Ruud Van Nistelrooy, Joaquin, Jeremy Toulalan, Santi Cazorla, Diego Buonanotte. It’s been busy this summer in Spain, but not where we’re used to. Sure, Barcelona have made their usual big signing with Alexis Sanchez and might add Cesc Fabregas sooner rather than later. Real Madrid? Awfully quiet. Nuri Sahin, Fabio Conterao, Hamit Altintop. No superstar, not so far at least. You never know with Real.
The busiest team has been Malaga. Quite surprising from a club that finished 11th last season and was happy about it, avoiding relegation. Sheikh Al Thani of Qatar purchased the club in June 2010. It took time for the big signings and the good time to roll. It started with Martin Demichelis (not the greatest signing in the world), Julio Baptista and Enzo Maresca. That was enough for a comfortable mid table finish, while former Villareal and Real Madrid head coach, Manuel Pellegrini orchestrated from the lines.
This summer? Explosion. No big stars, but proven, battle tested and accomplished players. At 35, Ruud van Nistelrooy hasn’t scored in double figures since the 2007-2008 season, Real Madrid’s last title. Injuries and exile to Hamburg haven’t done one of the greatest scorers in Europe for over a decade too good. But things at Hamburg were depressing, and Ruud did score 10 goals in 25 matches last season. Might be a slower paced Spanish league could do his old Dutch bones some good.
Jeremy Toulalan, French international and one of those very effective midfielder types everyone likes to have made the move from Lyon. Toulalan hasn’t developed into the new leader for France in the middle, but brings his responsibility quality and assurances theirs some one to count on in the middle of the park.
It wasn’t only about foreign talent. Joaquin, who almost made the switch to Chelsea for a lot of money over 5 years ago spent the last five seasons with Valencia. Incredible? No. He still has strength, but he’s not as lighting fast as he used to be. Still, one of the better wing men in Spain. On the left, or on either side actually, it’ll be Santi Cazrola from Villareal, Malaga’s most expensive signing, for €21 million. Worth it? I’m not sure, probably overpaying for him a bit. He’s one of the best Spanish players in the La Liga, and missed a World Cup trophy due to an injury. He was a key part in the 2008 Euro title.
The Maverick, the X-Factor, will be 23 year old Diego Buonanotte who arrived from relegated River Plate. Things should have gone differently for the tiny lad (1.61, 5’3). In 2008, after winning the Apertura for River, their last title, Buonanotte was considered to be one of the best young talents in the world. In 2009, a car crash which killed three of his friends driving with him. Bounanotte never recovered completely it seemed. He did physically, but never up there, in his head. The change of atmosphere, from hectic River Plate and the tragedy which haunted him, might do wonders.
He looked great in pre season, as did the whole team. Malaga look, if everything clicks, like a team that can challenge for a Champions League spot. The top two places in Spain are booked, like in the beginning of every season. The rest? With Sevilla, Valencia and Atletico Madrid much less fearsome then they used to be, Malaga might be the new hot name on the scene.