BARCELONA

Real Madrid may be dominating Europe but Barça have the La Liga on lockdown with 7 out of the last 10 and they are on course to add another to their 25 titles. Their summer transfer window saw the hilarious (obviously not from an As Roma perspective) arrival of Malcom Oliveira, Arthur from Gremio, Arturo Vidal and Clement Lenglet. Barcas main concern was having too many left sided centre halves while having just 1 right sided one in Gerard Pique and the signing of Jeison Murillo has balanced things up. Barcelona fans still want a long term partner to Samuel Umtiti and Eric Abidal has been keeping tabs on Andreas Christensen, Jean Clair Todibo, Matthijs de Ligt. De Ligt is the strongest contender as he has that total football training that is valued by the Barcelona hierarchy but recent links to Todibo grow stronger. The imposing Frenchman will be leaving Toulouse for free in the summer and has been linked to the camp nou. Supporters will prefer De Ligt for his experience, ability on the ball, maturity and leadership qualities (in a Champions League group game against Aek Athens he stepped up to the fans and asked them to stop throwing flares after the game had been halted). A move though is beginning to look complicated with Barça looking set at the back for now plus Juventus and Psg are also keen admirers. Sergio Busquets remains one of the finest holding midfielders in the game but surely they must begin to prepare for life without him and another Ajax wonderkid might be the solution. Frenkie De Jong is having one hell of a breakout season and it might end with a move to one of Europe’s top dogs. Rumours doing the rounds in Dutch papers are that he fancies Psg but do not understate the allure of Barcelona. The most important business that Barça should be considering now is renewing Jordi Albas contract. With age he has matured offensively and defensively forming a tremendous relationship with Lionel Messi. It is said to be a top priority for the Catalans though. A back up/ future striker who will take up the goal scoring mantle from Luis Suarez should also be targeted as his prowess in front of goal may be on the wane and Munir El Haddadi fails to convince. There are no strong links to any striker but expect future developments especially with Alcacer sold to Dortmund. Antoine Griezmann who looked prime for a move to Barça opted to stay put so it’s obvious they already know they need a striker.

Writers suggestions

For centre forward: Timo Werner, Luka Jovic, Maxi Gomez
For holding midfield: Frenkie De Jong

ATLETICO MADRID

It is weird when you go into every La Liga season as underdog title contenders but such is what you have to deal with when you are in the same league as Real Madrid and Barcelona. Atletico did have one of the best transfer windows of teams in Europe bringing in Thomas Lemar, Gelson Martins, Rodri, Nikola Kalinic, Santiago Arias and most importantly, keeping hold of Antoine Griezmann. However certain draws have seen them drop unnecessary points but they can still mount a challenge as the currently sit 2nd on the table. Uncertainties loom large with Diego Godin, Juanfan, Filipe Luis who have all been stalwarts of the Diego Simeone era leaving in June with expiring contracts. Lucas Hernandez is a major target for Bayern who almost always get what they want but Atleti are offering them a reduced price if they can hold off till summer (Bayern want to trigger his €85 million release clause). Antoine Griezmann continues to drop subtle hints of a departure and Simeone himself might be interested in challenging himself elsewhere. Most pressing on the agenda will be Atletico’s need for a goal scorer with Diego Costa out till February (even though his goal returns have been quite poor since his return from Chelsea) and with Kalinic still taking time to settle. Maxi Gomez who is eerily similar in style to Costa is being monitored (the Uruguayan connection in the dressing room will also factor in) and they are thinking about paying his €50 million release clause. 3 defensive signings at right back, left back and centre back will soften the blows of aforementioned departures but these should be done in the summer. A goal scorer is more urgent.

Writers suggestions

For centre forward: Maxi Gomez, Kryzsztof Piatek
For centre back: Nikola Milenkovic
For right back: Elseid Hysaj
For left back: Ferland Mendy

