A sideways look at Spanish football
LLL has a tiny brain when it comes to football tactics. Public questions about how a manager should improve their flagging side during a game are normally answered with a muttered "tell them to play better". Then again, the blog suspects that’s what the €10m-a-year coaches of world football are doing, but writing in on a tablet computer instead.
Nevertheless, this general ignorance has not stopped LLL from stepping into Pep and José’s hand-crafted Italian shoes to tell them who they should sell and buy this summer...
BARCELONADefenceIn key games last season, Carles Puyol played at left-back and Javier Mascherano in central defence. That's a clear suggestion that some holes need to be plugged at the back – no Gerard Piqué love-life joke intended.
Barça have wasted nearly €70m in past seasons trying to find a permanent replacement to Puyol – stand up Henrique, Dmytro Chygrynskiy, Gaby Milito, Martín Cáceres. They'd have been better purchasing a crash test dummy and sticking a Deirdre Barlow wig on it.
That needs to be fixed with a poach for Milan’s Thiago Silva, as is reported this week in the Spanish press – or Nemanja Vidic, to continue the tradition of Manchester United being Barça’s centre-back feeder club – along with the promotion of one of the cantera players such as Andreu Fontás, who started five league games last season.
Knee-knacked Carles Puyol is far from being proper cover for Dani Alves at right-back, so maybe Barça should promote Spain U21 player Martín Montoya from their reserves if there isn't a Maxwell or Adriano type available for a decent price.
"Hello Leo. Need a big lad at the back?"
MidfieldConsidering Barcelona are domestic and continental champions, money's a little tight at the Camp Nou, with a kitty of just €45m plus cash from sales. With the squad already a touch on the slender side, the big question is should Barcelona splurge everything – either almost all the cash or a good slice of it with several fringe players thrown in – on Cesc Fabregas, with only a few minor players added otherwise?
LLL’s instructions are to wait a year. The midfield isn’t a priority area for reinforcement; if a despondent Cesc has a dog of a season at Arsenal he might lose €10m or so in value by next summer, when the Catalan club’s finances will be in better order. With the emergence of Spain U21 star Thiago, things seem to be fine for the Dream Boys in this department.
AttackPep should flog Bojan (wanted by Barça back-roomer turned Roma boss Luis Enrique) and Jeffren while he still can. Both seem too flimsy, not to mention being poorer copies of what Barça already have as options up front.
Rather than going for Alexis Sánchez or Giuseppe Rossi – who wouldn’t be a bad idea nonetheless – Guardiola should revert to his Big Man Up Front Plan B concept, the one which saw Zlatan Ibrahimovic brought in at huge expense but moved out due to bad ‘feeling’.
This means the purchase of Fernando Llorente from Athletic Bilbao for €30m. Since breaking into the Spain team the big forward has already proved he can fit in with the tiki-taka give-and-go fancy-pants football, so slotting in alongside so many of the same players for Barcelona shouldn’t be a problem. And Llorente’s ego isn't so inflated that he would demand to start every game either. Easy.
The blog also likes the idea of picking up Frédéric Kanouté for a year, just to have him about as a Henrik Larsson type figure.
In – Thiago/Vidic, Llorente, Thiago, Kanouté (plus Fontás and Montoya)Out – Bojan, Jeffren and Hleb (if he' still a Barça player)
REAL MADRIDDefenceMuch depends on whether José Mourinho is going to move Sergio Ramos permanently to play at centre-back alongside Pepe, Ricardo Carvalho or Raúl Albíol. If so, the middle is filled nicely. LLL would therefore suggest that skinflint Florentino Pérez gets the dusty chequebook out for once with some flying full-backs to add a bit of competition for Marcelo and Alvaro Arbeloa and zip up the wings: Gareth Bale and Maicon should be a snip at €70m between them. The sale of Ezequiel Garay can probably fund about one fourteenth of that.
"Hmm, this lot seem quite handy…"
Midfield José Mourinho has already been busy this summer, bringing in Hamit Altintop, Nuri Sahin and former Espanyol midfielder José Callejón. The first should be a handy if unexciting utility player, the second is cover for Xabi Alonso, the third is baffling.
To make room, Madrid are going to have to shift a few players. Lassana Diarra says he wants to leave, as does Lady Gago. Either of them should be easy enough to flog to Arsenal; Pepe can always cover Sami Khedira in case of injury or suspension.
Returning loanee Royston Drenthe will almost certainly leave and that’s an option that should also be taken by Esteban Granero, who's more than good enough to play for a top six team in Spain but perhaps not the top two.
