In the world of the Spanish La Liga, there is only room for two teams. Even if both Barcelona and Real Madrid don’t enter this season as champions, something that hasn’t happened in ten years, the focus is always on them and on the signings they’ve made this summer – Luis Suarez, Ivan Rakitic, James Rodriguez and Toni Kroos to begin with. We all know there’s going to be more.
Atletico Madrid? It feels as if a championship doesn’t mean anything. It can’t erase the financial gap between them and the two giants of Spanish football, or the gap between them and Atletico Madrid, who “took” Diego Costa and Filipe Luis away from them. Atletico Madrid have made proper signings to replace players in each position, but it’ll be on the shoulders of Diego Simeone and his ability to built a unit out of these individuals that determines if this once again will be a three-horse race or back to normality.
Despite needing defenders more than anything, Barcelona began this off season by making other kinds of signings. Maybe the biggest change is on the sidelines. A return to someone from within the system, a method that worked so well for five seasons under Pep Guardila and Tito Vilanova, who might have been the perfect person to carry on with what Guardiola started, but cancer got in the way of that future.
Luis Enrique worked in other places and is now back. Should it be something that’s praised? Something to look forward to? He certainly isn’t lacking talent. Barcelona did sell Cesc Fabregas who felt like someone in the wrong place for the entire three seasons there. A player from La Masia, but he learned his football in London under Arsene Wenger. Not the midfielder Barcelona wanted or hoped for.
Luis Suarez is a signing that is a game changer. Like Gareth Bale for Real Madrid last season, but probably a better player. Only he can only come back once his ban is over. For now, it’s about practicing on his own and staying in shape. He’ll be back just before the first Clasico of the season. Barcelona didn’t stop there, and made more changes – not just their front trio, with Pedro probably being the one who’ll suffer once Suarez comes back to play alongside Messi and Neymar.
Ivan Rakitic is fresh blood to a midfield that started to rot last season. We’ll never know if keeping Thiago and not bringing in Fabregas would have aided Barcelona avoid the calamities of last season, but feels like the case. Rakitic is going to be big help, and might be a sign of big changes, as Andres Iniesta takes over for Xavi while Rakitic slides in comfortably.
Ter Stegen and Claudio Bravo were both brought in to be goalkeepers. The young German is probably first in line to be the successor of Victor Valdes – Barcelona have been after him for a long time, but after what we saw from Bravo in the World Cup and throughout last season in San Sebastian, this might become a goalkeeping situation like the one in Real Madrid, only without a clear fan favorite.
Jeremy Mathieu is the one transfer that was needed but no one understands. A solid centre back, but not very young, not very cheap, and possibly not good enough to fix all these woes Barcelona have. The rumor mill suggests it isn’t over – that Mats Hummels or Marquinhos from PSG will be coming. The summer isn’t over for Barcelona.
Real Madrid haven’t won a championship in five of the last six seasons, but the Champions League title calmed everyone down. No managerial changes, and nothing too bombastic in the transfer market in terms of buying everyone and everything. Too major signings: James Rodriguez and Toni Kroos, can’t be ignored. Yet this isn’t a case of overloading a certain position.
Xabi Alonso or Sami Khedira will be on their way out. Khedira right now seems like the likelier person to leave. Angel di Maria has been on the verge of being sold to PSG or even Manchester United since the World Cup. Isco has also been a name mentioned as if his future in Real Madrid isn’t going to be a long one. We’re not going to see Rodriguez and Kroos reach a packed midfield with too much competition.
As always, Real Madrid aren’t done. They’re never done. However it is interesting that they’ve lost to Barcelona in almost every major chase in recent years: Suarez, Neymar, David Villa. We’re probably going to see another striker added now that Alvaro Morata has been sold and Jese, even if he is healthy, can’t be the one relied upon to help out when Karim Benzema is going through one of his weird phases.
Atletico Madrid are the defending champions and who knows, maybe Siemeone is good enough to make them the best, just barely, for another season. Last year it almost didn’t happen as Barcelona missed out on the final day of the season. Yet there’s a feeling that last season was something special, unique. Now, with an allegedly weaker team, competing with two sides that have no intention of slowing down their spending, Atletico Madrid and the rest of the La Liga are getting ready for another season of watching two teams battle it out on their own.