Real Madrid's Benzema. / EFE

Not a quiet return to business

Several deals in the winter transfer window mean some interesting changes in top La Liga sides this new year

ROB PALMER / COMMENTATOR, ESPN

La Liga is about to explode back into action with all the leading clubs fighting for the headlines following the World Cup break.

Barcelona top the table but will be without their star man Robert Lewandowski, Real Madrid are investing in the future, Atlético have concluded some smart business and Sevilla have cast off their biggest player. It's certainly not a quiet resumption to Spanish football.

Lewandowski is used to a winter break in the Bundesliga - and he'll continue that tradition in La Liga. He would have sat out a single game for his double yellow card against Osasuna, but he chose to spout off at the referee and his suspension was trebled.

I think it's safe to say Barça wouldn't be top of the table without his goals. He tops Pichichi with thirteen goals and they'll struggle to cope without him and the recently retired Gerard Pique.

Rivals Real Madrid will be hoping that their main source of goals will be back to his best after a long recuperation. Karim Benzema returned from the World Cup early. We assumed it was to receive treatment for his injury, however a picture is emerging of a fall-out with his France colleagues. There are stories that the unrest centres around him "unfollowing" teammates on Instagram. It all seems a little childish.

Benzema is expected to be the mature leader of a Real Madrid team that is getting increasingly younger. They announced they've signed 16-year-old Endrick from Brazilian champions Palmeiras. He'll officially complete the 60-million-euro deal in 2024 when he turns 18.

This follows similar successful investments in past years for Vinícius Júnior, Rodrygo and Fede Valverde who were recruited from South America as teens. All three have established themselves at the Bernabeu. There is a quiet revolution going on in the capital with a policy to sign the best emerging talent.

England star Jude Bellingham is on the radar, and, if signed, he would sit alongside Aurelien Tchouameni and Eduardo Camavinga in a midfield worthy of succeeding the legendary combination of Casemiro, Luka Modrić and Toni Kroos. Éder Militão is still only 24 years of age and he's established at centre-half. This means that the backbone of the Real Madrid team will be under the age of 25. It is a very clever strategy from the European Champions to continually refresh the squad.

One of the players cast aside in the summer was Isco who was unveiled at Sevilla in front of 10,000 expectant fans. Sadly, he leaves just a few months later without a fanfare - as the player and club agreed to terminate his contract.

The best deal of the transfer window has to be Matheus Cunha to Wolves for a reported 50 million euros. He's a player who hasn't scored a single goal in his nineteen appearances this season. Atlético have pulled off a remarkable piece of business by offloading the Brazilian and completing the signing of Antione Griezmann for 10 million euros less.

The transfer market has been busy; let the madness begin again on the pitch.