Posts Tagged ‘La Liga’

THE FIFA PRO XI OF 2012

Awards, accolades and acknowledgement for outstanding performance in any sphere in life are appreciated but when the award begins to lose credibility, there’s a need for a review.

The surprising FIFA Pro XI of 2012 comprised of players from just three football clubs based in Europe precisely Spain; a league where we have two gladiators and 18 other participants. Is football played in Spain alone? Well, Yes!! No!!!

It is the home of current World champions and back-to-back European champions. So why not?

My targets below are positions I think the technical team could have considered someone else.

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In goalIker Casillas of Real Madrid and Spain was picked. No doubt, Saint Iker had an outstanding first half of the year where his Real Madrid side ended Barcelona hegemony and won the league but it wasn’t his heroics that brought the title – rather, it was the ruthless attacking machines of Jose Mourinho side that secured the title. Iker also led Spain to an unprecedented triumph at the Euros and perhaps that could have pushed it his way but his poor form since the start of this season makes me question his inclusion.

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Right Back – Dani Alves. Undoubtedly the best attacking full back when in his element but he will certainly want to forget 2012 in a hurry. His below par performances for Barca and as well as his frequent visit to the treatment table ensured Copa del Rey title was Los Cules only title of 2012. The way fellow country man Ramires exposed him during the UEFA Champions League semi final match at Stamford Bridge summarizes his poor year.

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Centre Half – Gerard Pique. How in the world does he make it? As much as I rate Gerard, his performance last year does not come close to his personal best let alone make the pro team. His former coach Pep Guardiola confirmed Pique’s attention was elsewhere during the course of last season and he hasn’t hit the peak this term. Vincent Kompany, Matt Hummels and Giorgio Chiellini are guys that would challenge him effectively.

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Xavi Hernandez – Central Midfield. I can’t fault the orchestra but the music of 2012 was not exceptional. Everyone knows Xavi’s quality – precise pass accuracy, controlling the tempo of games and popping up with the goals but all this could not help the Blaugranas to either La Liga or UCL success. Juventus maestro Andrea Pirlo waved his magic in Turin and across Italy in serie A games. He was without a doubt the star for La Nazionale during the Euro 2012.

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Radamel Falcao – Forward. Who has got a natural striking instinct in the world that comes close to Falcao today? No one! We are blessed with a natural number 9 in the Colombian forward who terrorized defenses in La Liga and Europe last season enroute Los Colchoneros Europa league triumph but I’d argue that Ivorien striker Didier Drogba deserves a place in this XI because he rises to the big occasion. The Drog was the secret weapon behind Chelsea’s maiden European triumph last season which I feel was the biggest achievement in European football considering how their season panned out. Based on that, I will put Drogba slightly ahead of Falcao.

The whole list can be scrutinized hence the motive behind this article but above all, I would like to congratulate every member of the FIFA Pro XI 2012. I bet many people disagree with FIFA as well as my position. Please use the comment box beneath to express yourselves.

Thank you.

La Liga without Mourinho and Guardiola?

Would they be doing this in England next season?

In politics, there are no permanent friends but permanent interests. This also applies in football. Going back to when Jose Mourinho was an assistant at FC Barcelona while Pep Guardiola was a player, they had a good relationship. Fast forward to the present day, Pep is the head coach of Barcelona while Jose is in charge at Real Madrid, the situation has seen “once upon a time” friends or members of the same boat turn their backs against each other several times in the media when the clasicos come up.

A possible reality that may dawn on the Primera Liga in Spain this summer is that both outstanding managers may be plying their trade in other countries, with the speculations surrounding their futures.

Jose Mourinho (Real Madrid)
The loquacious Portuguese who is in the second year of his four-year contract at Real Madrid may be considering quitting the White House in Spain. Why is he quitting when his team is performing very well and are on their way to their 32nd La Liga title – the first in four years? We know how many battles he has fought since making the Spanish capital his home; battle for autonomy in all football related matters at the club, battle to break Barcelona hegemony and return the club back to its glory days, lastly his love-lost affair with the Spanish media.

It’s clear he is totally not comfortable in Spain where the experience hasn’t been as enjoyable as he expected. Although he has been granted greater autonomy than any Real Madrid coach before him, he delivered the Copa del Rey last season and he his on the way to a La Liga crown this term, but then, there is a certain BARCELONA and his perception of being treated badly by the media in Spain.

Recently, the Special One was spotted house-hunting London, an exercise which has increased the speculation about his return to the Premier League – a desire he has never hidden publicly. Jose loves the EPL and has a relationship with the press that doesn’t come close to his experiences in Italy and Spain.

Potentially there could be two new vacancies in the Premiership come this summer. Harry Redknapp is favorite for the England job which leaves Tottenham without a manager, Andre Villas-Boas has also been shown the exit door at Mourinho’s former club, Chelsea. Mourinho’s relationship with Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich has greatly improved since they parted ways in 2007 and he would be given the financial backing to rebuild the “aging” squad. Tottenham would not be able to compete with Chelsea financially and even Chelsea would be a financial come down after being at Madrid where money is never an issue. Tottenham offer an enthusiastic prospect but not much more, working with players like Luka Modric and Gareth Bale is an attraction and if Mourinho was to go there, both of those players would surely stay at White Hart Lane.

