Eight young La Liga stars to watch this season

Sport360 staff 19/08/2016
La Liga prospects, Fornals, Oyarzabal and Santi Mina.

From Marlos Moreno to Marco Asensio, the impending La Liga season promises to bestow yet another cracking two terms of action-packed Spanish football.

Here are eight young exciting prospects within the Iberian Peninsula, passionate fans must keep an eye on.

MARLOS MORENO, 19 (Deportivo La Coruna)

Manchester City held off plenty of competition to secure the services of this highly-regarded Colombian forward, who played four games in his national team’s Copa America campaign this summer. City immediately loaned Moreno to Deportivo for the season, but they regard him as a serious long-term prospect and his progress will be monitored closely by more than just the fans in north-west Spain.

MIKEL OYARZABAL, 19 (Real Sociedad)

One of the most eye-catching individual performances in La Liga last season was delivered by Real Sociedad’s teenage winger against Barcelona in April, when Oyarzabal rounded off a brilliant display – in only his 10th league start – with the winning goal. Oyarzabal joined La Real at the age of 14, finished the season with six goals and underlined his progress by earning a five-year contract at the Anoeta.

JORGE MERE, 19 (Sporting Gijon)

This imposing central defender has already earned the trust of Sporting boss Abelardo, being promoted to the starting XI during the final weeks of the season as a brilliant run of form – including wins over Atletico Madrid and Sevilla – avoided relegation. He will become an even more fundamental player this season and his long-term future probably lies in a much more high-profile environment.

PABLO FORNALS, 20 (Malaga)

The sharp rise of this richly gifted and audaciously-confident attacking midfielder was recognised in May, when he made his international debut for Spain in a friendly against Bosnia-Herzegovina. The fact he had only played once for the under 21s shows the speed of the progression made by Fornals, who will expect to become a regular in the starting XI this season.

ANTONIO SANABRIA, 20 (Real Betis)

The Paraguayan striker enjoyed a decent season with Sporting Gijon on loan from Roma last year and has now moved permanently to Betis. Will have plenty of opportunities as the Sevilla-based club look for a long-time successor to Ruben Castro, and if he can click with another highly-regarded youngster, Dani Ceballas, Betis could enjoy a strong season.

MARCO ASENSIO, 20 (Real Madrid)

Former Mallorca starlet Asensio is back with his parent club after sparkling on loan with Espanyol, and capped a fine pre-season by scoring a spectacular long-range strike in Los Blancos’ UEFA Super Cup win over Sevilla. Another loan move is a possibility for a player Vicente Del Bosque claimed he nearly took to Euro 2016, but wherever he plays expect more fireworks from Spain’s brightest young prospect.

PIONE SISTO, 21 (Celta Vigo)

Celta’s pain over the departure of Nolito to Man City could be significantly softened by the arrival of Danish international winger Sisto from Midtjylland. His performances in the Danish top-flight attracted at-ention from plenty of big clubs but Celta pulled off a coup to secure his signature and he should benefit from the attractive style employed by coach Eduardo Berizzo.

SANTI MINA, 20 (Valencia)

Amid the doom and gloom of a worrying preseason at Mestalla, one cause for optimism is the presence of versatile young forward Mina. He endured a mixed first season after moving from Celta Vigo but the departure of Alvaro Negredo will provide more opportunities and Los Che desperately need the Spain under 21 international to step up and prove his credentials.

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La Liga 2016/17 team guide

Sport360 staff 19/08/2016
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La Liga guide

Although the big three of Barcelona, Real and Atletico Madrid are extremely likely to dominate the title race once again, there is optimism that La Liga will be more competitive than in previous years thanks to a realignment of television revenues.

The financial gap between the top teams and the rest is less pronounced than in the past, evidenced by the fact that middle-ranking clubs like Real Betis and Villarreal have been able to spend considerable sums in the transfer market this summer.

Another major focus is the continued development of the league’s brand overseas, and we can expect more afternoon kickoffs for the big clubs in a bid to attract the massive Asian market.

La Liga’s growing global profile is reflected in the increase of foreign investment into clubs, with Espanyol and Granada both now under the control of Chinese ownership and – as with English football – this route is likely to be increasingly well trodden in the near future.

On the pitch, La Liga’s claim to be the best league in the world is backed up by the success of Spanish teams in European competitions, and it would be a major shock if Barca and the two Madrid teams don’t feature in the latter stages of the Champions League once again.

