Everything in our worlds revolves around FC Barcelona, but there are 19 other teams participating in La Liga this season with aspirations of their own, including one team making their first division debut.
There were other departures this offseason from La Liga other than Cristiano Ronaldo to Juventus, with old Real Madrid teammate Mateo Kovacic on loan to Chelsea being one of them. Also going to Chelsea is Kepa Arrizabalaga from Athletic Bilbao for a transfer fee that Bilbao may have trouble spending on just Basque players. Jefferson Lerma will be joining Kepa in the Premier League, going from Levante to Bournemouth after a promising World Cup with Colombia. Maybe the busiest team in Spain during the transfer window has been Real Betis, parting with young midfielder Fabian Ruiz as he joins Carlo Ancelotti and Napoli in Italy. Sevilla lost a major piece of their midfield to Italy as well with Steven Nzonzi heading to Roma.
La Liga teams did an admirable job staving off the deep pockets of the Premier League and added plenty of talent in their own right. The two biggest teams in Madrid obviously strengthened their squad with Los Blancos bringing in Chelsea’s Thibaut Courtois and promising Brazilian winger Vinicius Junior and Atletico Madrid beefing up their creativity with Thomas Lemar from AS Monaco and Gelson Martins from Sporting CP. Real Betis also raided the Sporting CP cupboard via Portuguese midfielder William Carvalho while Sevilla took advantage of AC Milan’s merry-go-round up top to snag Andre Silva on loan. Valencia and Villarreal boosted their attack with Michy Batshuayi from Chelsea and Karl Toko Ekambi from Angers respectively, while Athletic Bilbao spent some of their Kepa money to bring left-back Yuri Berchiche back to the northern part of Spain from Paris. Celta de Vigo is looking younger in the midfield with the additions of Fran Beltran from Rayo Vallecano, Mathias Jensen from Nordsjaelland in Denmark and the mercurial Sofiane Boufal on loan from Southampton. At the moment, Girona have not added any new pieces to last year’s successful puzzle, but they will head into the new campaign with a new face on the touchline. Eusebio Sacristan, having been sacked from Real Sociedad in March, will replace Sevilla’s new manager Pablo Machin at the Estadi Montilivi. The biggest manager change of course happened at Barcelona’s rivals, with Julen Lopetegui taking over for the three-time defending Champions League winners.
Some known commodities in La Liga have swapped uniforms for the coming season, headlined by Alvaro Odriozola moving from Real Sociedad to Real Madrid and Rodri going from Villarreal to Atletico Madrid. Many times, these kinds of move wind up hurting their former club more than they help their new club. Speaking of that trend, Gerard Moreno will be taking his 16 goals last season from Espanyol to Villarreal. Unless the other team in Barcelona make a splash in the rest of the window, they will be losing more than half (Marc Navarro scored one goal and left for Watford) of their 33 total La Liga goals from a season ago. The man brought in to replace Moreno is Borja Iglesias, on loan at Real Zaragoza last year from Celta de Vigo. One of Japan’s World Cup stars Takashi Inui is moving from Eibar to Real Betis, who rounded out their signings with Catalan goalkeeper Pau Lopez from Tottenham, who made his mark last season on loan at Espanyol,
La Liga fans will be quite familiar with two of the newly promoted sides as Rayo Vallecano makes their return to the top flight after just two years in the Segunda Division and Real Valladolid returns for their 42nd season in the top flight. The new boys in town are SD Huesca, having slowly made their accent through the levels of Spanish football since they were founded in 1960. They are led by a remarkable number of players loaned from other sides, including Moi Gomez (Sporting Gijon), Pablo Insua (Schalke) and Cucho (Watford), to name only a few of the nine total rentals. Rayo Vallecano comes in as the Segunda Division champions, Huesca as the runners-up and Real Valladolid as the winners of the promotion play-offs, beating out Real Zaragoza, Sporting Gijon and Numancia.
Depending on the efforts of the three promoted sides, La Liga should be more challenging for everyone this season after Deportivo La Coruna, Las Palmas and Malaga were all relegated without more than a whisper last season. Deportivo had a decent spring and were the best of the bunch, but were still 14 points away from safety on the final match day. A reminder of how much 14 points was last season; this is the same differential that Barcelona won the league over second-place Atletico Madrid.
VAR. Year one of the technology that Barcelona and Sevilla saw firsthand during the Spanish Super Cup will certainly have its ups and downs. The term should be synonymous with Luis Suarez by November.