PSG's Kylian Mbappé. / EFE

La Liga needs its future stars

Mbappé and Haaland have to become marquee signings for Real Madrid and Barcelona this summer

Rob Palmer
ROB PALMER

In the quarter of a century since I started commentating on Spanish football – and for many years before –, the greatest footballing entertainers on the planet have performed on Iberian soil.

You name them, we've been treated to them. I started with the original Ronaldo, followed by Rivaldo, Ronaldinho, Zidane, Messi and Ronaldo. The finest footballers flooded to La Liga.

With so many talented young players developing at a multitude of clubs, the future of Spanish football is very healthy. The league just needs a sprinkle of stardust.

Mbappé has flirted with Real Madrid for a couple of years. They could have bid for him this season but chose to wait until the PSG superstar became available on a free transfer this summer.

Financially it made sense, as institutions recover from the pandemic. They also have Karim Benzema in the form of his career. I'd even argue he's matching Mbappé and Haaland this season with 24 goals and nine assists.

The problem is that Benzema is now 34-years-old – and he can't continue to defy science. When he missed the recent Real Madrid games, it became evident just how reliant they are on him.

Mbappé would be the natural partner and eventual successor to his fellow countryman and bring star quality to the Bernabéu stadium.

It's a different situation at Barcelona. They have fast-tracked some incredible young talent into the first team and the future is bright. The issue is that they have padded the team out with players who are not quite of a platinum level.

The investment of Ousmane Dembélé for €105 million, Philippe Coutinho for €120 million and Antoine Griezmann for €120 million cleaned out the coffers and meant they needed to look for bargains.

Memphis Depay, Luuk De Jong and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang are all accomplished players but are not world class. Sergio Agüero was clearly a spent force.

Haaland is of the highest quality. He has a "wow factor" on the field, will sell match tickets and thousands of shirts. He'd be a statement signing and announce "Barça are back".

The €75 million buy-out is affordable and if Coutinho, Griezmann and Dembele depart there is wiggle room on the wage bill. Imagine the Norwegian sensation backed up by Pedri, Gavi, Ansu Fati and Ferran Torres.

I can only hope that Mbappé and Haaland head to Spain. I predict there is a greater chance of Raheem Sterling and either Mohamed Salah or Sadio Mané moving from English football.

There are noises being made about Sterling wanting to prove himself on a stage as big as Manchester City's with more time in the spotlight than he's been afforded by Pep Guardiola.

Liverpool have Luis Diaz and Diogo Jota on-board as part of the Anfield evolution. It means that there is less of a need to negotiate a long-term deal with Salah and Mané who are approaching the final year of their contracts and new deals would take them into their thirties.

Right now, this is all speculation, but steel yourself for an exciting summer of transfer activity.