Diego Simeone has finally found his targetman in the post-Diego Costa era. Atletico Madrid’s big deal this summer is Kevin Gameiro, who was coveted by many clubs. But few – if any – are as attractive as Atleti.
In Madrid, he’s the starting striker for Simeone in a system that’s stable and runs through Antoine Griezmann engineering chances. Gameiro should thrive.
Simeone has had trouble trusting strikers since Costa left for Chelsea, shuffling through Fernando Torres and Luciano Vietto while loaning out Borja Baston and Leo Baptistao. Of those four players, only Torres was retained.
Atletico remain stable financially and failed to lose any key pieces from the team that took them deep in the Champions League. Griezmann, in fact, signed a new five-year contract. They go into the upcoming season as an improved team, and that’s pretty scary for the rest of La Liga.
Barcelona’s transfer window has largely been successful, and the squad as a whole has improved since last season. They’ve filled gaps and, as always, have continuity on their side.
One criticism – if you can justifiably call it that – of Luis Enrique’s side last season was that they were over-reliant on their front three. That’s a price you pay when you assemble one of the best attacking trios in the history of football, though, and any time a team has a chance to build around Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar it’s expected they will lean heavily on them regardless of who else might be in the squad.
But depth up front remains an issue unless Barça can sign a talented striker to fill in as an understudy for the attacking triumvirate. Enrique doesn’t need huge scoring contributions from the rest of his starters, but he will need someone to put the ball in the back of the net off the bench.
Barcelona’s main issue this transfer window is that few qualified strikers are willing to be afterthoughts of the untouchable MSN. They missed out on Kevin Gameiro and Luciano Vietto – both of whom are far too talented to not start in their new teams – and Gabriel Jesus was snatched by Manchester City. If the Catalans lose out on signing Valencia’s Paco Alcacer, they’ll have to rely on an unproven Munir to keep things flowing up front.
Still, what Barcelona have done this summer might go unnoticed given how low-profile their signings have been. They’ve plugged holes with solid players like Lucas Digne, Denis Suarez, and Samuel Umtiti, and will pay Valencia up to €55m for Andre Gomes. The Portuguese has yet to prove he’s worth his price tag, though.
Barcelona had a summer of problem solving. Look out for Sergi Roberto making a leap with Dani Alves’s departure, and for Arda Turan to start finding his feet.
There has been a spike in youth emphasis with Zinedine Zidane at the helm, and though many will argue that the squad is thin and they will regret not stockpiling before an impending transfer ban strikes, Real Madrid’s ‘lack of depth’ is a myth.
Florentino Perez didn’t sign Paul Pogba or Robert Lewandowski, and in what was one of the least-chaotic summers in recent memory, the team looks cool and pragmatic. Despite the alleged depth concerns, the team is at least two deep in every position. Karim Benzema’s back-up – the one who didn’t exist last season – is now present in the shape of Alvaro Morata, a striker with a knack of showing up in big games. The 23-year-old allows the team to stick with its current scheme when Benzema is unavailable, which was impossible last season without another pure striker in the team.
Many are quick to jump in and criticise Real Madrid’s squad – one that has been patched with younger players like Marco Asensio and Morata – but no one understands the team like Zidane. Players like Asensio are trusted enough to be welcomed warmly into the rotation. Zidane wants Asensio to stay, and that’s telling given that he plays in the same position as James Rodriguez, Isco and Lucas Vasquez. In fact, Real Madrid might even sell Isco or James by the time this window closes.
The biggest surprise this summer is that los Blancos stayed out of the market for N’Golo Kante and Grzegorz Krychowiak – two players who were sold at attainable fees and would have been an upgrade on Casemiro as the team’s anchor.
Unexpectedly, they also loaned out Diego Llorente to Villarreal, who could have acted as the team’s third-string defensive midfielder, but Zidane wanted to send him on a path of development similar to Borja Mayoral and Jesus Vallejo. He’ll imminently do the same with Martin Odegaard and Mariano.
That Zidane opted to stay put in midfield points to his belief in Casemiro. He’ll hope that the Brazilian makes a leap, and given that Toni Kroos is so accustomed to playing a deep role these days, he’ll look for the German to morph into a defensive midfielder in times of need.