Mourinho leaving Madrid is a question of when and not if as he would be leaving as an accomplished man who returned the glory days back to the Santiago Bernabeu as well as ending Barcelona’s hegemony.

Pep Guardiola (FC Barcelona)
Everything that has a beginning must surely have an end. Since he took over Barca’s first team in 2008, Guardiola has been working on a 12-months rolling contract which he has renewed in the last two years but it appears he is weighing other options this time around.

Pep has transformed Barcelona into world beaters, an envy for many rivals and an epitome of what many desire. It’s difficult to comprehend why he is stalling on a new contract or a reason why he wants to leave; maybe a new challenge is what he is relishing as he has conquered not only Spain and Europe but the entire world with Barcelona.

Pep is a through-in-through Cule breed; he hasn’t been disrespected by the Spanish media so his reasons may be personal. A quiet air of discontent has been circulating around since current president Senor Sandro Rossell’s discrediting remark about Joan Laporta’s administration which was met by an opposite opinion. Pep is seen as supporting the previous regime – that can be understood since Laporta was the man who gave Guardiola the opportunity to manage the team. Guardiola’s stand on the situation has been perceived as supporting an enemy, an act which has resulted in a bit of bad blood but his success and popularity with the players and supporters at the club has made it quite difficult for the executives to turn their backs against him. With the La Liga title heading to the capital this season, his team’s dominance may be coming to end and it provides him an opportunity to part ways with his employers.

Inter Milan and Chelsea are monitoring his contractual situation at the Camp Nou closely. If Pep decides to leave, it will be his second exit from his beloved club.

Whenever Jose or Pep decides to leave Spain for other challengers, their departure will be a colossal loss for their respective clubs and the league as they are about the best managers in the game presently. Losing both in one summer is unimaginable for me. What do you think?

Bielsa and his Los Leones project

Argentine coach Marcelo Bielsa moved to the North of Spain last summer as the new Head Coach of Athletic Club in an agreement struck with Josu Uruutia who emerged as the new President of The Cathedral club.

The general question popping on minds was how will El Loco perform at club level after a 13 years hiatus from day-to-day club activities. His last club spell coincidentally was in Spain with Espanyol. He left after just six games in charge of the Barcelona-based club leaving them languishing in 18th position on the log.

Now, it’s a different scene. Athletic’s fortune improved greatly under the guidance of departed Joaquin Caparros with the club finishing eight and sixth position respectively in the last two campaign including a runners-up medal in the 2009 Copa del Rey final. A high precedent had been set and the jury will be out on Bielsa considering how the new Mallorca coach (Caparros) had to leave his post.

For a historic club like Athletic, finishing in the top-eight shouldn’t be a huge achievement, however, the club’s tradition of playing cantera players and only signing players with Basque origins makes it challenging in this modern era.
The composition of the young dynamic team inherited by Bielsa has a solid spine in Fernando Amorebieta, Andoni Iraola, Javi Martinez, Carlos Gurpegi and Fernando Llorente while not forgetting the talented Iker Muniain.

How will the master tactician achieve his set objective?

Athletic Bilbao coach Marcelo Bielsa...

Bielsa built a reputation with his 3-4-3 formation when he was in charge of both the Argentine and Chilean national teams respectively. Only Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona has played with such formation in some games this season while the traditionally spanish game has thrived in a balanced 4-2-3-1 system with the regular back four, two central midfielders (depending on various role assigned to them) two wingers, an attacking midfielder and a striker. It prognosticate how his 3-4-3 format will work with his team expected to pressure higher up the pitch and run a risk of being caught on the break with a counter attack.

El Loco has tinkered his team with various formations since his arrival during the pre-season, during the Europa league qualifiers and right up to the league matches too. With three wins, five draws and three defeats in his first eleven league games, it appears his team is still in a learning process but they impressed in last Sunday 2-2 draw against champions Barcelona.

Athletic’s approach to the game was commendable though I wasn’t totally surprised since they hosted the Blaugrana’s at the Lions den. They were unlucky not to snatch a victory in the end. Their pressing game made their visitors uncomfortable on a raining night at San Mames, Los Leones covered plenty of ground around the park and their man marking approach was immaculate forcing Barca into making hazardous mistakes, one of  which led to Bilbao’s second goal.

His philosophy appears to be yielding positive outcome judging by the last game, however, a lot still has to be done. Players need to play in their original position where their potentials can be maximized – Javi Martinez who is a gifted central midfielder with the ability of a deep-lying playmaker is presently playing as a centre half whose primary job is to stop opposition attack therefore limiting the team’s capabilities.

