Assessing the Premier League’s imports from La Liga

Daniel Storey

Over the years, many players have made the switch from La Liga to the Premier League, some with more success than others. For every David Silva, there is a Roberto Soldado. So far this summer, nine players have migrated north in search of glory – we take a look at their chances…


Álvaro Morata – Real Madrid to Chelsea – £58m
Morata’s strengths and weaknesses have been discussed ad nauseum since he was heavily linked with Manchester United earlier in the summer, and the debate has grown ever more intense since he eventually joined Chelsea last week. Although clearly a talented player, he has spent much of his career in the shadow of his more celebrated team-mates, having played second fiddle to Carlos Tevez at Juventus and the so-called ‘BBC’ front three at Real Madrid.

Now cast in a lead role at Chelsea, this season will be a test of how well he can perform in the spotlight. He certainly has the ability, and scored an impressive 15 league goals in 26 La Liga appearances last season, of which only 14 were starts. But Diego Costa’s goalscoring feats will be hard to follow, and Morata now has to prove that he can be a team’s main source of goals, having barely had a chance to do so in his career so far.


Danilo – Real Madrid to Manchester City – £26.5m
As the least pricy member of Pep Guardiola’s shiny new full-back collection, many have questioned the logic of Danilo swapping a bit-part role in Madrid for a bit-part role in Manchester. While he was largely unable to supplant Dani Carvajal as Real Madrid’s first-choice right-back, he was a more-than-able deputy, and can also fill in at left-back or in central midfield if necessary. This versatility should see him become a key part of the City set-up, as squad depth will be crucial for a team with designs on Premier League and Champions League glory.

Danilo will most likely be used in rotation with Kyle Walker, and will provide cover for Benjamin Mendy at left-back as well. Although £26.5m is a huge amount of money by anyone’s standards, amid the current orgy of overspending this represents pretty good value for a man with two Champions League winners’ medals in his cabinet.


Vicente Iborra – Sevilla to Leicester – £12m
Leicester’s unlikely title win of 2016 and subsequent Champions League exploits have earned them a great deal of respect in Spain, so much so that Sevilla’s club captain felt that a chance to move to the Foxes was too good to pass up. In truth, Vicente Iborra was surplus to requirements at Sevilla given the rise of Steven N’Zonzi and the return of Éver Banega, but that’s not to say he won’t be a good signing for Leicester; after all, he was a key player in each of Sevilla’s three consecutive Europa League triumphs.

Iborra’s natural position is in defensive midfield, but he can also be deployed in a more advanced role, and even as a Fellaini-esque auxiliary striker. This versatility combined with his experience and leadership qualities should make him a hit at the King Power.


Roque Mesa – Las Palmas to Swansea – £11m
After six years with Las Palmas, midfielder Roque Mesa has decided to swap life in the year-round sun of Gran Canaria for the less hospitable climes of South Wales. The moustachioed midfield master has excelled for Las Palmas since their return to the top flight in 2015, and has all the attributes to be a success in the Premier League.

The only midfielder with a better pass completion rate in La Liga last season was Real Madrid’s Toni Kroos, while only Steven N’Zonzi of Sevilla made more successful tackles. He is similar in style to his compatriot Santi Cazorla, with a strength that belies his diminutive stature, as well as a metronomic passing ability. With these qualities, Mesa will add some much-needed strength and creativity to the Swans set-up as they look to improve on their near-disastrous performance last season.


Florian Lejeune – Eibar to Newcastle – £8.7m
The signing of French centre-back Florian Lejeune may have underwhelmed some Newcastle fans, but he will surely provide some much-needed solidity at the back as the Magpies look to consolidate their Premier League status following promotion from the Championship. Lejeune impressed with his performances in the heart of Eibar’s defence last season, helping the over-achieving Basque side to a top-half finish.

Lejeune strength and aerial presence should prove to be an asset, and despite his gangly appearance he is comfortable with the ball at his feet. At 26 years of age, his best years are still ahead of him, and the £8.7m paid could yet prove to be a bargain.


Sandro Ramírez – Málaga to Everton – £5m
Everton have gone big in the transfer market this summer, and Ronald Koeman has revamped his squad with the intention of turning the so-called ‘big six’ into a ‘big seven’. The sale of Romelu Lukaku will leave a huge hole up front, but the purchase of Sandro Ramírez for one-fifteenth of the price recouped for Lukaku will go some way to bridging that gap.

The former Barcelona player scored 14 goals for Málaga in La Liga last season, and his performances since joining the Andalusian club last year make his £5m release clause seem laughably small. The fact that Sandro was all set to join Atlético Madrid before the confirmation of their transfer ban should be an indication of the calibre of player Everton have signed.


Mathew Ryan – Valencia to Brighton – £5m
Australian goalkeeper Mathew Ryan hasn’t left any lasting impression on La Liga since his move to Valencia in 2015, having served as understudy to Diego Alves throughout his time in Spain’s third city. He has only made 10 unremarkable appearances in La Liga, conceding 14 goals, and spent the second half of last season on loan at Belgian side Genk.

Ryan cited a desire for more game-time as his reason for leaving Valencia, and his wish looks set to be granted after Brighton made him their record signing following their promotion to the Premier League.


Javier Manquillo – Atlético Madrid to Newcastle – Undisclosed
Newcastle’s signing of full-back Javier Manquillo doesn’t really fit the bill for this piece, as he has played far more in England than he ever has in Spain. In fact, he has only made six La Liga appearances in his career, of which the last was in February 2014. In that time, he has spent two spells on loan in the Premier League, firstly with Liverpool in 2014-15, and then in Sunderland’s disastrous 2016-17 campaign.

It’s fair to say he had a tough time in a frankly shambolic Sunderland side last season, but his performances on loan at Marseille in the previous season show that there is a good player in there somewhere. Newcastle fans are mostly less than thrilled by the signing, but Rafa Benítez will be hopeful he can get the best out of Manquillo, who may benefit from finally having a permanent home after a somewhat nomadic career so far.


Kiko Femenía – Alavés to Watford – Free
New Watford manager Marco Silva was able to pick Kiko Femenía up for nothing after the expiration of his contract following a strong season at Deportivo Alavés. He was first choice right-back last season as the newly-promoted Basque side defied expectations by finishing ninth and reaching the Copa del Rey final, and his speed, dribbling and crossing ability will make him a useful option for the Hornets.

Whether he will be first choice next season remains to be seen, but at the very least he will provide decent cover and competition for Daryl Janmaat.


Dan Bridges