(Editor's note: Here at Barca Blaugranes, we enjoy reading your work in the fanpost section, and this article from xdxm on the summer transfer window in La Liga really deserved to be shared! Stay tuned for Part Two)
Going into the 2013-2014 season, there are still a lot of things not to like about the state of Spanish football. The lack of a collective TV deal, poor economic conditions, the LFP, and just general club-level mismanagement. All of these things are contributing to what has been coined The Great Spanish Exodus. More than 70 players have left the Spanish league this transfer window. As Sid Lowe pointed out in his excellent La Liga preview, of the 20 first division clubs, only six have been net spenders (Real Madrid, Barcelona, Villareal, Granada, Valladolid, and Elche). And It is an utter shame. A footballing nation in it's prime undermined by such gross mismanagement.
But that is not to say there is not a high level of football still being played on this side of the Iberian peninsula. Players are departing. But new players are coming in. Young, cheap players from all over the world. La Liga perseveres because of it's extensive scouting network and commitment to youth academies. Despite the so-called exodus there is still a lot to be excited about. Footballing talent in Spain just won't go away right now. And that is why we continue to watch it.
Key Additions: Suso, Rodri, Tébar
Key Losses: Charles
Newly promoted Almería will be looking to make an impression. The loss of striker Charles is enormous though, and perhaps too much to overcome. Thirty-two goals in total last season. And was undoubtedly a big part of their promotion, scoring several key goals in the promotion playoffs. Suso comes in on loan from Liverpool and is one of the brightest talents in Spanish football. Will slot in nicely in a surprisingly talented and creative midfield with former Barca B player Rodri, and Marcus Tébar who joins from Girona. In context, not a poor transfer season at all for Almería. Lack of scoring options will be a problem though. Relegation battle is inevitable.
OFFSEASON GRADE: C+
Key Additions: Beñat, Kike Sola, Balenziaga, Mikel Rico, Etxeita
Key Losses: Llorente, Amorebieta
Athletic's all-Basque player policy often inhibits them from signing top players. It is also, perhaps coincidentally, one of the reasons they are in such half-decent financial shape. Five new signings this year for Los Leones. And all five are of exceptional talent, and fill in positions of need. Beñat's level of quality goes without saying. One of the best deep-lying central midfielders in Spain, Beñat joins an already dynamic midfield with Herrera, De Marcos, Iturraspe, and Susaeta. Not to mention Mikel Rico, one of Granada's standout performers, who also joins. Kike Sola, Osasuna's top goal scorer last season, adds some punch to the forward line, and should rotate in with Aduriz. But the biggest issue last season for Athletic (minus Bielsa's poor player management skills), was their defense. Conceded an incredible sixty-five goals. Insert Balenziaga from Valladolid who was one of the best and most consistent left backs in La Liga last year. And center back Etxeita from Elche. Arguably the best individual defender in the entire Segunda last campaign. Not to mention new leadership with Ernesto Valverde. Expectations have been raised significantly. For most 2013-14 is Europe or bust.
OFFSEASON GRADE: A
Key Additions: David Villa, Léo Baptistão, Demichelis
Key Losses: Falcao
Falcao is world-class. He produced twenty-eight league goals on an often stagnant attack. And bailed Atletico out on many occasions. But now he's gone. And the only way to compensate for that kind of loss is to bring in a host of new players. All of whom will contribute in their own way. The acquisitions of Villa and Baptistão are a good start. Along with Diego Costa, Atletico now have a much more multi-dimensional forward line. All can conceivably score 10-15 league goals, maybe even more. Between the three of them Atletico should have no problem matching Falcao's production. However the problem lies elsewhere. Atletico still lack a creative option behind Turan. Unless young starlet Oliver Torres can step up this season, those dynamic forwards will not consistently get the kind of service they need to score goals. And that can be problematic. The addition of Demichelis adds some much needed depth to a very solid back line. Will play a significant role this year with Atletico's extra European games. But still two or three pieces away from seriously challenging Real Madrid and Barcelona.
OFFSEASON GRADE: B
Key Additions: Neymar
Key Losses: Villa, Thiago, Abidal
For the third straight summer Barcelona have failed to address their defensive problems. Management have obsessed over what they consider to be the ideal profile of a Barca defender e.g. Thiago Silva, David Luiz, etc. It's a narrow-minded approach. And Barcelona will continue to concede goals until the problem is resolved. The high pressure style of Tata Martino should mitigate this somewhat, but overall the current Barca administration have been nothing but incompetent in relation to their defensive needs.
Then there's Thiago. Opinions vary on who exactly is to blame for that situation. But without getting into that discussion, the loss of Xavi's backup is huge. There are now massive systematic and personnel questions regarding this team. It remains to be seen how Martino addresses all of it. The acquisition of Neymar will to some extent offset all of this. He is a world-class player, playing in a world-class attack with some of the best footballers of all-time. Should be absolutely dynamic going forward. But overall some mixed feelings regarding Barcelona right now. A lot to be excited about. And an equal amount of things perhaps not to be excited about.