Bielsa’s project requires time and I’m sure he will get it from the President and hopefully from the fans too.  Their dispaly against Los Cules is an epitome of El Loco’s Athletic vision. Les Leones fans’ optimism can be as high as the skies – for them, the return of Rafael Moreno Aranzadi aka Pichichi great days back in San Mames as he (Bielsa) intends to take them steps higher than eight and sixth position of the last two campaigns without any significant purchase and promoting more canteranos into the first team.

La Liga Preview 2011-12 season

Can they repeat this feat?

The images of last season when Barca lifted their 21st league title must be haunting Jose Mourinho as he attempts to bring the La Liga crown back to the capital.

The oil money from the middle east is lighting up Andalusia with the Malaga project.

Can Betis, Granada and Rayo Vallencano keep their La Liga status?

The Spanish La Liga is back!  A strike called by AFE for the suspension of the first two jornadas has been called off so we won’t worry about any delay of the La Liga kickoff.

This preview is divided into segments just like the way the league itself. The top two gladiators as title contenders, the battle for the remaining European places and the bottom three or relegation candidates.

The top two.

BARCELONA   (finished 1st last season)

Transfers in:  Henrique (loan return, Racing Santander), Victor Sanchez (loan return, Getafe), Keirrison (loan return, Santos), Isaac Cuenca (loan return, CE Sabadell), Alexander Hleb (loan return, Birmingham City), Marti Riverola (loan return, Vitesse Arnhem), Alexis Sanchez (€26m, Udinese), Kiko Femenia (€2m, Almeria), Cesc Fabregas (€29m, Arsenal)

Transfers out: Martin Caceres (€3m, Sevilla), Bojan Krkic (€12m, AS Roma), Oriol Romeu (€5.1m, Chelsea), Jeffren Suarez (€5m, Sporting Lisbon), Zlatan Ibrahimovic (€24m, AC Milan), Henrique (loan, Palmeiras), Gabriel Milito (free, CA Independiente), Victor Sanchez (free, Neuchatel Xamax), Nolito (free, Benfica), Victor Vazquez (free, Club Brugge), Edu Oriol (free, Real Zaragoza), Keirrison (loan, Cruzeiro)

Barcelona will no doubt be the team to beat in the upcoming La Liga season. The Catalan giants retained their Spanish league crown last season and only recently won the Super Coppa de Espana in this season’s curtain raiser and just last night added the European Super Cup to their already swelling rank of trophies this season against FC Porto.
The arrival of Alexis Sanchez and Cesc Fabregas will only compliment an already brilliant squad. Thiago Alcantara and Fontas promotion to the senior side is sure to give enough competition and healthy balance to Pep Guardiola team.
Leo Messi will no doubt be the player to watch this season as he proved to be the difference between the Blaugranas and the Blancos in the Super Cup.
Barcelona know eternal rivals (Real Madrid) are the only side who can stop them from making it four in row. Consistency during the course of the season is the determining factor to winning the La Liga crown again.

REAL MADRID   (finished 2nd last season)

Transfers in:  Royston Drenthe (loan return, Hercules CF), David Mateos (loan return, AEK Athens), Nuri Sahin (€10m, Borussia Dortmund), Hamit Altintop (free, Bayern Munich), Jose Callejon (€5.5m, Espanyol), Raphael Varane (€10m, RC Lens), Fabio Coentrao (€30m, Benfica)

Transfers out:  Emmanuel Adebayor (loan return, Manchester City), Sergio Canales (loan, Valencia), David Mateos (loan, Real Zaragoza), Pablo Sarabia (€3m, Getafe), Ezequiel Garay (€5.5m, Benfica), Juan Carlos Perez (€2.5m, Real Zaragoza)

With total football control at his helm, Jose Mourinho’s excuse for not delivering the league title this season could be – air, fire and water. The Super Coppa de Espana served as a great appetizer and provided Los Merengues an opportunity to show the world  how much progress has been made considering it was the same team that lost 5-0 to Los Cules less than a year ago. Real Madrid have created a healthy competition in their squad with two players in each position. Coentrao, Sahin, Altintop, Callejon and Varane joined in the summer. The integration of the team as a whole was evident during the summer title challenge (Super Cup). Mourinho knows that very little detail in the clasicos and consistency against the remaining 18 teams is all that stands between his men-in-white and their 32nd league title.
Madrid has all it takes to be crowned champions come May 2012.

The Battle for European places.

VALENCIA   (finished 3rd last season)

Transfers in: Michel (loan return, Deportivo La Coruna), Asier del Horno (loan return, Levante), Aaron Niguez (loan return, Recreativo Huelva), Manuel Fernandes (loan return, Besiktas), Renan Brito (loan return, Internacional), Stephen Sunday (loan return, Numancia), Sofiane Feghouli (loan return, Almeria), Sergio Canales (loan, Real Madrid), Cristiano Pereira (free, Sporting Braga), Diego Alves (€3m, Almeria), Daniel Parejo (€5m, Getafe), Pablo Piatti (€8m, Almeria), Anthony Lozano (free, C.D. Olimpia)

