A LOOK AT LA LIGA
The results of Spain's summer transfer season are in. A victory for Atlético, score-draw for Real Madrid and loss for Barcelona.
The reigning champions brought back a player they sold for 120 million euros without having to pay a fee and offloaded one of their highest earners to the Premier League rather than a La Liga rival.
It was smoke and mirrors at the Santiago Bernabéu as Real Madrid gave the impression they were about to sign a new Galactico yet fell short of finding the money to snare Kylian Mbappé.
Barcelona eased their financial crisis by allowing Antoine Griezmann to return to Atlético and made a small profit on Emerson Royal who jetted off to Tottenham. The only recruit was a squad player from Sevilla.
So, a win for Atlético Madrid who improve their team for a second year in a row by taking an unwanted international class player from Barca. Last year it was Luis Suárez, this year it's Griezmann. The France star didn't make a mark at the Nou Camp. Recording twenty goals last season overshadowed the fact that he never looked comfortable in the shirt of the Catalan club.
He returns to his former battleground, the scene of his glories, to a coach who understands what makes him tick and a fan base who adore him rather than boo him. He effectively takes the place on the payroll of Saúl Ñíguez who has packed his bags and headed to Chelsea. For many it's bizarre that a player who came through the system and signed a long-term contract should be allowed to depart. In 2021 football is ruled by economics and Saúl is reported to be on an astronomical wage that he isn't justifying.
There's no harm in packing him off for a year abroad. At least he hasn't joined a Spanish rival.
Real Madrid dominated world sports headlines by their apparent interest in Mbappé, the hottest property in the game. Personally, I'm dreaming of commentating on his goals as Real enter a new Galactico era. It will remain a dream for another twelve months until he's able to move to Madrid for free. The reality was that Real's President bought headlines by associating the club with a footballing superstar. It was a courtship of convenience.
Barcelona's reputation has been torn apart by allowing Griezmann to sign for a rival and replace him with a Sevilla squad player. Luuk de Jong was an underwhelming arrival. It's a similar signing to Martin Braithwaite in the winter of 2019. Both are journeymen whose travels previously took them to the North-East of England. The Dutch striker didn't score a single goal at Newcastle United, and the Dane made little impression on Middlesbrough fans. Watch out for a signing from Sunderland in the winter.
I will offer some words of hope for Barcelona supporters. Last weekend they introduced the latest graduate from the academy. Gavi, just turned seventeen, made an immediate impression. Small, skilful, confident. He has the Barcelona DNA. Alongside him was Nico
Gonzales, son of former Deportivo star Fran. Tall, strong and imposing; he looks like he's a natural successor to Sergi Busquets.
Ansu Fati was also awarded the number ten shirt, Pedri will return refreshed from a late summer break and twenty-year-old Sergiño Dest has been the player who has consistently caught my eye in the early season games.
If you look beyond the headlines, the future may be bright for Barca with their talent pool and Real Madrid when then finally land Mbappé. Until then, it's advantage Atleti.