News round-up, from Almeria to Betis.
The holidays are over and it's 'back to school' time for La Liga's finest (and the rest).
With the clubs of Spain's top flight scattered all over the planet on pre-season duty this week, from Huddersfield to Holland, here's a wee taster of what has been going on while Barcelona and Real Madrid have been hogging the news duvet over the past couple of weeks...
In what was quite possibly a sign of things to come, the newly-promoted club yawned and pooted their way into preseason with a 2-0 defeat to Valladolid. There isn't a lot of cash splashing about at the club, which means recruitment has been restricted to freebies and loan deals. Liverpool playmaker, Suso, has been borrowed for next season. One of the great Ã¢ÂÂfutureÃ¢ÂÂ Argentinean goalkeeping talents of the past few years, Oscar Ustari, has moved to AlmerÃÂa from Boca Juniors. Beginning his career properly in Getafe probably did not help matters, although Ustari claims he is now Ã¢ÂÂa more mature goalkeeper,Ã¢ÂÂ than the version that served between the sticks at the Coliseum.
It seems to be a happy rejuvenated Athletic Bilbao camp that has been trotting around Germany, beating Eintracht Braunschweig 4-0 and getting used to the managerial stylings of Ernesto Valverde along the way. Despite the coach taking training sessions while attampting to kick himself for missing out on the BarÃÂ§a gig, the Basque camp seems to be a chirpy one.
Ã¢ÂÂThe biggest difference between Ernesto and Marcelo (Bielsa) is in training,Ã¢ÂÂ observed Carlos Gurpegui. Ã¢ÂÂThis summer we are doing more work with the ball than on physical aspects and we are appreciating it,Ã¢ÂÂ said the Athletic veteran. There are no new signings on the horizon due to the fact that there isnÃ¢ÂÂt anyone left in La Liga that Athletic are capable of buying due to their particularly picky transfer policy.
When LLL last dropped in on the Rojiblanco camp, AtlÃÂ©tico Madrid were basking in the smug glory of picking up David Villa for pretty much nothing. Well, the Rojiblanco club have continued in their disconcerting ways of planning and professionalism with a couple more deals. MartÃÂn Demichelis joins on a free transfer from MÃÂ¡laga to pitch in at the back, filling in for the Boca-bound Cata DÃÂaz.
AtlÃÂ©tico have even prepared for the day Thibaut Courtois must return to Chelsea by signing fellow-glovesman Roberto from Zaragoza. But rather than cluttering up the Vicente CalderÃÂ³n, the very excellent goalie will spend a year with Olympiakos, before returning to be the main man for the Madrid side. Meanwhile, those footballers properly with the team are currently in South America doing a cheeky tour (and losing 1-0 to Estudiantes in the process).
It's been a quiet few weeks. Not much to see here. Move along. Ha! What a wag, LLL is!
Tata Martino has arrived in the Catalan capital and will soon see a rapid expansion to his previous scant, English language Wikipedia entry once he properly takes the reins at the Camp Nou. The new coach chose to swerve the bench during BarÃÂ§aÃ¢ÂÂs 7-0 victory against Valerenga, although did do a meet-and-greet with the players. Most of the group will be back this week with the Spanish internationals (and Neymar) returning from their holidays to find a new chief in town.
Ã¢ÂÂWe need to keep the hunger for winning,Ã¢ÂÂ said Tata on the plan for the new campaign. Ã¢ÂÂIf we manage that then weÃ¢ÂÂll have some very good years in front of us.Ã¢ÂÂ The next saga is set to be the signing of the centre-back or seeing whether Manchester United are going to be succcesful with their 40th bid this summer for Cesc Fabregas.
The Verdiblancos are perhaps the hardest working club in showbiz at the moment, with the Andalusian side having already completed their seventh pre-season friendly of the summer. The past three have been taking place in England and a bunch of second and third tier sides have been on the receiving end of the Betis battering ram, with Huddersfield, Bolton and Wolves all losing out. New playmaker, VerdÃÂº, has reportedly been performing rather well. The former Espanyol player has taken over from the departed BeÃÂ±at and has manager Pepe Mel purring that Ã¢ÂÂthere is no better way of covering a wound than with someone who dazzles you.Ã¢ÂÂ