Transfers out: Marius Stankevicius (loan return, Sampdoria), Cesar Sanchez (free, Villarreal), Miguel Angel Moya (loan, Getafe), Michel (loan, Hercules CF), Asier del Horno (free, Levante), Nacho Gonzalez (free, Standard Liege), David Navarro (free, Neuchatel Xamax), Aaron Niguez (free, Almeria), Renan Brito (free, Internacional), Stephen Sunday (free, Numancia), Alejandro Dominguez (loan, River Plate), Isco (€6m, Malaga), Joaquin (€4.2m, Malaga), Manuel Fernandes (€2m, Besiktas), Anthony Lozano (loan, CD Alcoyano), Juan Mata (€26.7m, Chelsea)

Los Che have steadied their ship after the financial instability of a few years ago. Unai Emery knows his team will be crowned champions if Barcelona and Real Madrid are excluded from any La Liga campaign but since that won’t happen, he’ll be more than satisfied to lead the remaining charge. Another season in Europe (UCL) means extra revenue for the club and with his experience of last season, Valencia will be hoping to make the most of it and push for a quarter-final position while maintaining their good form in the La Liga. The arrival quality young players like Canales, Piatti and Dani Parejo will help them secure another top-four finish. Juan Manuel Mata’s exit is a big blow

VILLARREAL   (finished 4th last season)

Transfers in: Ivan Marcano (loan return, Getafe), Jefferson Montero (loan return, Levante), Jozy Altidore (loan return, Bursaspor), Cristobal Marquez (loan return, Elche), Cristian Zapata (€7m, Udinese), Javier Camunas (€2.3m, Osasuna), Florian Lejeune (€1m, Istres), Edu Ramos (free, Malaga), Cesar Sanchez (free, Valencia)

Transfers out: Cicinho (loan return, AS Roma), Juan Carlos Sanchez (loan, Elche CF), Salva Perez (loan, FC Cartagena), Ivan Marcano (loan, Olympiakos), Jefferson Montero (loan, Real Betis), Robert Flores (free, Litex Lovech), Cristobal Marquez (free, Karpaty Lviv), Joan Capdevila (free, Benfica), Jozy Altidore (free, AZ Alkmaar), Natxo Insa (free, Celta Vigo), Santi Cazorla (€19m, Malaga), Javier Matilla (€1.2m, Real Betis)

The Yellow Submarines embark on another adventurous campaign with european distraction. This time, it’s the big one (UCL). The Europa league semi-finalist have lost inspirational midfield man Santi Cazorla to Malaga.

Villarreal haven’t replaced the Spanish international and will struggle to cope with the rigor of the league as well as Champions League.
Every time Villarreal play in the UCL, they  struggle on the home-front to make the top-four. It’s interesting to see how Juan Carlos Garrido and his team performs come May with Malaga, Sevilla, Athletic Bilbao and Atletico Madrid all pushing for the final UCL position as well.

MALAGA   (finished 11th last season)

Transfers in: Xavi Torres (loan return, Levante), Jordi Pablo (loan return, FC Cartagena), Daniel Toribio (loan return, SD Ponferradina), David Gonzalez (loan return, Cadiz), Edu Ramos (loan return, CD Leganes), Diego Buonanotte (loan return, River Plate), Edinho (loan return, C.S. Maritimo), Martin Demichelis (€3m, Bayern Munich), Ruud van Nistelrooy (free, Hamburg SV), Joris Mathijsen (€1m, Hamburg SV), Nacho Monreal (€6m, Osasuna), Jeremy Toulalan (€10m, Lyon), Sergio Sanchez (€2.8m, Sevilla), Joaquin (€4.2m, Valencia), Isco (€6m, Valencia), Santi Cazorla (€19m, Villarreal)

Transfers out: Quincy Owusu-Abeyie (loan return, Al-Sadd SC), Sergio Asenjo (loan return, Atletico Madrid), Javi Lopez (free, Real Jaen), Edu Ramos (free, Villarreal), David Gonzalez (free, Real Oviedo Vetusta), Manu Torres (free, FC Cartagena), Sandro Silva (loan, Internacional), Xavi Torres (loan, Levante), Rodrigo Galatto (free, Neuchatel Xamax), Manolo Gaspar (free, FC Cartagena)

Los Boquerones could be the surprise package of the season after investing heavily this summer. The new cash money of La Liga raised eyebrows with their transfer acquisitions which include Jeremy Toulalan, Joaquin Sanchez, Ruud van Nistelrooy, record signing Santiago Cazorla and  many more. Coach Manuel Pellegrini has been given the task of delivering success to the club.
The Malaga squad is well balanced with the new players fitting in well(results during preseason) but it remains to see how The Engineer selects his preferred starting XI
Challenging for the league title is a mountain too high for Malaga this term but a shot at European places is achievable.

Athletic Bilbao, Sevilla and Atletico Madrid are amongst the European places contenders too.

Athletic club start the new campaign with a new president and coach. Bielsa has managed to keep his Basque stars off the radar of raiding clubs. Consolidating on their top-six finish of last season will be the ultimate task for the Argentine who has promised to electrify San Mames.