OFFSEASON GRADE: C+
Key Additions: Verdú, Xavi Torres, Stephan Anderson, Guillermo Sara, Juanfran, Didac Vilà, Cedric, Lolo Reyes, Steinhöfer, Braian Rodriguez, Chuli
Key Losses: Beñat, Cañas, Pabón, Adrian, Joel Campbell
No club in Spain has been more active in the transfer market than Los Béticos this summer. Eleven players out. Twelve players in. Of the departed players, Beñat, Cañas, Pabón, Adrian, and Joel Campbell are all significant losses. Beñat and Pabón especially. Brought in on loan in January, Pabón was one of Betis' most dynamic players. Contributed eight goals as an attacking midfielder in a half season. His replacement, however, is former Espanyol star Joan Verdú. Perhaps the signing of the summer in La Liga. Came out of nowhere really. Will add a lot of creativity and consistency to a revamped verdiblanco midfield. Xavi Torres and Lolo Reyes will essentially fill the void left by Beñat. Torres is a proven La Liga player. Reyes is more of an unknown. But a lot of potential. And adds to midfield depth. Steinhöfer and Didac Vilà will fight for first team sports in defense, which has been an area of concern. With Europa games ahead, both should play an important role. Juanfran from Real Madrid Castilla and Cedric from Numancia are both very skilled, pacey wingers. Should help to stretch the pitch with Ruben Castro and Molina up front. Overall a lot of movement for Real Betis. Personnel-wise a very different team. But expect some high-flying attacking play from Pepe Mel's boys this season. Despite the number of players lost, a lot of good football ahead at the Benito Villamarin.
OFFSEASON GRADE: B+
CELTA DE VIGO
Key Additions: Charles, Nolito, Fontas, Rafhina, Aurtenetxe
Key Losses: Aspas, Lago
With Luis Enrique at the helm, a number of former La Masia players have come in to play under the legendary Barcelona man. Most notably Rafhina who arrives on loan from Barcelona. Young but extremely talented, Rafhina should contribute a lot in his first season of first division football. Will play as an attacking midfielder servicing another former Barca B player Nolito, fresh off a loan spell at Granada. Up front Charles joins from Almería. Charles was the top goalscorer in all of Segunda last year. Matching that kind of production in the Primera is unlikely, but on a squad lacking their best overall player and scorer from last season, Iago Aspas, Charles should still play an important role. More scoring options are needed though if Celta want to stay away from that relegation zone. Autenetxe's arrival on loan from Athletic will help to mitigate the loss Lago who has been nothing but consistent in his career. Opposite Hugo Mallo and the the very talented Jonny, the fullback positions look to be solidified. As it stands though, without another striker, Celta is still a mid to bottom of the table club. If Lucho can keep the Galicians safe from Segunda, the future looks bright with an excellent generation of young players coming up through the academy. One step at a time.
OFFSEASON GRADE: B-
Key Additions: Rubén Pérez, Botía, Javi Márquez, Săpunaru, del Moral, Stevanović, Toño
Key Losses: Xumetra, Etxeita
Elche's two best players from their Segunda-winning season are gone. Xumetra to Levante. Etxeita to Athletic. Romanian international, Săpunaru, from the relegated Zaragoza, and former Barca B defender Alberto Botía arrive to shore up a weakened Etxeita-less defense. But Elche are still very disciplined at the back, and shouldn't concede a lot of goals. The problem lies in attack. Xumetra was the standout in a sometimes very uninspiring offense. Stevanović and del Moral both arrive on loan from Sevilla to help subdue the loss of Elche's best attacking player. Rubén Pérez, on loan from Atletico, and Javi Márquez, on loan from Mallorca will both play centrally in midfield. Rubén Pérez, if we all remember, scored that golazo against Barcelona last season against Betis. Overall, Elche have a very good, developed defense--even without Etxeita. 16th or 17th place is more than a possibly if they can somehow find a way to score goals. Time will tell.
OFFSEASON GRADE: C+
Key Additions: Pizzi, Lanzarote, Abraham
Key Losses: Baena, Verdú, Forlín
Under Javier Aguirre, Espanyol improved dramatically after a dismal start to the 2012-13 season. Aguirre has certain motivational and intensity skills that go a long way for underachieving clubs. But without the bulk of their midfield--Baena and Verdú--the outlook is not great going into the season. With rumors suggesting the possible transfer of top scorer Sergio Garcia, it could get even worse. Verdú is a star. That kind of quality will not be matched with any of the players brought in. Lanzorote will play on the wing, rotating with Wakaso, opposite of Stuani. Abraham was very consistent at Alcorcon but cannot be expected to replace a player of Verdú's quality. Pizzi, after an excellent season at Deportivo, and now on loan from Benfica, adds some needed attacking depth. Not an exorbitant amount of quality though. Espanyol should be fine under Aguirre's guidance, but are still very middle-of-the-table. Big losses. Not very big additions.
OFFSEASON GRADE: D+
Key Additions: Lago
Key Losses: Barrada, Xavi Torres
Not a lot of movement overall from the Madrid-based outfit. Xavi Torres was very good as a central midfielder. And Barrada, after such an excellent season, will be equally missed. But former Real Madrid player Pedro Leon has been signed permanently. Alvaro Vazquez and Pablo Sarabia, both considerably talented Spanish youth internationals, will look to improve and play greater roles. Defenders Ruano and Escudero have also been signed permanently. And Lago, brought in from Celta, will be first-choice left back. Basically Getafe have signed all of their standout loanees from last season. And considering the club nearly made Europa League, that's not a bad thing at all. If the above-mentioned players like Vazquez, Sarabia, and Leon all improve the way Getafe expect them to, Europa League is again not outside the realm of possibility.
OFFSEASON GRADE: B-
Next up: Granada, Levante, Malaga, Osasuna, Rayo Vallecano, Real Madrid, Real Sociedad, Sevilla, Valencia, Real Valladolid, Villareal