The January transfer market will be relatively quiet in La Liga, with clubs forced into a cautious approach by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic leaving a big hole in their budgets and lingering uncertainty looking into the future.
But some moves will happen, and Getafe, a team in dire need of reinforcements, have already snapped up a pair of rising stars from Barcelona and Real Madrid.
Take Kubo was expected to set the world alight after moving to Villarreal on loan from the Bernabeu during the summer. The mercurial Japanese winger greatly impressed towards the end of last season towards the end of his temporary stint with Mallorca, and everything looked in place for the 19 year-old to continue his ascent as he joined Villarreal.
But it hasn’t happened. Yellow Submarines boss Unai Emery never looked convinced by Kubo’s exciting but unreliable talents, instead preferring players who can offer great levels of control and consistency. The coach is also well blessed with talent in Kubo’s preferred wide right berth, with star man Gerard Moreno generally filling that role and electric Nigerian winger Samu Chukwueze first choice off the bench.
Although Kubo did gain plenty of playing time in the Europa League, he was rarely selected in La Liga by Emery, starting only two games and totalling less than 300 minutes on the field before being allowed to leave.
Getafe is a very interesting destination. The team coached by Jose Bordalas are famously hard-working and combative, and although Kubo will receive more chances than he did at Villarreal, he will definitely be expected to put in the proverbial shift – coasting through games on his technical talent alone will not be an option.
Another young talent heading to Getafe from a Spanish powerhouse is Carles Alenya, who has been almost totally overlooked by Ronald Koeman at the Camp Nou this season, gaining just one start – away to Dynamo Kiev in the Champions League – and spending only 48 minutes on the pitch in La Liga.
The move to Getafe is a big one for Alenya, who has been highly touted ever since he progressed through Barca’s youth ranks and first broke into the senior squad under Luis Enrique in the latter stages of the 2016/17 season.
Alenya clearly has talent, with an astute eye for a pass into the final third and the ability to find space in the congested areas of midfield. But, now 23 years old, he has never really convinced that he deserves to be starting on a regular basis. A loan move to Real Betis last season was a failure as he was relegated to the bench within a couple of months, and his record of 3 goals and 0 assists is an unhealthy tally from a total of 43 league appearances.
Getafe badly need Alenya and Kubo to shine. Bordalas’s team are looking a far less powerful unit than the side that nearly achieved Champions League qualification last season, and their double swoop in the January market is an attempt to address an obvious lack of creative quality which has seen the Madrid-based team only score 12 goals so far this season – the joint-lowest tally in La Liga.
Alenya’s departure leaves an already shallow Barcelona squad even thinner in resources, especially considering the long-term injury absences of Gerard Pique, Sergi Roberto, Philippe Coutinho and Ansu Fati. So will the Blaugrana jump into the transfer market for reinforcements? That looks unlikely, because the club is financially broke to the shocking extent of not even being able to afford the repair of a leaky stadium roof.
Koeman is known to be very keen on the recruitment of fellow Dutchman Memphis Depay, but there’s no way his current club Lyon will be prepared to roll over and allow one of their main players to leave easily in the middle of a title chase. So Barca’s only chance of signing Depay – or anyone else – will be selling another player to finance his purchase, and perhaps the best option would be persuading a more-money-than-sense English Premier League club to reimburse the 18 million euros they spent on Martin Braithwaite a year ago.
Braithwaite hasn’t done badly during his stint at the Camp Nou, but he is clearly short of the overall standards to wear Barca’s number nine shirt and Depay would be an upgrade. However, finding anyone willing to splash that kind of cash on a player who has scored 3 goals in 24 Barca league appearances in the current climate looks far-fetched to say the least, and finding a buyer for Braithwaite will be a tall order.
Another striker who could be on the move this month is Raul de Tomas, who currently leads the Spanish second division’s scoring charts with 12 goals after staying with Espanyol following their promotion at the end of last season.
The man known as RDT is clearly far too good a player for the second tier, as he demonstrated with a ludicrous goal from the halfway line in Espanyol’s recent win over fellow promotion-chasers Almeria. The former Real Madrid trainee is a goal-hungry predator who comes alive in the penalty area, which would make him the perfect man to rotate with Luis Suarez at the point of Atletico Madrid’s attack.
Atletico, of course, do have a spot on their roster and some funds to play with following the recent departure of Diego Costa. RDT would be a sensational replacement, but he will not come cheap: his buyout clause is 60 million euros, and Espanyol are unlikely to settle for much less as they keep their focus firmly fixed on returning to the top flight.
So Atletico may have to look elsewhere, with Real Sociedad’s Willian Jose and Arkadiusz Milik of Napoli among the reported targets – but RDT, if they can afford him, would be the number one choice.
Another club in the market for a striker is relegation-threatened Valencia, where suffering coach Javi Gracia appears to have currently avoided the threat (or maybe that should be promise) of being fired and has instead been promised reinforcements in the January market.
A centre forward to partner Maxi Gomez is just one of the requirements for Valencia, who have an even more desperate need for a central midfielder or two following the en masse departures of Dani Parejo, Francis Coquelin and Geoffrey Kondogbia at the start of the season.
The problem, though, is that owner Peter Lim looks very unlikely to sanction any high-level spending following his restructure of the club’s finances, so anybody recruited will have to come cheap or, perhaps more likely, on loan.
One surprising name to be linked with Valencia is Tottenham midfielder Harry Winks, who has seen little playing time under Jose Mourinho this season. Securing the England international would be quite a coup, even if his process of adaptation to a new league might not be immediate. And although it’s not the most obvious transfer in the world there’s one thing we should have learned about Valencia by now: always expect the unexpected.