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Six new signings to watch in LA liga

12 Aug 2013 00:46:51

Six new signings to watch in LA liga

Six key signings to look out for as the new La Liga season gets underway on Saturday:

NEYMAR (Barcelona)

By a distance the most discussed transfer in Spanish football this close season was Neymar's 57 million euro ($74m, £48.7m) move from Santos to Barcelona.

The 21-year-old had long been linked with a move to the Spanish champions, but Barca's 7-0 two-leg humiliation at the hands of Bayern Munich in last season's Champions League semi-final accelerated the Catalans push for an extra option in attack.

How Neymar combines with World Player of the Year Lionel Messi remains to be seen, but as he showed in a starring role at the Confederations Cup in June, the Brazilian international has the pace, skill and finishing ability to give Barca the reliable scoring outlet apart from Messi that they have lacked in recent seasons.

ISCO (Real Madrid)

Somewhat scorned by Barcelona's dominance of the Spanish national team in recent times, Real Madrid have invested heavily in two of the squad that helped Spain retain their Under-21 European Championship title in June.

Isco was the first to arrive for a reported fee of 30 million euros after leading Malaga to the quarter-finals of the Champions League last season on their first participation in the competition.

However, whilst the 22-year-old has shone brightly in pre-season, he may find first-team opportunities in his preferred play-making role behind a main striker limited at the Bernabeu due to the presence of German international Mesut Ozil.

ASIER ILLARRAMENDI (Real Madrid)

Having secured Isco, Madrid then spent 38.9 million euros to activate Illarramendi's release clause from Real Sociedad in a move intended to see the 23-year-old eventually succeed the ageing Xabi Alonso.

Like Alonso, Illarramendi has a fine range of passing and is most effective playing just in front of the back four.

And whilst the incredible wealth of midfield options available to new Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti may make it difficult for Illarramendi to claim a place in the side straight away, he will see plenty of minutes as Alonso is rested for the more straightforward league games later in the season.

DAVID VILLA (Atletico Madrid)

As soon as Neymar's move to Barcelona was confirmed it seemed inevitable that Villa would be on his way out of the Camp Nou and Atletico have arguably done the best business of the transfer window by snapping up Spain's all-time record goalscorer for an initial fee of just 2.1 million euros.

Diego Simeone's side were in the market for a striker having sold Radamel Falcao to big-spending Monaco and it is hoped that a regular place in the side and playing as a central striker as opposed to the wide position he occupied at Barcelona will see Villa recover his golden touch in front of goal.

Until breaking his tibia midway through the 2011-12 season, the 31-year-old had scored at least 20 league goals for 10 straight seasons and should he repeat that figure, Atletico will be well-compensated for the loss of Falcao who scored 70 goals in his two seasons in the Spanish capital.

BENAT ETXEBARRIA (Athletic Bilbao)

With so little money being spent by those outside the big two, the most significant transfer between two Spanish clubs not involving Madrid or Barca was Benat's return to Athletic Bilbao from Real Betis for eight million euros. The Basques were still flush with cash from the sale of Javi Martinez to Bayern Munich for 40 million euros last year and struggled mightily last season having failed to replace the Spanish international.

Whilst Benat offers a lot more flair and less power than Martinez, he should make an excellent signing for Athletic with the service he provides allowing Ander Herrera, Oscar de Marcos and Iker Muniain to recover the form they showed in the 2011/12 season when Athletic reached both the Copa del Rey and Europa League finals.

Benat's excellent delivery from set-piece situations will also be a handy asset as with the likes of Mikel San Jose, Kike Sola and Aritz Aduriz in their ranks, Ernesto Valderde's men will be extremely dangerous from corners and free-kicks.

KEVIN GAMEIRO (Sevilla)

The biggest transfer fee paid by a club outside the big two was Sevilla's capture of Gameiro from Paris Saint-Germain for a reported 10 million euros.

A former French international, Gameiro had seen his playing time with the French champions severely limited by the signing of Zlatan Ibrahimovic last season but could be given a new lease of life in a very new-look Sevilla side.

Spanish internationals Alvaro Negredo and Jesus Navas have both gone to Manchester City, but Gameiro should still be able to rely on decent service from Ivan Rakitic and Piotr Trochowski as he returns from nearly a year out through injury.


AFP

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