A LOOK AT LA LIGA
There's a Liverpool fan who somehow finds me, often at a congested train station, who delights in yelling at me: "What about that Iago Aspas, eh? What a waste of money!"
He refers to an interview I conducted with his club TV station when I inferred that, on the evidence of what I'd seen of him at Celta, the Spanish striker could be a massive hit in a Liverpool shirt.
Fan-man was right of course, Aspas bombed at Anfield; but now he heads a field of players who made little impact in the English Premier League yet are developing into prominent figures in La Liga.
Try telling Blackburn and Stoke fans that Steven N'Zonzi is possibly the hottest property in the winter transfer window or Manchester City supporters that Samir Nasri and Stevan Jovetic are flourishing with a bit of Andalucian sunshine on their backs.
Aspas is the most heart-warming story. He's back at his local club Celta where he made a name for himself as the architect of their promotion and then survival seasons. It looked like they'd shipped his less-talented twin brother to Merseyside in 2013. The record books show just one goal in two years, and that was against lowly Oldham in the FA Cup.
This week he was back in the cup headlines, a scoring star at the Bernabéu for Celta. It was his 16th goal of the season; he's the top scoring Spanish player in La Liga - in fact, only Messi, Suárez and Ronaldo are ahead of him in the 'Pichichi'.
Whereas he's found his utopia, Steven N'Zonzi may just be using Sevilla as a stop-off point on the way to one of Europe's major clubs. When he was at Blackburn, his ambitious agent told me that N'Zonzi was on the radar of Arsenal. When he went to Stoke, I thought that was more appropriate. The agent clearly had the ear of Monchi, the Sevilla star-maker who invested £7 million. That was a reasonable price, and the buy-out clause of 30 million euros looked like a figure they'd just made up.
Now 30 million for a player with immense presence looks a fair market price for an all-terrain type of player who wouldn't look out of place running Real Madrid's midfield, and soon may!
Sevilla specialise in restoring players who have failed to express themselves in England, expressly Manchester City.
Samir Nasri, didn't fit the Pep Guardiola profile of a footballer and was promptly shipped out. At the Etihad there are higher profile creators and he often took second or third billing. At the Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán stadium he is the artist in residence and he's thriving in having the stage to himself.
Last week he was joined by another player who found himself surplus at City, Stevan Jovetic. It was a gamble as the Montenegrin seemed to have lost his confidence in Manchester and then Milan. His impact was immediate. A debut goal in the cup against Real Madrid won over the Sevilla supporters and a few days later, the winner to end Real's forty-game unbeaten run won over pretty much the rest of the nation.
Clearly living and working in Spain has restorative powers but if you are reading this, you clearly know that already!