Monday, July 02, 2007

La Liga news round-up

It almost seems like there's more news in the off-season than during the actual season itself. Maybe it's just everybody going transfer crazy, plus all the sacking and hiring going on. Whatever it is, here's another news round-up, and as usual - no baseless rumours.

Starting at Real Madrid, where despite the lack of an annoucement everyone and their dog knows that Bernard Schuster of Getafe is going to be unveilled as the next coach soon. There's an interesting article from the Times discussing the fate of Capello and other Real coaches in the last 10 years or so. They're certainly not alone in having a rapid turnover of coaching staff - in fact, I'd say that most Spanish clubs have similar tendencies. It's just the fact that they've famously sacked winning coaches twice since the beginning of the new century.

Whether the decision was the right one or not - and feel free to correct me if I'm wrong, but a lot of what I've read from Madridistas sugges they're not that impressed - it's a done deal, and now the priority must be to have Schuster appointed so that they can get started in the transfer market. Robinho, for one, welcomes his new German overlord (sorry). More on him later in my Copa America post.

Not much Barca news today after the initial flurry of transfer activity. Having been designated surplus to requirements, Thiago Motta is eager to get a decent move abroad, and has demanded that Barca let him go on a free transfer. For once, I'm sympathetic to this argument. I think I'd like to get some cash for everybody else (Belletti, Edmilson, Giuly, possibly Gudjohnsen and Ezquerro), but Motta came up through the youth system, so he didn't cost the club a lot of money, and he's lost what seems like the majority of his playing career to injuries. When he's played in the last 2 seasons, his ratio of good games to disastrous ones has been about 50:50. (You may think I'm being harsh, but a look around any Barca fan forum will tell you that I'm being kind compared to some of the vitriol that's directed at him and Oleguer when they have hapless games.) He's not going to get a good deal if we slap a large price tag on him.

Still on the topic of Barca and transfers, I don't usually touch transfer speculation, but this article about how Barca must sign Frank Lampard seems so misguided that I feel the need to respond to it. My personal nightmare scenario for this transfer window is the Deco-Lampard swap. I've already written about why Deco should stay, but I thought the 'why Lampard should not be signed' part was kind of obvious. Apparently not.

This article made me laugh, which is possibly a bit mean spirited, but the comment from an unnamed Barca executive pretty much sums it up:
There is no other option. He has been offered to us, Milan, Inter and Real Madrid. Basically all of the big clubs. But none are interested. We are the same as those clubs are, we're looking for a player who is more creative and has a greater technique than Lampard. So it looks like he will go nowhere.
Don't get me wrong, his statistics speak for themselves, but contrary to what is claimed by the article championing Lampard, Deco, Xavi and Andres Iniesta can and do score goals. Maybe not as many as Lampard, but neither do they take as many potshots that go nowhere instead of passing to someone in a better position. The type of midfielder preferred by Barca is best exemplified by the ones steadily produced by the youth system: the likes of Pep Guardiola, Ivan De La Pena, Xavi, Iniesta, Cesc Fabregas, Fran Merida and Marc Crosas. People who have a sound mind for tactics, a team mentality and a killer pass off the first or second touch. Not Frank Lampard.

On to Valencia, who've finally off-loaded Tavano, the Italian striker signed by former sporting director Carboni against coach Quique Sanchez Flores' will. His destination is Livorno, having had a season of largely being left on the bench in Spain. Valencia have done some sensible business post-Carboni and moved fast in erasing all signs of his overt influence. I'm impressed.

The big transfer saga of the last few days has been the Torres to Liverpool deal, which at the time of writing is still rumbling on. Atletico have signed Diego Forlan from Villarreal for (allegedly) 21 million euros , which has been seen by many as a sign that Torres is definitely leaving. I'm a bit puzzled by why Forlan left a club who have consistently been playing in European competition in the last few seasons for one which, well, hasn't. It's a good bit of business for Villarreal, who paid only 2 million pounds for him, got quite a lot of goals in return, and now a large profit from his sale. The question for them will be how to replace him. On the Atletico side, they as always seem to have cash to spend, and at least it's being spent on a player who has proven that he can score goals in La Liga.

Staying with Atletico, it appears that while the Torres deal isn't done yet, the semi-attached deal for Luis Garcia to move the other way is. Garcia has repeatedly expressed his desire to play for Atletico again, having had a good spell there on loan from Barcelona before he went to England. I don't know if Liverpool fans are happy about this move, but he's surely repaid his transfer fee with all those goals on important occasions. He'll probably do well for Atletico, actually. They've got themselves a very nice squad on paper for next season, but then I said that at the beginning of this season too, and look how that turned out.

The last two items both involve two very different Argentinean defenders. Real Zaragoza have indicated that Gabriel Milito will definitely be leaving the club, and that Juventus are the only club to have submitted a bid, which they found to be unsatisfactory. They're basically inviting Barca to start a bidding war for his services. I have a feeling that he'd be too expensive for what we're looking for, given the prices we've been quoted as offering for Chivu. We'll see, but my early guess is that he ends up at Juve in the end, given the above and his previous run-in with Real Madrid when he nearly signed for them but for a failed medical that he's disputed ever since.

The second Argentinean defender under discussion is the former West Ham, Deportivo La Coruna and Racing Santander defender/winger Lionel Scaloni, who has been signed by Lazio. Apparently he'll be their first choice full-back. I can imagine the expressions of surprise on the faces of any West Ham faithful who witnessed his performances for them, and it's the same expression I had on my face when I read about this transfer, having seen him play for Argentina and Depor. Easy as it is to make fun, for the few times I saw him play for Racing he actually looked decent as a right winger. Maybe Italy will suit him.

To wrap this up, here are some interesting numbers: how much each club collected out of the marketing pool for this season's Champions League.

(I'll start referring to 07-08 as 'this season' when Primera clubs begin their pre-season.)

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