Gareth Bale back on form, Barcelona’s situation is downgraded from catastrophe to crisis, the Alavés board are the first to blink and Diego Costa will return to Atlético Madrid. That’s what we’ve learned from our first month of La Liga!
Remember August when Neymar’s move to Paris was signalling the end of life as we knew it at the Camp Nou? It was a soap-opera with daily plot-lines. Ousmane Dembélé arrived with a full fanfare and soon disappeared with the sound of a pinging hamstring.
The long hunt for Philippe Coutinho was fruitless and the fans had to make do with a Brazilian teammate shipped in from China. It would be fair to say Paulinho’s arrival was underwhelming but he’s developed into a cult hero.
He emerged as a match-winning substitute at Getafe and followed this up with a goal on his full debut against Eibar. Countinho’s chances of reviving his dream move may be scuppered by his fellow countryman and Spurs reject.
Paulinho is the poster boy for Ernesto Valverde’s quiet revolution. The new coach fully established himself by taking off the legendary Andrés Iniesta and Ivan Rakitic and replacing them with Denis Suárez and Paulinho as his team struggled last weekend. Both replacements scored.
Valverde has made his mark as Barcelona have made the perfect winning start to the season while Real Madrid’s cloak of invincibility has a tear in it.
The only player to win absolute plaudits is Luka Modric. He’s just celebrated his 32nd birthday which is normally long past the disposable date for a Madridista but he is by far the most consistent player currently turning out for the champions. This is a far cry from the days when he was the victim of the Bernabéu boo-boys whose most recent target has been Gareth Bale.
The Welshman looked a sluggish version of his old self in the early weeks of the season and it appeared that he’d become the first 100-million-euro player to suffer a crash in confidence. It all came back in a turbo-charged flash against Real Sociedad when TV technology captured him reaching the speed of a racehorse on a run to goal where he finished like a footballing thoroughbred.
He was back to his best against Real Betis but sadly for his team this wasn’t the same for the rest of them. A run of scoring in 73 consecutive games ended with a last-minute loss to the rejuvenated Real Betis. The unexpected defeat has thrown open the whole season and shows just how quickly football can turn.
In May Alavés were hailed as the fighting underdog who had made it to the cup final and their coach was head hunted by Premier League Southampton. Mauricio Pellegrino’s replacement lasted just four games, though; Luis Zubeldia couldn’t complain at his dismissal after a run of four successive defeats.
And finally, the worst kept secret is confirmed as Atlético Madrid announced that Diego Costa will return once their ban on signing players is lifted. The only concern is that Costa will remain in exile back home and look what happened when another great striker, Ronaldo, returned from South America without following the fitness regime to the exact letter?