SEVILLA

Seville’s best acquisition this summer remains coach Pablo Machin who has navigated his side to 3rs on the league standings and even top of the table at one point. Monchi may be gone but they have shown that they can still make smart acquisitions. Despite the loss of Clement Lenglet, Steven Nzonzi, Joaquin Correa, Ganso, Sergio Rico they have done brilliantly this first half of the season with their league standing and progressing from the Europa League group stage. Quincy Promes, Andre Silva, Ibrahim Amadou, Maxime Gonalons, Tomas Vaclik, Joris Gnagnon, Aleix Vidal were recruited in the summer and they look like they have a squad to secure Champions League qualification easily. Tomas Vaclik especially has been the cream of the crop with some outstanding performances between the sticks. There are no glaring weaknesses which need addressing at the moment but with Luis Muriel departing for Fiorentina, they might need a replacement. Munir El Haddadi was floated by Marca but it seems they have Morata in their thoughts. The Madrid born striker isn’t enjoying his spell at Stamford Bridge and he could be looking to inject some life into his career at Seville. Sevilla sporting director Joaquin Caparros talked briefly about Morata, indicating the player might be interested in a move saying “we are working on many names, the important thing is that the player wants to come to Sevilla”. Morata may thrive under less pressure as a sub (Wissam Ben Yedder and Andre Silva have the starting spots on lock in that 352) which brought out the best in him at Juventus and at Madrid. Batshuayi who was supposed to move to Sevilla turned them down much to the chagrin of chairman Pepe Castro but with Valencia considering the termination of his loan, he could be an option.

Writers suggestions

For centre forward: Michy Batshuayi

REAL MADRID

If you are looking for tips on ‘what not to do in a transfer window’ then look no further than Real Madrid’s summer. Real Madrid made some incredulously stupid (and this is me putting it mildly) decisions regarding transfers both ins and outs. They only let go of one of the greatest footballers of all time while expecting Marcos Asensio (whom no one really knows what he is good at or what position he functions best), Gareth Bale who can’t stay fit to save his life (he has been substituted 14 times with injury issues) and an 18 year old Vinicius Jr to be his replacement. They signed Thibaut Courtois for absolutely no reason, relegating Keylor Novas a world class goalkeeper who had the admiration of the entire dressing room to the bench. Real proceeded to let go of a promising young right back in Achraf Hakimi to sign (drum roll) another promising young right back in Alvaro Odriozola. No left back was signed to back up Marcelo and replace Theo Hernandez and there is no successor in sight to Sergio Ramos. Karim Benzema may have found his scoring boots after years of lending it to Cristiano Ronaldo but age is not on his side. This is a side in need of fresh legs and ideas in key areas. Florentino Perez continues to ignore the needs of the current squad, focusing on building a future galactico with more futuristic targets like Brahim Diaz and Exequiel Palacios but sooner or later he might have to purchase footballers who are of legal age to drink. A marquee signing to replace Ronaldo is a must. Eden Hazard continues to strut his big butt in uncle Flo’s face but he remains uninterested opting to wait for either or both of Psg’s duo of Mbappe or Neymar to become available. Mauro Icardi’s name is also consistently dropped with his wife/agent consistently on the neck of the Inter Milan hierarchy for a new contract. She is said to want €9 million yearly while Inter can only offer €7 million. His release clause of €105 million should be nothing but Madrid may be wary of the tag. Luka Modric is approaching the end and plans to replace him should be made but with Kovacic returning, that could settle itself.

Writers suggestions

For Ronaldo replacements: Eden Hazard, Mohammed Salah
For centre forward: Harry Kane, Mauro Icardi
For centre back: Eder Militao, Matthijs De Ligt
For left back: Jose Gaya, Ferland Mendy

VALENCIA

11th on the league table, suffering from drawititis and the second season syndrome, the season so far hasn’t been great for Los Che. Only Dani Parejo and maybe Santi Mina can hold their heads high after the half season they have had. Rodrigo Moreno, Goncalo Guedes, Geoffrey Kondogbia haven’t replicated their last season forms and new signings have yet to click. Guedes who was their main attacking force (especially on the counter) took far too long to arrive and didn’t get enough preseason preparations leaving him out of shape and out of form. Michy Batshuayi hasn’t clicked (rumours of a contract termination continue), Rodrigo hasn’t shown the kind of prowess that made him a transfer target for Real Madrid and worst of all is that Marcelino continues with his at times diabolical 442. Valencia look lethargic and bereft of ideas suddenly in this system leading to many draws (they havent lost that many games). Valencia need one but if possible two wingers who can create in this formation which relies heavily on the creativity of the wingers. Rodrigo has recently shown signs of improvement and the return of Santi Mina has been a welcome boost. Summer signing Kevin Gameiro has not sparkled and Chicharito is allegedly a target to replace Batshuayi but Marcelino has claimed he is fine with his strike force. A winger or two and a striker is what Valencia need to spark some life into their team or Marcelino can develop a new tactical plan.

Writers suggestions

For centre forward: Javier Hernandez
For the wings: Henry Onyekuru, Callum Hudson Odoi, Andreas Perreira

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