As the second half of the La Liga season continues, Barcelona sit top of the table with a commanding lead of 11 points. Unwilling to sit patiently and let the season continue, the Blaugranas also had an extremely exciting January transfer window. But it wasn’t just Barcelona who were busy, Valencia and Atletico Madrid also spent during the window, while Real Madrid stayed idle.
So let’s have a look at how Barcelona improved their squad. While the January transfer window usually demands higher prices because of the unwillingness of teams to sell, Barcelona acquired two prized assets.
Philippe Coutinho arrived from Liverpool for €120 million, a fair price in the current transfer market. After the Neymar move in the summer, the transfer window has been extremely inflated, as evidenced by the signing of Aymeric Laporte for €65 million.
Not only does Coutinho come at a fair price, but at an ideal time in the Barcelona season. While he will not be able to play in the Champions League, he will be ushered in slowly throughout the rest of the La Liga and Copa del Rey campaigns, providing valuable rest for Andres Iniesta.
Another key signing is that of center back Yerry Mina, a 23 year-old Colombian defender, who cost the club less than €12 million. While Mina doesn’t have the experience of Laporte, he is younger and comes in with an extremely high potential, another fair value buy.
With a central partnership of Umtiti and Pique for big games, Valverde has the opportunity to allow Mina minutes in the league, especially with an 11 point lead. If the club’s plan comes to fruition, a central partnership of Mina and Umtiti (both younger than 25) will form the core of the defense for years to come (mirroring that of Puyol and Pique).
Barca also managed to reduce their wage bill with Javier Mascherano heading for China and Arda Turan, Rafinha and Gerard Deulofeu all out on loan.
Moving onto Barcelona’s closest competitor for the league then, Atletico Madrid. Atletico also signed some key quality players who will help them for the rest of the year. With the return of Diego Costa from Chelsea and the official acquiring of Vitolo (due to the transfer ban), Atletico have the attacking prowess to make a real run for the title.
Not only with two new great attacking players, but what plays in Atletico’s hand for the rest of the season is competition. Unlike Barcelona, Atletico have had an underwhelming season so far that has seen them crash out of the Champions League group stages and also lose in the Copa del Rey quarter-finals to Sevilla.
The team only has one remaining trophy to battle for and it is certain that Diego Simeone will attempt to get the best of his team in the remaining games. Atletico cannot be underestimated and with a reinforced attack, will look to storm back for the La Liga title.
Sitting third in the current league race is Valencia. The team has so far impressed all pundits and fans alike, playing beautiful and winning football. With a solid manager in Marcelino and a backbone in midfield like Geoffrey Kondogbia, Valencia has the prowess to challenge for an automatic Champions League spot.
Over the January transfer window, Valencia added former Arsenal midfielder Francis Coquelin and Luciano Vietto from Atletico. These two players are extremely talented and if given the right opportunities can blossom in La Liga.
Valencia addressed their squad inefficiencies over the January window and added more attacking prowess and depth. It will be interesting to see if Marcelino can continue to motivate his squad to perform week in and week out.
Lastly, currently placed fourth in La Liga, Real Madrid did a lot of… nothing. In terms of world football, Madrid’s shambolic La Liga campaign has shocked fans, pundits, and players alike.
A team that triumphed handily over Barcelona in the Super Cup looked like a team ready to challenge for a treble. Since then though, their results have been horrible and the Madrid that shows up in the Champions League looks completely different than the La Liga version.
In the January window, Madrid did not to any business both in buying and selling players. Of the squads that needed a possible injection of quality and depth, Madrid certainly would be close to the top of the list. Instead, they have sat silently and seem content with trying to salvage the campaign with the current squad.
Ultimately, this year, Barcelona has not played a card wrong. Their brilliant start to the season continues and they are in contention for three trophies. Not letting the success of the current season undermine their potential for growth in the future, Barcelona has signed two players in the January window who could form the backbone of this team in the years to come.
For now, Blaugranes fans have the right to be excited and hopefully, come May, this team will provide a third treble to a club that deserves exactly that. Visca Barca