The biggest concern is Fabio Coentrao’s health and ability to stay in form to relieve Marcelo. But Real Madrid do have Danilo and Nacho as insurance at left-back just in case.
And now spare a thought for those less fortunate...
Luciano Vietto (Atletico Madrid, loan)
Matias Kranevitter (Atletico Madrid, loan)
Ganso (Sao Paulo)
Franco Vazquez (Palermo)
Wissam Ben Yedder (Toulouse)
Hiroshi Kioyate (Hanover)
Ever Banega (Inter)
Kevin Gameiro (Atletico Madrid)
Fernando Llorente (Swansea)
Ciro Immobile (Lazio)
Grzegorz Krychowiak (PSG)
Jose Antonio Reyes (Espanyol)
It’s not that Sevilla are doing it wrong. The major changes in Andalusia were out of their control, and though they’ve been active to replace the key figures they lost, none of their signings can quite reinstate the departing charisma.
Sevilla have long struggled to keep their superstars for prolonged periods. They’ve produced and profited from grooming unproven players before selling them at higher prices, but losing head coach Unai Emery this summer was a blow that sent some dominoes falling.
It was widely accepted that Emery had finally found his home in Seville, that he could long be the face of this team, and form some continuity for them during a time of ever-changing personnel. But another big season also came at a price. He heads to Paris, deservedly, but with it deals Sevilla an uppercut by taking Krychowiak with him. The Polish anchor will be really tough to replace, and Sevilla were probably shortchanged despite getting €40m for him.
Equally calamitous was Gameiro jumping ship to direct rivals Atletico Madrid, further strengthening an elite team missing a quality striker. The Frenchman’s loss will be felt as much as anyone’s, and though Sevilla brought in Luciano Vietto on loan in exchange, the shoes to fill are big. He’s been disappointing in his first two matches with the club, but it’d be irrational to grade his arrival based on those two games alone.
It will take time, and what Sevilla have on their side is their ability to plant new seeds. Still apparent is that the Rojiblancos haven’t lost their identity despite the major facelift. They lost in the Spanish Super Cup to a superior Barcelona side, but Sevilla had stretches where they hounded their rivals and put them under severe pressure in possession. Fans can still be optimistic, but they’ll need to be patient.
Alvaro Medran (Real Madrid)
Martin Montoya (Barcelona)
Mario Suarez (Watford, loan)
Andre Gomes (Barcelona)
Sofiane Feghouli (West Ham)
Alvaro Negredo (Middlesbrough, loan)
Antonio Barragan (Middlesbrough)
Javi Fuego (Espanyol)
By the time this window is over, Valencia may have auctioned off nearly all of their key players – a terrifying reality fans at Mestalla might face.
Gomes’s big sale to Barcelona was just the beginning. After last year’s disastrous campaign, the team have insisted they won't unload Alcacer – their best remaining striker – but Shkodran Mustafi, who is without doubt their best defender remaining, is wanted by Arsenal.
Sofiane Feghouli and Pablo Piatti have also departed, and Alvaro Negredo – the striker who declined dramatically in popularity with the fans – has been shipped to Middlesbrough on loan.
Valencia’s key signings included Alvaro Medran, a young player not talented enough to make it at Real Madrid, and Nani, who despite an impressive Euro 2016, doesn’t bring the wow factor he once did as a player.
Roberto Soriano (Sampdoria)
Denis Cheryshev (Real Madrid)
Alexandre Pato (Corinthians)
Nicola Sansone (Sassuolo)
Alfred N'Diaye (Betis)
Eric Bailly (Man United)
Samu Garcia (Rubin Kazan)
Denis Suarez (Barcelona)
Villarreal are in urgent need of signing a competent striker not named Alexandre Pato. The team lost Adrian Lopez and Leo Baptistao – both leaving at the end of their loan deals – and Roberto Soldado, a player they were expecting to rely on this upcoming season, will miss the first six months of the campaign due to injury. Pato can’t be relied on to get goals, so everything is resting on last season’s 22-goal marksman Cedric Bakambu – once he's fit.
If Villarreal can land Real Madrid’s Castilla star Mariano on loan, they’ll have some insurance up front, but that doesn’t solve all their problems. The team also lost a defensive pillar in Eric Bailly, while Marcelino – their well-respected and pragmatic manager – was surprisingly sacked due to differences with the board.
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