Sevilla have rediscovered themselves in the close season. Marcelino’s appointment is expected to bring usher in new enthusiasm as the new season begins. Transfer guru Monchi has been busy in the close season trying to bring in new faces (Piotr Trochowski and Manu del Mora) to improve the squad.
Los nervionenses should maintain their last season finish or go one better.

Atletico will keep off the season with a new man in the dug-out. The departure of Diego Forlan to Inter combined with that of Kun Aguero and De Gea to England has weakened the substandard Madrid side but for all their loses in the playing personnel, they have a good coach in Gregorio Manzano to lead them this season. He will be the key to how Atletico perform this season. The arrival of Colombian goal machine Radamel Falcao from Porto will be vital.

The scrape zone.

This zone includes the last three teams in La Liga last season as well as the three newly promoted sides from the Segunda.

REAL SOCIEDAD   (finished 15th last season)

Transfers In: Inigo Sarasola (loan return, Real Union), Borja Viguera (loan return, Gimnastic de Tarragona), Carlos Vela (loan, Arsenal), McDonald Mariga (loan, Inter Milan)

Transfers Out: Francisco Sutil (free, Real Murcia), Mikel Orbegozo (free, Athletic Bilbao), Diego Rivas (free, Hercules CF), Mikel Labaka (free, Rayo Vallecano), Raul Tamudo (free, Rayo Vallecano)

Real Sociedad might be in for a long season with the shocking decision to sack Martin Lasarte last season after securing promotion to the La Liga and keeping them there.  His replacement, Philippe Montainer has built for himself a decent reputation in France, it remains to see how he’ll perform in Spain. Striker Joseba Llorente fitness is key to how many goals the Basque team will score. Carlos Vela has arrived on loan from Arsenal to bolster their attacking options with veteran playmaker Xabi Prieto and French winger Antoine Griezmann expected to provide the quality services.
La Real will struggle but might just nick it through once again.

GETAFE   (finished 16th last season)

Transfers In: Michelangelo Albertazzi (loan, AC Milan), Miguel Angel Moya (loan, Valencia), Diego Castro (free, Sporting Gijon), Mehdi Lacen (free, Racing Santander), Juan Rodriguez (free, Deportivo La Coruna), Alberto Lopo (free, Deportivo La Coruna), Tomeu Nadal (free, Mallorca), Pablo Sarabia (€3m, Real Madrid), Maykon (free, Pacos de Ferreira), Juan Valera (free, Atletico Madrid), Tsepo Masilela (loan, Maccabi Haifa), Daniel Guiza (free, Fenerbahce), Ruben Perez (free, Atletico Madrid)

Transfers Out: Javier Arizmendi (loan, Neuchatel Xamax), Mario Alvarez (free, Real Betis), Ivan Marcano (loan return,Villarreal), Victor Sanchez (loan return, Barcelona), Derek Boateng (€6m, Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk), Daniel Parejo (€5m, Valencia), Manu del Moral (€4.5m, Sevilla), Juan Angel Albin (€3m, Espanyol), Miguel Pallardo (€200k, Levante), Adrian Sardinero (loan, Hercules CF), Borja Fernandez (free, Deportivo La Coruna)

Azulones’ best move this summer is the appointment of former Levante coach, Luis Garica Plaza. The new boss is known to always get the best out of his team and that’s what Getafe need after all the trouble of last season.
Royal Emirates Group of Companies acquired the club last season with club president Angel Torres promising not to sell their best players to balance the books but Dani Parejo, one of their most reliable and influential player last season  has since moved on to Valencia.
A €3 million transfer on former Real Madrid Castilla player, Pablo Sarabia appears to be the major transfer so far with a couple of shrewd Bosman transfers in the mould of Alberto Lopo and Juan Rodriguez.
El Geta have snapped former pichichi winner Dani Guiza who is on his second spell at the club to get them goals. A better season should be on the horizon at the Coliseum Alfonso Perez woth Luis Garcia in the dugout.

RCD MALLORCA   (finished 17th last season)

Transfers In: Chico (loan, Genoa), Juan Calatayud (free, Hercules CF), Pablo Caceres (free, CA Tigre), Gianna Zuiverloon (free, West Bromwich Albion), Tomer Hemed (free, Maccabi Haifa), Oscar Trejo (loan return, Rayo Vallecano), Javi Castellano (loan return, Real Union), Tuni (loan return, Gimnastic de Tarragona)

Transfers Out: Ruben Gonzalez (free, Osasuna), German Lux (free, Deportivo La Coruna), Enrique Corrales (free, Granada), Tomeu Nadal (free, Getafe), Ayoze Diaz (free, Deportivo La Coruna), Javi Castellano (loan, UD Las Palmas), Sergi Enrich (loan, Recreativo Huelva), Ruben Gonzalez (free, Osasuna), Pierre Webo (€1.25m, Eskisehirspor)

Laudrup’s claim of having a better season than last season reminds me of Steve Kean’s optimism at Blackburn Rovers. After miraculously beating the drop on the final day last term, Los Bermellones have barely strengthen. Pierre Achille Webo, who has been Mallorca’s dependable man for goals since Dani Guiza’s exit departed the Balearic island this summer, this is probably the biggest blow to hit Michael Laudrup’s team.
With the transfer window winding down and with very little activity going on at the club in terms of transfers, coach Laudrup’s optimism might not be enough to safe Els Barralets. Another long season at the Iberostar stadium in Palma.

