fĂștbol has an interesting post on Laporta's undignified (in their opinion) outburst about Saviola. I wonder whether he'll get a place in the starting line-up at Real, but the season is long...

Milito is the player we should have signed but didn't. If it's true about the curse of the central defender at Rael Madrid, perhaps it is better for him he didn't (It's certainly good for Barcelona)

linda said...

atleti: Yeah, the Mexicans have a lot of great young players coming up to the national team now. Their future looks pretty bright.

I didn't know Atletico hadn't filled all their non-European spots, given all the Argentineans players you guys have assembled. Maybe there's another signing coming in?

gonzalo: I agree with them - Laporta wouldn't know the moral high ground if it smacked him in the face. (Ever notice how even when he's talking about something he's done right, he ends up sounding like a smug bastard?)

The best thing he could have said is to wish Saviola well for the future inspite of his personal opinion instead of going on about (essentially) all the money we spent on him. But then that would have been too smart.

Nvermind...Milito's case is a curious one. I was 'reading' (through Google Translate) a Marca article that was criticizing the Perez management for screwing up Milito's signing, which rang true to me. But Real's backline looks pretty set now anyway, as does Barca's. In fact, if Sevilla don't sell Alves, and Atletico perhaps do some reshuffling of their own, then all the big teams look set defensively.

Soccer Mania said...

I think the signing of Saviola by Madrid makes sense. He is a player, since his River day, flourishes playing just behind the striker. One of the reason there is a stark difference when The Rabbit plays for argentina is that Crespo is the main striker. I guess with Barca they tried playing him as a sole striker up-front which did not suceed as he doesnt have the build of a main target man.

linda said...

Hmm, good point. I guess my concern is that Real already have quite a few strikers who play in that position, and I'm not sure he'd beat, say, Raul to the starting line-up.

You're right about Barca - we don't actually play a support striker, and he's not a winger, so he had to be deployed up front, if anywhere, and that didn't work for the reasons you said.