Overall, the state of the league is perhaps healthier than it has been since the Spanish economy crashed eight years ago, but the soaring commercial success of the English Premier League means nothing can be taken for granted.

Here’s our comprehensive team-by-team guide.

ALAVES

alaves

Manager: Mauricio Pellegrino
Last season: 1st, Segunda Division
Key ins: Deyverson (Levante, loan), Ibai Gomez (Athletic Bilbao, free), Edgar Mendez (Granada, free), Ruben Sobrino (Manchester City, loan), Christian Santos (NEC Nijmegen, free)
Key outs: Javier Carpio (Cadiz, free), Sergio Pelegrin (Elche, free), Juli (Cordoba, free), Sergio Mora (Murcia, free)
Star man: Toquero
One to watch: Kiko Femenia
Prospects: Returning to the top flight after a decade absence, Alaves won the Segunda Division with a veteran squad which has been largely dismantled. The many new signings must settle quickly.

ATHLETICO BILBAO

bilbao

Manager: Ernesto Valverde
Last season: 5th
Key ins: None
Key outs: Carlos Gurpegi (retired), Unai Lopez (Leganes, loan), Ibai Gomez, Alaves, free)
Star man: Aritz Aduriz
One to watch: Inaki Williams
Prospects: Experienced boss Valverde has a settled squad and will expect his team to mount a serious top-four challenge, although they are perhaps over-reliant on veteran striker Aritz Aduriz and expecting the 35-yea-old to emulate his 20 league goals last season is a little ambitious. Will therefore need the likes of Williams and Iker Munian to show greater consistency.

ATLETICO MADRID

atletico

Manager: Diego Simeone
Last season: 3rd
Key ins: Kevin Gameiro (Sevilla, €32m), Nico Gaitan (Benfica, €25m), Sime Vrsaljko (Sassuolo,€16m), Diogo Jota (Pacos de Ferreira, €7m)
Key outs: Borja Baston (Swansea, €18m), Luciano Vietto (Sevilla, loan), Matias Kranevitter (Sevilla, loan), Jesus Gamez (Newcastle, free)
Star man: Antoine Griezmann
One to watch: Thomas Partey
Prospects: If Kevin Gameiro can maintain the form he showed with Sevilla last season and help Griezmann out on the goal front, this could become Diego Simeone’s strongest Atletico squad to date. Serious title contenders again.

BARCELONA

barcelona

Manager: Luis Enrique
Last season: 1st
Key ins: Samuel Umtiti (Lyon, €25m), Lucas Digne (Paris St Germain, €16m), Andre Gomes (Valencia €35m), Denis Suarez (Villarreal, €3.5m)
Key outs: Dani Alves (Juventus, free), Sandro (Malaga, free), Marc Bartra (Borussia Dortmund, €8m), Thomas Vermaelen (Roma, loan), Adriano (Besiktas, €500,000)
Star man: Lionel Messi
One to watch: Samuel Umtiti
Prospects: With a revamped squad designed to avoid the late-season fatigue which threatened to derail last season’s double-winning campaign, Barca can challenge for the lot – if MSN stay fit.

CELTA VIGO

celta de vigo

Manager: Eduardo Berizzo
Last season: 6th
Key ins: Pione Sisto (Midtylland, €5m), Jose Naranjo (Gimnastic Tarragona, €1m), Facundo Roncaglia
(Fiorentina, free)
Key outs: Nolito (Manchester City, €15m)
Star man: Fabian Orellana
One to watch: Sisto
Prospects: The departure of key forward Nolito will hurt, but Celta have made great progress in the last couple of years and should manage a comfortable midtable finish at least. The added burden of European football could also put pressure on a squad that has plenty of quality, but nowhere near as much depth as other sides.

DEPORTIVO LA CORUNA

deportivo la coruna

Manager: Gaizka Garitano
Last season: 15th
Key ins: Florin Andone (Cordoba, €4m), Marlos Moreno (Manchester City, loan), Carles Gil (Aston Villa, loan), Raul Albentosa (Derby County, free), Emre Colak (Galatasaray, free)
Key outs: Manuel Pablo (retired), Fabricio (Besiktas, free) Cani (Real Zaragoza, free)
Star man: Lucas Perez
One to watch: Marlos Moreno
Prospects: All change at the Riazor, with a new manager and practically a new team. Hot-shot Perez remains a Depor player for now while former Eibar boss Garitano has the ability to maximise the resources at his disposal and they could do well.

