Spanish football heads into the post-Cristiano Ronaldo and Andrés Iniesta era as the 2018-2019 La Liga season begins this weekend.
With these two greats of the modern age having moved on, AFP Sport picks out six new signings to watch in the coming campaign.
Thomas Lemar (Atlético Madrid)
Position: Attacking midfielder/winger
Previous club: Monaco
Atlético Madrid made the biggest signing of the summer in Spain, spending €72-million on Lemar. The left-footed 22-year-old, who hails from the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe, is the latest member of Monaco’s 2017 French title-winning side to move on. Lemar’s association with national team colleague Antoine Griezmann will be particularly interesting to watch.
Previous club: Bordeaux
Iniesta has gone to Japan and the biggest signing coming into the Camp Nou is Brazilian winger Malcom de Oliveira. He was a surprise arrival from French side Bordeaux, with Barça agreeing to pay €41-million to sign him on a five-year deal. The champions moved for Malcom after giving up their pursuit of Chelsea winger Willian. Adept at coming in from the right wing on to his left foot, Malcolm scored 12 goals in Ligue 1 last season. He offers coach Ernesto Valverde a valuable option in attack.
Arturo Vidal (Barcelona)
Previous club: Bayern Munich (Germany)
Barcelona’s summer has also been notable for their failure to complete the signing of Griezmann, and for Paulinho’s return to China. The decision to bring in Chilean midfielder Vidal gives Valverde another experienced option in midfield as the Catalans seek to retain the title and end Madrid’s hegemony in the Champions League. Vidal has won league titles in each of the past seven seasons in spells with Juventus and Bayern, and he also played in the Juve team that lost to Barcelona in the 2015 Champions League final.
Thibaut Courtois (Real Madrid)
Previous club: Chelsea
Rather than a marquee name to replace Ronaldo, Real’s biggest signing is a new goalkeeper. Belgian number one Courtois returns to Spain from Chelsea on a six-year deal for a reported €35-million. Keylor Navas is still at the Bernabéu, but Courtois should usurp him as first-choice goalkeeper after being granted his wish to come back to Spain, where his children live with his ex-partner. Courtois joined Chelsea in 2011 but was immediately loaned out to Atlético Madrid and spent three years there, winning La Liga with Diego Simeone’s side in 2014. He has hailed his move to Real as “a dream come true”.
William Carvalho (Betis)
Previous club: Sporting
Portuguese international midfielder Carvalho has long been linked with a big money move abroad from Sporting. Finally this summer the transfer happened, with Carvalho joining the players who left the Lisbon side after they were the victims of a violent attack by a gang of masked fans at their training ground. But rather than move to England, the Angolan-born Carvalho has joined Europa League hopefuls Betis. The Seville side will hope his arrival helps to push them towards the top of the table.
Michy Batshuayi (Valencia)
On loan from: Chelsea
Valencia are gearing up for a return to the Champions League and have moved to strengthen in attack, with French striker Kevin Gameiro joining from Atlético for a reported €16-million. Batshuayi’s arrival is particularly interesting. The Belgian international joins on a one-year loan from Chelsea, where he has struggled to establish himself since signing from Marseille two years ago. But he did well on loan at Borussia Dortmund in the second half of last season, and if he can carry that form on throughout this campaign, Valencia could be a fearsome proposition going
forward. — AFP