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La Liga January Transfers Watch: Real Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia and the rest



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Whilst the English papers continue to link all and sundry with transfers, grappling with the particularly persistent rumours of Berbatov and Anelka‘s moves to Manchester United or Chelsea, here in Spain the transfer talk is somewhat calmer.

This is for various reasons. Firstly, a rule of which most foreign commentators are ignorant states that no player may move between Primera Liga clubs if he has played in more than five competitive domestic matches (league and cup).

This leaves the vast majority of La Liga players untransferable domestically, ruling out the situations we have alluded to above, in which big clubs swarm around big-name players at smaller clubs (e.g. Anelka), thereby hitting hard the survival hopes of relegation candidates.

This rule also results in clubs having to leave out players in the last couple of weeks of action before the Christmas break, in order to preserve their transfer eligibility — a type of extension of the “let’s not cup-tie him” craze that irrevocably occurs at the beginning of each season with the Champions League qualifiers.

The few big names still available for domestic transfer tend to be recovering from injuries (for which reason they have not participated in the “magic” five official games), such as Samuel Eto’o or Edu, and are therefore fairly unlikely to be the subjects of large transfer bids. Expensive signings tend to be flown in from abroad, particularly from South America; the first example of this came yesterday with news of the near completion of the transfer of Boca Juniors’ midfielder Ever Banega to a Valencia side in need of whitewashing and renovation, a move which mirrored the expensive capture of Fernando Gago and Gonzalo Higuaín by Real Madrid last season.

However, interim moves from one continent to another, or between two leagues with very different styles (think from Serie A to the Premiership), are inherently risky, as players invariably need time to acclimatise and cannot be expected to be fully incorporated into their new clubs’ squads in a matter of weeks. Signings who are thrown into the deep end and fail to adapt often suffer from a lack of confidence, and end up unable to show their true potential until the beginning of the next season: the case of Patrice Evra here comes to mind.

The “big domestic catches” in this winter transfer window are Barça’s Santi Ezquerro and Edmilson (recovered from injury but likely to be retained as Touré’s replacement), Real Madrid’s Michel Salgado and the unfortunate Roberto Soldado, along with Depor’s injury-hit Valerón and Valencia’s Iván Helguera. It is interesting to note that of the nearly one hundred players eligible for top-flight domestic transfer, a vast amount are in their first season at their respective clubs; as is the case of Getafe goalkeeper Oscar Untari, whose early season howlers saw him unable to upend compatriot Abbondanzieri, whose form has hardly been much better.

The “big two” have few players in their sights, although Real Madrid are likely to field enquiries for several fringe players, and are, in true Merengue style, being linked with a multi-billion pound deal for world-beater Christiano Ronaldo, a transfer which would take more than the auspices of the Reyes Magos to go through. More likely, and more necessary, could be the signing of some defensive back-up, since Pepé, Heinze and Metzelder are currently in the treatment room, as well as a central midfielder to cater for the absence of Diarra during the ACN. Diego has been heavily linked to the club, particularly due to his link-up with Robinho, but the Brazilian does not really fit the Diarra mould, and would serve rather as competition for Baptista and Guti. David Albelda’s name has also been bandied about, but the Valencian would not be eligible domestically or on the European stage this side of July. The Madrid club, meanwhile, are expected to sign young Peruvian forward Sebastián Pinto , who will in all likelihood see little first-team action this season.

Barcelona, on the other hand, are on the look-out for a new reserve goalkeeper, following the injury of Albert Jorquera. Possible loan candidates are Kasper Schmeichel, Oscar Untari and even Jens Lehmann, whilst many culé fans have called for the club to take the opportunity to sign a big-name goalkeeper to replace the unpredictable, if vastly improved, Victor Valdés. Sebastian Frey has been mentioned as a possible capture. Signings in other positions are not terribly likely, since Barça are well equipped in all positions (with a surplus of talent up front and in the middle of the park), albeit with their defensive line a tad depleted.

Valencia are likely to be the big movers in the Christmas transfer stakes, with a new goalkeeper, midfielder (Banega) and forward player, replacements for the three “black sheep” (Albelda, Cañizares and Angulo), the minimum requirements. Van der Vaart continues to be linked with a move to his favourite Spanish club, but Valencia will face competition for his signature from Juventus and Real Madrid, amongst others.

So far, the transfer window has opened with barely a creak, and things have been quiet on the signings front. However, relegation candidates are expected to get out the cheque book Harry Redknapp-style in a fight to aid the cause, although the desperate rush of signings by struggling clubs does not exist to the same extent as in the UK, since the financial gap between the Primera Liga and the BBVA Segunda División is by no means as astronomical, nor is it as difficult to straddle. Almería have been the first to make their move, adding to their ranks swiftly by snaring exciting young Brazilian forward Guilherme; the former Vasco de Gama player has been deemed one of the “pearls of Brazilian football”.

Who do you think your club should sign? Which La Liga player would you like to see in the Premiership? Leave your thoughts below.