EIBAR

eibar

Manager: Jose Luis Mendilibar
Last season: 14th
Key ins: Pedro Leon (Getafe, €2m), Bebe (Rayo Vallecano, free), Yoel (Valencia, loan)
Key outs: Borja Baston (Atletico Madrid, loan return), Saul Berjon (PUMAS, free), Keko (Malaga, €4m)
Star man: Pedro Leon
One to watch: Takashi Inui
Prospects: The tiny Basque club enter their third top-flight season needing to replace last season’s strike force, with Baston responsible for 18 league goals. Much of their success last term came due to a brilliant start, they need to produce the same otherwise expect them to be among the leading relegation candidates.

ESPANYOL

espanyol

Manager: Quique Sanchez Flores
Last season: 13th
Key ins: Leo Baptistao (Atletico Madrid, €3.5m), Roberto (Olympiacos, €3m), Martin Demichelis
(Manchester City, free), Jose Antonio Reyes (Sevilla, free), Javi Fuego (Valencia, €3m)
Key outs: Marco Asensio (Real Madrid, loan return), Burgui, (Real Madrid, loan return), Jose Canas (PAOK, free), Joan Jordan (Real Valladolid, free)
Star man: Felipe Caicedo
One to watch: Leo Baptistao
Prospects: An exciting era dawns at the Cornella-El Prat, where Chinese ownership has allowed a summer spending spree to spark high expectations of a top-half finish.

GRANADA

granada

Manager: Paco Jemez
Last season: 16th
Key ins: Jeremie Boga (loan, Chelsea), Jon Toral (loan, Arsenal), Gabriel Silva (loan, Udinese), Guillermo Ochoa (loan, Malaga), Tito (free, Rayo Vallecano)
Key outs: Isaac Success (Watford, €14m), Ruben Rochina (Rubin Kazan, €10m), Youssef El Arabi (Lekhwiya, free)
Star man: Fran Rico
One to watch: Jeremie Boga
Prospects: With attack-minded ex-Rayo boss Jemez in charge, the forthcoming campaign will be anything but dull – but much-changed Granada face another battle against the drop due to question marks over a defence which shipped 69 goals last term.

LAS PALMAS

las palmas

Manager: Quique Setien
Last season: 11th
Key ins: Kevin-Prince Boateng (AC Milan, free), Mateo Garcia (€400,000, Instituto)
Key outs: Juan Carlos Valeron (retired), Wakaso Mubarak (Panathinaikos, free)
Star man: Kevin-Prince Boateng
One to watch: Jonathan Viera
Prospects: After a remarkably-successful conclusion to last season, hopes are high the Canary Islanders will enjoy another campaign in mid-table. Viera is a class act and if Boateng – who has a point to prove after two largely wasted seasons – can click, they could be one of the most aesthetically-pleasing sides to watch.

LEGANES

leganes

Manager: Asier Garitano
Last season: 2nd, Segunda Division
Key ins: Gabriel Pires (Juventus, €1m), Adrian Marin (Villarreal, loan), Unai Lopez (Athletic Bilbao, loan)
Key outs: None
Star man: Alexander Szymanowski
One to watch: Gabriel Pires
Prospects: Anything but relegation would be a huge success for the top-flight newcomers, who are
desperately lacking quality as they approach their first season in Spain’s top tier after 88 years as a club. Their 8,000-seater Butarque Stadium will be a novel addition to La Liga but will also be crucial if they are to survive the drop as they must ensure they remain strong at home.

MALAGA

malaga

Manager: Juande Ramos
Last season: 8th
Key ins: Keko (Eibar, €4m), Bakary Kone (Lyon, €1m), Jony (Sportin Gijon, free), Diego Llorente (Real
Madrid, loan), Sandro (Barcelona, free)
Key outs: Raul Albentosa (Derby, loan return), Duje Cop (Sporting Gijon, free), Ricardo Horta (Sporting Braga, loan), Roque Santa Cruz (Olimpia, free)
Star man: Ignacio Camacho
One to watch: Pablo Fornals
Prospects: Experienced new manager Ramos has an intriguing new set of players at his disposal, with plenty of youthful attacking talent to build upon the good work of predecessor Javi Gracia. If all the pieces click, they could make a real push for Euro.

