With just a month to go until La Liga kicks off, teams have been beefing up, signing high profile names, role players and a young core to develop. The Spanish transfer window closes on September 2 but teams in La Liga have really splashed the cash. The top three teams, Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid have gone on a spending spree forking out $340m, $263m and $222m respectively which is more than two-thirds of the league’s total. This is staggering compared to last year.
Overall, La Liga teams have spent $1.2bn on new players according to TransferMarkt which is 24% more than last year. In the last eight years, La Liga teams have increased spending by over $822m from $386.7m in the summer of 2011.
Madrid have added Eden Hazard from Chelsea, Barca have signed Antoine Griezmann from Atletico Madrid while Atletico Madrid made Joao Felix their most expensive player ever. But how does all this impact this coming La Liga’s season?
Last season ranks as one of the worst in Los Blancos history in recent times. Three different managers, 19 points off of Barcelona in La Liga, Champions League round of 16 exit and no silverware, made 2018/19 one to forget. They had to go all out to strengthen and revamp their squad to be able to challenge again.
Hazard remains one of the best footballers on the planet but how does Zinedine Zidane fit him into his team? Can he fill the void left by Cristiano Ronaldo? If Zidane can get the best out the Belgian forward, Madrid will be a force again. Furthermore, Madrid’s five signings will also address most of the problems they had last season but is it enough for them to challenge for La Liga and the Champions League?
If they can make a few additions of a forward to support Luka Jovic and Karim Benzema and Hazard, a midfield cover for Casemiro and another centre-back option, they’ll have done some good business. So far, however, the Los Blancos are a more solid team compared to last year’s side.
Barca have made two high profile signings this summer. Midfielder Frenkie de Jong and forward Antoine Griezmann. Although they won the Liga the Blaugrana faithful felt like their season was a failure. A shambolic and nightmarish night at Anfield saw them give up their three-goal advantage losing 4-0 to Liverpool and getting knocked out of the Champions League, again. This was an embarrassment of the highest order and it is still shocking that head coach Ernesto Valverde is still at the helm because the team has lacked continuity.
Still, Barca with Lionel Messi are still a force to reckon with. But just how will Griezmann fit in at the Camp Nou? At first glance, he feels a bit like a luxury buy. With Messi, Luis Suarez, Coutinho and Ousmane Dembele already at the Camp Nou, they are filthy rich in the attacking areas.
Griezmann has played in almost all positions in the front three and he would give Valverde new-found flexibility. Furthermore, he seems tactically acclimatized to how Barca have been playing which means his impact should be swift. Creatively, it would relieve some of the burden on Messi, and perhaps goal scoring front for him and Suarez as well.
Nonetheless, I expect Barcelona to go all out in La Liga and the Champions League. If and when they get Neymar, it would be game over.
Atletico were also not left behind. Griezmann will be replaced by Félix, their most expensive player. The 19-year-old is an extraordinarily talented second striker and many have spoken in hushed tones about him as a future Ballon d’Or winner. He scored 20 goals and provided 11 assists for Benfica last season, compared with Griezmann’s 21 goals and 10 assists. However, the investment is still a significant gamble.
With the old guard gone, a guard that were the bedrock of Atletico’s success in the past few years, Diego Simeone must now build another team or perhaps introduce a new identity, a drastic shift from the ‘cholismo’ philosophy, with the new players he’s got. Can this team who have a long and proud history of being underdogs challenge the top two dogs next season?
These three teams have shown they have ambitions with their signings this summer. Barcelona are potent than ever, Madrid have a match-winning superstar in Hazard while Atletico have a talented forward in Felix. Next season promises to be a hard-fought but entertaining campaign in La Liga given the players who will be plying their trade there.