REAL BETIS   (1st in Segunda division)

Transfers In: Antonio Sanchez (loan return, Albacete), Mariano Pavone (loan return, River Plate), Nelson (loan return, Osasuna), Juande (loan return, Granada), Rodri (loan return, FC Cartagena), Javier Matilla (€1.2m, Villarreal), Jefferson Montero (loan, Villarreal), Fabricio Agosto (free, Valladolid), Javier Chica (free, Espanyol), Mario Alvarez (free, Getafe), Antonio Amaya (free, Wigan Athletic), Ustaritz Aldekoaotalora (loan, Athletic Bilbao)

Transfers Out: Roversio (loan return, Osasuna), Miguel Lopez (loan return, FC Porto), David Odonkor (free, Karlsruhe), Fran No (free, Valladolid), Israel (free, Xerez CD), Achille Emana (€4.5m, Al-Hilal FC), Antonio Sanchez (loan, SD Huesca)

The Sevilla side are back to the top flight after being away in the last two seasons.
Under new President Miguel Guillen, the cash strapped Verdiblancos have sold their Cameroon star Achille Emana to Al-Hilal and struggled to bring in new faces in.
Coach Pepe Mel has a massive task at hand as they begin life in the primera liga with an uncertain future. Avoiding the drop will be a miracle for the Andalusia based club.

RAYO VALLENCANO   (2nd in Segunda division)

Transfers In: Sueliton Pereira (free, EC Sao Jose), Juan Quero (loan return, UD Las Palmas), Marco Torsiglieri (loan, Sporting Lisbon), Alberto Perea (free, Atletico Madrid), Michu (free, Celta Vigo), Roberto Trashorras (free, Celta Vigo), Mikel Labaka (free, Real Sociedad), Raul Tamudo (free, Real Sociedad)

Transfers Out: Coke (€1.7m, Sevilla), Oscar Trejo (loan return, Mallorca), Emiliano Armenteros (loan return, Sevilla), Antonio Amaya (loan return, Wigan Athletic), Brayan Angulo (loan return, Leixoes S.C.), Borja Garcia (loan return, Cordoba CF), Yuma (free, UD Salamanca), Juan Quero (loan, Cordoba CF), Juli (loan, Asteras Tripolis)

One thing that excites me about Rayo’s promotion is the additional number to the Madrid based clubs in La Liga for the new season. The excitement will go no further than that with the terrible mess the players at the Madrid club are experiencing. They are being owed salary of over 12 months and are being persuaded to take pay cut while playing in the top flight.
This dreadful situation has seen players leave and surely no agent negotiating any proposed deal for his client to play at Teresa Rivero. However, they have signed former Spain international Raul Tamudo on a one-year contract. Would this be enough to keep them up?
Their fans can start preparing for life in the Segunda even before they kick-off in La Liga.

GRANADA   (Promotion playoffs winner)

Transfers In: Guada Rosales (loan return, CD Guijuelo), Aziz Tetteh (loan return, CD Leganes), Matias Alonso (loan return, C.A. Cerro), Guilherme Siqueira (free, Udinese), Dani Benitez (loan, Udinese). Odion Ighalo (loan, Udinese), Allan Nyom (loan, Udinese), Jaime Romero (loan, Udinese), David Cortes (free, Hercules CF), Ikechi Anya (free, Celta Vigo), Kabiru Akinsola (free, UD Salamanca), Juanjo Serrano (free, CD Guadalajara), Noe Pamarot (free, Hercules CF), Enrique Corrales (free, Mallorca), Yohan Mollo (€1m, AS Monaco), Fran Rico (€1m, Real Madrid), Toti (free, UD Salamanca), David Ferreiro (free, Zamora CF), Carlos Martins (loan, Benfica), Jorge Ribeiro (loan, Benfica), Julio Cesar (loan, Benfica), Hassan Yebda (free, Benfica)

Transfers Out: Carlos Calvo (loan return, Udinese), Dani Benitez (loan return, Udinese), Jonathan Mensah (loan return, Udinese), Fabian Orellana (loan return, Udinese), Mikel Rico (loan return, Udinese), Odion Ighalo (loan return, Udinese), Allan Nyom (loan return, Udinese), Juande (loan return, Real Betis), Pedro Barrancos (loan, Cadiz), Kabiru Akinsola (loan, Cadiz), Juanjo Serrano (loan, Cadiz), Oscar Perez (loan, Cadiz), Alex Cruz (loan, CE Sabadell), Ruben Parraga (free, Real Murcia), Toti (loan, Cadiz), David Ferreiro (loan, Cadiz), Juan Collantes (free, FC Cartagena), Goku (loan, Burgos CF), Ikechi Anya (loan, Cadiz), Enrique Corrales (free, UD Las Palmas), Jonathan Martin Golpe (loan, UD Melilla), Jeison Murillo (loan, Cadiz), Rafael Martinez (loan, Montaneros CF), Aziz Tetteh (loan, Montaneros CF)