OSASUNA

osasuna

Manager: Enrique Martin
Last season: 6th, Segunda Division
Key ins: Oriol Riera (Deportivo, loan), Jaime Romero (Udinese, free), Fran Merida (Huesca, free), Goran
Causic (Eskisehirspor, free)
Key outs: Mikel Merino (Borussia Dortmund, €4m), Luis Martins (Granada, loan return)
Star man: Roberto Torres
One to watch: Kenan Kodro
Prospects: Sneaked into the top flight through the play-offs despite finishing sixth and losing 12 games during the regular season, and face a big battle to prolong their stay beyond one season. Defeat to Numancia, Cadiz, Eibar and Rayo in preseason don’t exactly bode well for the new campaign.

REAL BETIS

real betis

Manager: Gustavo Poyet
Last season: 10th
Key ins: Tonny Sanabria (Roma, €7.5m), Aissa Mandi (Reims, €4m), Felipe Gutierrez (Twente, €3m), Jonas
(Montpellier, €2.5m), Riza Durmisi (Brondby, €2m)
Key outs: Alfred N’Diaye (Villarreal, €8m), Jorge
Molina (Getafe, free), Heiko Westermann (Ajax, free)
Star man: Ruben Castro
One to watch: Nahuel
Prospects: After returning to the top-flight with a solid mid-table finish in May, the Sevilla-based team have made some strong additions over the summer and should be aiming for more of the same as new coach Poyet takes his first coaching job in Spain.

REAL MADRID

real madrid

Manager: Zinedine Zidane
Last season: 2nd
Key ins: Alvaro Morata (Juventus, €32m)
Key outs: Jese Rodriguez (Paris Saint-Germain, €25m)
Star man: Cristiano Ronaldo
One to watch: Marco Asensio
Prospects: Either Florentino Perez is growing patient is his old age or Madrid have experienced a frustrating summer with little to no activity from a club who regularly spend in excess of €100m. They will, of course, be competiting for every honour and while Morata does provide another option in attack, their lack of cover in defence could prove an Achilles heel come the end of the season.

REAL SOCIEDAD

real sociedad

Manager: Eusebio Sacristan
Last season: 9th
Key ins: Willian Jose (Deportivo Maldonado, undisclosed), Juanmi (Southampton, €2.5m), Geronimo Rulli (Manchester City, loan)
Key outs: Andre Ayew (West Ham, £20.5m), Alberto Paloschi (Atalanta, £6m), Eder (Lille £3.4m, Bafetimbi Gomis (Marseille, undisc)
Star man: Imanol Agirretxe
One to watch: Mikel Oyarzabal
Prospects: Hopes are high the San Sebastian club will become a force to be reckoned with in Eusebio’s first full season. Carlos Vela is temperamental and inconsistent but if they can keep him happy, they have the firepower to challenge for Europe.

SEVILLA

sevilla

Manager: Jorge Sampaoli
Last season: 7th
Key ins: Ganso (Sao Paulo, €10m), Joaquin Correa (Sampdoria, €10m), Wissam Ben Yedder (Toulouse,€9m), Hiroshi Kiyotake (Hannover, €6.5m), Matias Kranevitter (Atletico Madrid, loan)
Key outs: Kevin Gameiro (Sevilla, €32m), Grzegorz Krychowiak (PSG, €30m), Ever Banega (Inter, undisclosed), Coke (Schalke, €3m)
Star man: Vitolo
One to watch: Juan Munoz
Prospects: A fascinating season in store at the Andalusians, who return to the Champions League with a highly-rated new coach and a vastly changed squad. They could be magnificent or flop spectacularly.

SPORTING GIJON

gijon

Manager: Abelardo
Last season: 17th
Key ins: Duje Cop (Cagliari, free), Jean-Sylvain Babin (Granada, free), Moi Gomez (undisclosed, Villarreal),  Burgi (Real Madrid, loan), Fernando Amorebieta (Fulham, free)
Key outs: Jony (Malaga, free), Luis Hernandez (Leicester, free), Tonny Sanabria (Roma, loan return),
Bernardo Espinosa (Middlesbrough, free)
Star man: Carlos Castro
One to watch: Burgui
Prospects: Avoiding relegation was a big achievement last season, and realistically that can be the only ambition for Sporting again after a summer which saw several key players depart.

