One club is recruiting players with no immediate ambitions. Another has run out of Galacticos to target. A third is a continuous revolving door of transfer activity, whilst a fourth is spending big after years of selling off the family jewels to keep the debt-collectors from the door. That is the story of the transfer window so far for last season’s La Liga top four, a group that is sometimes spending big, but seems to be spending wisely.
In terms of transfers, Barcelona have been in a bit of a bind. The club has been sniffing around, trying to plug gaps, but with its hands tied behind its back – like an 80s Tory cabinet minister – due to the FIFA ban which prevents any signings from playing until January.
To this end, the profile has been a top, top player, for whom doing diddly-squat for six months is A-OK if it means eventually turning out for the Camp Nou club. This excluded Paul Pogba, for example, but certainly not Arda Turan, who gladly left Atlético Madrid having grumbled about the amount of running the midfielder had to do under Diego Simeone. No wonder he started hurling boots at match officialsc last season – a cry for help through the medium of a ten-match suspension that never arrived.
The only other splurge by Barcelona so far has been the incorporation of the right-flanker Aleix Vidal as cover for Dani Alves in both the present and future. Considering the Spaniard was playing for Sevilla when Barca came a’calling, it is likely that Vidal would sit on the sidelines wearing an Easter bonnet for five years if it meant being first choice at the Camp Nou.
Elsewhere, Thomas Vermaelen back to something that equates fitness will be akin to a new signing to stiffen the backline. The only main departure is set to be that of Pedro. Rather than recruit a direct replacement, Luis Enrique may consider allowing Munir another shot at some first team action. That particular passage for Masia graduates has been quite blocked of late.
Compared to summers of the recent past when Toni Kroos, Gareth Bale and James Rodríguez has arrived, the close-season for Real Madrid and seen shutters shut and the entire house snoozing for two months. The club has even been willing to let David de Gea do all the pushing in a move from Old Trafford back to the Spanish capital.
So far, the incorporations into the team have been positively low-key, with a couple of loanees returning to fight for a place on the bench for Copa del Rey games, as well as goalkeeper Kiko Casilla from Espanyol and right-back Danilo. He will give some competition to Dani Carvajal.
Rafa Benítez has said the only incorporations made would be to improve on what the team already has. Poppycock of course, as the Real Madrid no more has the ability to influence signings at the club than control the temperature of his cheesecake-stuffed fridge – according to José Mourinho – using only the power of his mind.
Bayern’s Mario Gotze could be one particular signing for the double whammy that Florentino Pérez has heard of the World Cup winner and that the German forward is a footballer that the club really doesn’t need. Watch this space.
The really big movers and shakers in Spain have been Atlético Madrid and Valencia, the former by necessity and the latter by choice. In the Rojiblancos’ world, two pieces of last season’s attack have gone – an annual event for what will always be a selling club in its core – with Mario Mandzukic heading to Juventus and Arda Turan to Barca.
Those funds into the Atlético account, along with the sale of Mario Suárez and Toby Alderweireld, has seen Diego Simeone having some fun with the capture of Jackson Martínez and fellow forward Luciano Vietto, a young Argentinean who joined from Villarreal. Combined with Antoine Griezmann, the attacking options for Atletico are quite tasty. Despite Fernando Torres still being there.
The defence also sees some changes, with the completely brilliant Miranda opting to ply his trade with Inter Milan. Centre-back Stefan Savic has joined from Fiorentina, but it is likely that Diego Godín will play alongside his Uruguay international teammate José Giménez. With Felipe Luis and Juanfran returning, it’s a back four made of Irn-Bru and girders.
The club which normally has the least to spend out of the big boys has now splurged the most with a net spend of £51.45m – a sign of the funding of new owner Peter Lim. About a third of that was spent on Portuguese players – not a surprise considering the nationality of coach Nuno and unofficial sporting director Jorge Mendes.
Full-back Joao Cancelo and midfielder André Gómez have been signed from Benfica after loan spells last season. Other recruitments that had a test drive last year were Alvaro Negredo and Rodrigo, to complete a forward line that has Spanish international Paco Alcacer and the exciting prospect from Celta Vigo, Santi Mina.
If the club manage to keep hold of Nicolas Otamendi, who started to the summer as a wantaway but returned from his holidays with a more placable attitude, the Valencia squad is looking rich. Not quite enough to win the title, but more than enough to keep the top two and Atlético Madrid on its toes.