The A-Z of Spanish summer switches (part 2)

by David Bevan

As a commenter pointed out at the foot of the last article, Sami Khedira has not yet actually completed his widely-speculated move to Real Madrid. Apologies for that oversight. Hopefully, there will be no errors in the second and final section of Backpage Football’s look at the recent personnel changes in La Liga.

N is for… Novo

In much the same way that it is often discussed how quickly Spanish players can adapt to the physically draining, 100mph nature of the English game, former Rangers attacker Nacho Novo will probably find La Liga a bit of a culture shock after spending nine long years north of the border in Scotland. Novo joins Sporting Gijon.

O is for… Okoro

Almeria’s signing of Nigerian youngster Stanley Okoro is probably the most unusual incoming transfer among the summer’s dealings in Spain. Okoro is referred to as “the Little Messi” in his own country, despite being no smaller than the Argentine wizard. The moniker is instead a reference to his age – just 17 (although, as with some other young African footballers, there have been rumours about whether he is, in fact, much older). Okoro starred for hosts Nigeria at the FIFA Under-17 World Cup last year and will join Almeria’s B team for a season in the Spanish fourth division, before making the step up to the top flight after he turns 18.

P is for… Pedro Leon

The talented, creative attacking midfielder Pedro Leon makes the short journey from the suburbs of Madrid to the Bernabeu, joining Mourinho’s Real revolution after excelling last season for Getafe. How much playing time he will receive is unclear, but the 23-year-old adds important strength in depth to Los Blancos and will fill the void left by the departed Guti.

Q is for… Quique Sanchez Flores

Atletico Madrid – the reigning Europa League holders. Silly competition name aside, Quique’s achievement in winning a major trophy for Atletico last season cannot be ignored. The former Valencia manager is something of an anomaly in this list, as he remains at Atletico for the forthcoming season. But he has signed a new contract with Los Colchoneros and will aim to build on an impressive start to his Atletico career.

R is for… Raul

Raul joins Bundesliga side Schalke 04 after a glittering era at Real Madrid. More…

S is for… Suarez

Last season, Mallorca were the surprise package of La Liga. The islanders qualified for the Europa League, only missing out on the Champions League in a dramatic finale to the last game of a gruelling campaign. In fact, they miss out on the Europa League too as things stand. Villarreal take their place after it was taken from them for financial reasons. Mario Suarez will play in Europe after all, though, shifting back from Mallorca to his previous club Atletico Madrid. The capital club enforced a buy-back clause to ensure Suarez’s return. If he can replicate his form of last term, there could be more trophies at the Vicente Calderon this time around.

T is for… Toure

Fresh from further tournament disappointment in the orange of Ivory Coast, Yaya Toure swaps the blue and red of Barca for the light blue of Manchester City. Barcelona are currently attempting to replace Toure, possibly with Villarreal’s Marcos Senna or Toulouse youngster Moussa Sissoko. The form of Sergio Busquets ensured that the Ivorian was displaced from his position as first-choice defensive midfielder at the Camp Nou long ago and it is not anticipated that Toure will be missed with any great effect, especially if quality is bought in his place.

U is for… Urreta

20-year-old Uruguayan winger Jonathan Urretavizcaya makes the trip across the border from Benfica to the Riazor. Urreta will hope that Deportivo La Coruna make a better start to this La Liga season than their form in the latter half of last term suggested was possible.

V is for… Villa

How do you improve one of the best teams in the world – arguably one of the best teams of all time? Signing David Villa is a decent attempt. Many feel it was the move which made sense last summer but, even if it arrives one year too late for Barca to have retained the European Cup, Villa’s arrival at the Camp Nou makes El Clasico an even more mouth-watering prospect this year.

W is for… West Brom…

There aren’t many La Liga players whose surname begins with W, much less any that I can find who have been transferred this summer. West Brom have been active in the Spanish market, though, sending Borja Valero back out on loan to Villarreal after he impressed at Mallorca last season. They have also brought in the experienced Atletico centre-back Pablo.

X is for… Xisco

Newcastle United striker Francisco Jimenez Tejada (or Xisco, to make things easier for all concerned) is back on Tyneside after a distinctly inglorious spell on loan at Racing Santander last season. Unlikely to bring joy to the Geordies any time soon.

Y is for… Yeste

Athletic Bilbao’s admirable attacking midfielder Yeste has signed for UAE Premier League club Al-Wasl, where he is reputed to be earning 2.5million euros a year. The Basque schemer will be missed at San Mames.

Z is for… Zubizaretta

Legendary former Spain goalkeeper Andoni Zubizaretta is back on the La Liga scene, not as a player but as the man replacing Txiki Begiristain as technical director at Barcelona. 48-year-old Zubi played over 300 times for Barca during his playing career and will hope to forge a close working relationship with Pep Guardiola in order to maintain important continuity during a successful time for the Blaugrana.

Read part one of the A-Z here.

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