VALENCIA

valencia

Manager: Pako Ayestaran
Last season: 12th
Key ins: Nani (Fenerbahce, €8.5m), Martin Montoya (Barcelona, free), Alvaro Medran (Real Madrid, free)
Key outs: Andre Gomes (Barcelona, €35m), Sofiane Feghouli (West Ham, free), Alvardo Negredo (Middlesbrough, loan), Danilo (Sporting Braga, loan return), Antonio Barragan (Middlesbrough, €3m)
Star man: Paco Alcacer
One to watch: Zakaria Bakkali
Prospects: These are turbulent times for Los Che, with the rumoured sale of striker Paco Alcacer to Barcelona and centre-back Shkodran Mustafi to Arsenal the latest in a long line of worrying developments. Could get worse before it gets better.

VILLAREAL

villareal

Manager: Fran Escriba
Last season: 4th
Key ins: Denis Cheryshev (Real Madrid, €10m), Alfred N’Diaye (Real Betis, €8m), Alexandre Pato
(Corinthians, undisclosed), Roberto Soriano (Sampdoria, €15m), Nicola Sansone (Sassuolo, €13m)
Key outs: Eric Bailly (Manchester United, €35m), Samu Garcia (Rubin Kazan, €5m), Denis Suarez
(Barcelona, €3.5m), Tomas Pina (Bruges, €3m)
Star man: Cedric Bakambu
One to watch: Alexandre Pato
Prospects: A traumatic summer saw manager Marcelino fired and key striker Roberto Soldado suffer a long-term injury on the dawn of the season. Will struggle to maintain recent standards.

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Five big money buys in La Liga

Sport360 staff 18/08/2016
Spain's expensive summer signings.

The La Liga season begins as Malaga host Basque side Osasuna on Friday evening.

Here are five highly-valued signings that made their way into the Spanish division during the summer festivities.

ROBERTO SORIANO (Villarreal)

AGE: 25
POSITION: Centre-Midfield

NATION: Italy
FROM:
Sampdoria
FEE: 
€14m (Dhs57.9m)

The German-born box-to-box midfielder rarely shies away from asserting his dominance and is a worthy adversary around the centre circle. His off-the-ball and defensive contributions don’t justly reflect his near-flawless passing with 83% accuracy, most of them short, however.

FRANCO VAZQUEZ (Sevilla)

AGE: 27
POSITION: Attacking-Midfield/Forward
NATION: Italy
FROM: 
Palermo
FEE: 
€15m (Dhs62.1m)

The Italian scored 18 goals and registered 17 assists in his previous two seasons for Palermo and has already clocked game time in Spain with Rayo Vallecano, netting three goals in 18 games during the 2012/13 campaign. Vazquez fancies taking on defenders, is a defender’s nightmare and is flexible to role changes in attack.

SAMUEL UMTITI (Barcelona)

AGE: 22
POSITION: Centre-back/Left-back
NATION: France
FROM:
Lyon
FEE: 
€25m (Dhs103.4m)

The Frenchman boasts an eye-opening average of 38 games played per season since 18 years of age which can be attributed to his underlying confidence in his role. Umtiti rarely cracks under pressure or commits inattentive defensive errors but rather perfectly picks the right moments to hold the ball or launch a terrifying attack. Barcelona have consistently shown their weakness in defence since Carles Puyol’s departure, a difficulty alleviated by the former Lyon centre-back.

NICOLAS GAITAN (Atletico Madrid)

AGE: 28
POSITION: Winger/Attacking-Midfield
NATION:
Argentina
FROM: 
Benfica
FEE: €25m (Dhs103.4m)

After two Champions League defeats in recent seasons, the Atleti outfit have spent wisely with acquisitions such as Kevin Gameiro and Nicolas Gaitan. The Argentina Benfica winger accumulated 15 assists in Portugal’s top division last season and has helped the Eagles claim nine trophies. Gaitan has a wealth of European experience which will come in handy as Los Colchoneros seek to claim that elusive Champions League title.

ALVARO MORATA (Real Madrid)

AGE: 23
POSITION: Striker
NATION:
Spain
FROM: 
Juventus
FEE: €32m (Dhs132.4m)

Following two life-changing seasons with Italian titans Juventus, Alvaro Morata finds himself back home in Madrid after appearing in eight of his last 28 La Liga appearances during his first stint. Since then the 23-year-old has scored 27 goals in 93 appearances for the Bianconeri, even knocking out his boyhood club in the 2014/15 Champions League edition.

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