Pedro León may want to think about his options as well, considering Mourinho seems to hate his guts. If Madrid are looking for another expensive splurge then LLL would recommend Santi Cazorla, just for the heck of it, although the playmaker may not fit into Madrid’s scheme of things and could be wasted on the bench.
AttackAs Mourinho is now his own sporting director, the Madrid manager is going to get his four strikers at last. At the moment these are Karim Benzema, Gonzalo Higuaín, a youth teamer called Alvaro Morata (that was the plan last season, any way) and one other spot that could well be filled by Emmanuel Adebayor.
If Madrid can agree a fee with Manchester City and wages with the striker, then the loan deal should be made permanent. If not, then €45m on Kun Agüero is a good shout – although it would create a nightmare trying to keep all the forwards happy unless Mourinho manufactures a major tactical switch for next season. As for Neymar, LLL's advice is "Run away, run away".
It may hurt Florentino Pérez to do so, but it's time to bite the bullet on Kaká and flog him to Chelsea or Manchester City on a cut-price deal and have Sergio Canales as the back-up to Mesut Özil.
In – Bale, Maicon, Adebayor/AgüeroOut – Kaká, Lassana Diarra, Drenthe, Pedro León, Garay, Granero, Gago
I disagree on most fronts concerning Real Madrid. How much sangria did you consume before suggesting that, "Much depends on whether José Mourinho is going to move Sergio Ramos permanently to play at centre-back alongside Pepe, Ricardo Carvalho or Raúl Albíol. If so, the middle is filled nicely."? The middle of the defense is very suspect. Carvalho is past his physical prime and looks like a walking injury concern just waiting to happen. Sergio Ramos is first and foremost a right back. Worst of all, Albiol does not inspire any confidence at the back, lets face it he is rubbish. Which leaves Pepe. I know some people are of the opinion that Pepe can hold down the defense all by himself at times, but that sort of work-rate is eventually going to break him. You proposed that we sell Garay when the kid is actually decent. I would rather flog Albiol because we could trick a top club into paying more for him.
The mid-field looks water tight for next year. Mourinho having bolstered again with more street-fighter types and less ballerinas- so that we can continue down the path of tryig to physically beat Barca into submission. I do agree that Diarra can be shipped purely because his attitude stinks, but I'm going to stick my neck out and say Gago should be given another chance by Mourinho. Lady, as he is affectionately known, spent most of last season crocked and I feel he has the attributes Mou enjoys. He shows technique in possession, great positioning and a wide range of accurate passing. Now if only he could shoot and put on an extra 40 pounds then he would be a carbon copy of Maniche.
In attack, we have a host of players to choose from so I would not suggest any strengthening point the promotion of Morata to the 1st team. Ademoremoneywhore should be sent back to Togo instead of Man City. Some say Kun will put in work rate beyond Benzema, others say he is lazy so I have no verdict on whether Kun would be a good addition.
If I were to pick a forward to add to Real Madrid's attack, then it would have to be Carlos Tevez, because you can be sure he would be chasing that Barca backline for the full 90.
Also do not count Kaka out of it yet, all he needs is one solid pre-season and he might just be able to turn the clock back one last time.
Out: Raul Albiol, Drenthe, Lass, Granero (as much as I hate to agree with you), Canales (loan), Adebayor
In: Quality Central-defender, Carlos Tevez.
Sidenote: Isn't that Ander Herrara something else? More than a bit special I would say- Suppose Athletic Bilbao will a good step for his career, for now that is.
Sorry Madrid can't have Cazorla, he's too much of a nice guy to go there. We will gladly take Canales and Granero if there available and if Barca want Beppe they can throw Thiago into the deal.
I know Didac from Espanyol is owned by Milan but from what I've seen in the U-21 he should move across Catalunya.
Agreed about needing to get rid of some of the players who aren't doing the business. Bojan has had ages to prove himself, he should be in an EPL relegation battle next year. Can't wait to see more of Thiago.
As for Mordor, Surely a script writer would be better news for dreaming up conspiracy theories....?
You're right about Barca's back four needing reinforcement Tim.
But to equate 'good CB' with 'good CB for Barcelona' is a bit simplistic.
Barca's high line + Vidic's lack of pace can be an obvious problem.
For that reason, even Thiago Silva might be a better fit for Barcelona.
+ Not sure about Sahin being a cover for Xabi
Never mind his quality, Kanoute's definitely cool enough to be a the world's best team...
Although if they splash out on Kun, Mou will have to deal with Kun's father in law... on second thoughts... Yeah!, go for it, Real is the team Kun was born to play for!
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