El Grana was a club on the brink of closing in July 2009 but now find themselves playing primera league football in 2011. This is a laudable achievement for the Andalusia club who struck a partnership agreement with top italian side Udinese which has seen the Spanish club incorporate several players from the Italian club on loan deals.
Loan deals, free transfers and promoting of academy players appears as the only option for Granada to recruit. Noe Pamarot arrived on a free from Hercules while Hassan Yebda and Carlos Martin have joined them from Benfica on loan deals.
Manager Fabri Gonzalez, his team and fans should enjoy their visits to illustrious grounds around the country while playing in  La Liga.
Relegation is a sure bet.

This preview should help set the tone for La Liga BBVA 2011-12 season. The reason why La Liga is so special is simple – Home to the World and European Champions, Champions of the continent in Club Football, FIFA World Player and the World’s Most Expensive Player plies their trade here. Addition to that, The self acclaimed Special One works here too.

How far can Malaga go?

The club with oil money to spend

Prior to the 2010/11 season, Malaga CF were seen as an average club with average ambitions. Survival in the top flight of Spanish football was always the target, until Qatari Investor, Abdullah bin Nasser bin Abdullah Al Ahmed Al Thani bought the Andalusian based club in June 2010 from Lorenzo Sanz (former Real Madrid President).

Jesualdo Ferreira was appointed as head coach and just like the purchase of the club, which was done quietly, transfer activities at La Rosaleda wasn’t any different, with the acquisition of  unknown Salomon Rondon and Sebastein Fernandez. Bad results on the pitch did not help Ferreira as he was fired in November after nine La Liga games.

Erstwhile Real Madrid and Villarreal coach, Manuel Pellegrini was appointed to the helms of affairs. He oversaw a revival at the club – thanks to five consecutive wins in the latter part of the season; a historic first for the club. With several new signings, which included Enzo Maresca who arrived on a free, Martin Demichelis on loan from Bayern Munich, Julio Baptista an outcast from AS Roma and the Spanish duo of Ignacio Camacho and Sergio Asenjo (on loan) from Atletico Madrid, the club managed to finish in 11th place.

The activities and ambition of the South coast club during this summer transfer window has made me beam a search light on them.

The acquisition of the club by a member of a  Royal family from the oil-rich Middle-East is similar to that done by the Abu Dhabi United Group at Manchester City.
Malaga have surprisingly signed quality players like Jeremy Toulalan from Lyon, Joaquin Sanchez from Valencia, Santiago Cazorla from Villareal and old war horse Ruud Van Nistelrooy on a free transfer.
With further speculation of Lassana Diarra teaming up with his old boss, an audacious swoop for Inter’s Wesley Sneijder it seems more quality names are likely to swell up the ranks at the club.

One of the many eye-catching additions to the squad

Malaga recently appointed yet another ex-Real Madrid man , Fernando Hierro as Sporting Director to help Los Boquerones in their new project.
With several changes in the playing personnel, the club’s ambition has changed with fans beginning to think of the impossible (Playing in Europe again, UCL and possibly challenging the duo of Real Madrid and Barcelona for La Liga).
The management and fans have to exercise patience as the new look team needs time to galvanize for the expected results to be achieved.

A top eight finish is a realistic target for The Anchovies while it is possible they grab the last Europa league spot if they finish seventh. It would serve as a platform for future success.
Sheikh Abdullah, Hierro and Pellegrini are building a good side and have been witty in their transfer activities.
It is great to see another club become relevant in La Liga and increase the competitiveness in the league that has been sorely lacking for years now.
The comparism of Malaga as the Manchester City of La Liga is pleasing as we look forward to the coming season.

They would be hoping to qualify for one of these competitions..

What do you think? Will the Qatari Investment have an effect or you think they would continue to be an average team?

Perez’s final gamble

Hey all… This blog, won The Best Sports Blog in the 2011 Nigerian Blog Awards.

I owe it to you all.

Thank you!

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The re-emergence of Florentino Perez as the president of Real Madrid heralded the return of neo Galacticos at the White House in Madrid. Not only players but with coaches too. Two years on and despite breaking his previous world record transfer (Zidane) with the capture of Portuguese captain Cristiano Ronaldo and the services of The Special One to tinker the galaxy of stars, success on the pitch hasn’t been spectacular. Mourinho’s arrival at the Valdebebas has not halted eternal rival – Barcelona’s hegemony of the La Liga and to rub more salt to the Los Blancos wound, Los Cules won their fourth UCL trophy defeating Real Madrid on their way to glory.

In all fairness, Mou’s advent at the capital club has seen Los Merengues approach all competition with the same vigor.  Copa del Rey victory over Barca meant the nine times European Champions did not go trophyless for the third straight season and their UCL round of 16 shackles was broken. Internal ventilation in the board replaced the usual dug-out changes as Perez’s right hand man Jorge Valdano departed the club last May in bitter circumstances.  He and the coach (Mourinho) had a working misunderstanding with the latter winning the battle. In the president’s farewell speech to Valdano, he said:

As you are all aware, we started last season with a new and exciting sports project that looks to the future, is based on having very young people, and has Jose Mourinho at its helm with all our confidence. The experience we had during the campaign that has just ended has proved the need for a new organisational structure within the club, by which our coach will be able to manage the team with autonomy, and which will avoid the disfunctions that happened due to the existence of a Director General’s office of a distinct sporting character. For this reason, the Board has decided to withdraw this Director General’s office, which was run by Jorge Valdano.”

The man.... taking his final gamble

Florentino Perez has given head coach Jose Mourinho more control on football matters after the departure of the Argentine. It’s a fact that Jose Mourinho is one of the best coaches in the world and he needs the right environment to succeed with the present dynamics of the today’s game so Perez has decided to copy the English club’s approach of giving their manager more powers. A move applauded by many as it gives the coach more autonomy to operate.  Jose has got the personality and experience to help restore the glory and pride of FIFA’s Club of the 20th century.

But some of us have still have our doubts. JM is a nomadic coach who has shown in the past he’s not a man with the desire to stay at a football club for a long time. He has mentioned in numerous interviews that he has his heart in the English Premier League so one is made to wonder why Perez has decided to take this gamble with a man who is not planning to stay for long. Furthermore, a few days ago, JM with the consent of FP and the club announced the appointment of Zinedine Zidane as the club’s sporting director which raises another point in the so-called “autonomy” the head coach was asking for as the new director might be performing a similar role to the ousted director.

One of the many gambles taken by Perez..

I suspect that Perez administration which is getting into its third year in their first term back in office knows that anything short of La Liga triumph or his obsessed La Decima (UCL 10th title) could reduce his chances in the next presidential election coming up in two years so he has decided to use Mourinho who knows what it takes to succeed as his last bait in a bid to save himself.

Urrutia emerges, Caparros bows out for Bielsa

President Josu Urrutia and coach Joaquin Caparros. Where is the correlation? A new president emerges and a coach bows out. That is the story and outcome of the presidential election at Athletic Club Bilbao. Former player Josu Urrutia promised during his electioneering campaign to appoint ex Chile coach Marcelo Bielsa as the first team coach for Los Leones if he wins.

Last Thursday, Urrutia was voted by the club socios as the new president of the Basque club a result which means erstwhile coach Joaquin Caparros is back in the labor market. It is a sad one for him as he was one of the four managers who have managed to keep their job in the impatient La Liga terrain for more than three seasons.

The respected 55 years was gracious in his exit as he congratulated the new president and his successor (Bielsa) while wishing The Cathedral club the best in the future. Looking back at what he achieved makes it even harder to accept but the politics of football cannot be ruled out too.

Upon taking over at San Mames, he steered the club who were beginning to be perennial relegation candidates away from the dreaded zone. Athletic club getting relegated is equivalent to the Titanic disaster. I’m sure a lot of us are raising our eye brows – YES! They alongside Real Madrid and Barcelona are the only clubs who have not gone a division below since the 1920s when the league was formed.

Caparros, who worked in Bilbao for four years built a strong side with limited financial resources as the club’s supporters believe in only Basque footballers. Losing the Copa del Rey final in 2009 to Barcelona was one of major achievements. His team finished their last two campaigns eight and six position respectively.

Incoming.......................................................................Outgoing

With a new regime in place, Marcelo Bielsa takes charge of the Basque side in a one-year deal that was agreed verbally with Urrutia.
The Rosario native has managed Espanyol in the La Liga so it’s not a strange terrain for him. However, managing the San Mames club will pose a different challenge to him considering the club’s philosophy of sticking to only Basque region players donning their sacred jersey.

El Loco as he’s popularly called won the league while he was coach of Newell’s Old boys and Velez Sarsfield. He led Argentina men team to Olympics glory in 2004. He qualified Argentina and Chile to the FIFA World Cup in 2002 and 2010 respectively.
Bielsa is known for not granting exclusive interviews to the press as he believes every media talk should be done during the press conference.
He once said;

Every section of the media should get the same attention from me, from the capital’s most prominent TV channel to the smallest newspaper in the provinces”.

Let’s see how he manages the hard-to-please media of today’s La Liga. Perhaps, Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho have a word or two of advice for him.

Chile’s away form during the qualifiers must have impressed Urrutia; they had the second best away record.
Bilbao’s undoing in their race for a serious fourth place challenge in the last two seasons has been their poor form on the road as they have made their San Mames home is a fortress no club likes to visit.

El Loco has his hands full as he commences this new challenge.

Athletic Club Bilbao have started a new chapter in their club’s history. Time will tell whether the Socios voted right or not.