Early birds chase winter signings
The Spanish Liga has only just started warming up its engines but the rumours of winter signings have crept onto the scene already. An early awakening in the quest for January talent comes as a surprise after a record breaking summer.
Six league games into the season and La Liga clubs are already searching for new blood. Names of potential signings are being mooted in what appears to be a somewhat hasty approach, given most teams are still adjusting to their current squads.
But is this a reflection on the bad management during the summer months, leaving squads short of new signings? The possible logic behind it finds the root of the problem at Real Madrid. The club broke all records on spending, bringing in the best of the best for Florentino Pérez's new scheme. The club's policy also meant that other clubs ended up with the leftovers. Having set world prices as high as they have ever been, Real Madrid's opulence rendered other clubs' offers as unacceptable in the current state of affairs.
Now the giants seem to be content with their new stars, it's time for the rest to place new bids in a more settled market, or so it might seem.
FC Barcelona made a single extravagant purchase in Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and a €25 million punt on Dmytro Chyhrynskiy, but coach Josep Guardiola ended his spending with an understated purchase of Maxwell, with prices rocketing, saying he would have liked to sign more players but the club couldn't compete financially with Real Madrid. It is now when the Catalan champions aim to close in on players that were out of their reach two months ago and at the top of the list is Robinho from Manchester City.
The former Real Madrid player was tipped to join Barça in August but Mark Hughes' proposal of letting the Brazilian international go in exchange for the Argentinean star Leo Messi was received as somewhat of a joke by Barcelona and Robinho was hastily dismissed as a candidate for Pep's new project. The last attempt by the Catalans during the Trofeu Joan Gamper friendly against City on August 19 was refused again by the English side, but Barça don't give up easily and Robinho now tops the club's winter wish list.
Injuries have restricted him to just two appearances for City this campaign but he produced some glittering displays last season, netting 14 goals in 31 Premier League games. Despite City investing heavily in a wealth of new talent, it is rumoured the Brazilian thinks it's time to move on - his destination being back to the Spanish League.
"Of course I would like to play for Barca. Who would not? We could have so much fun," he told El Mundo Deportivo. "It would be a pleasure to play alongside [Lionel] Messi, my compatriot Dani Alves, Xavi, [Andres] Iniesta, [Zlatan] Ibrahimovic, with them all.
"They're a great team. I've played against them and know their quality. But right now I can only do it on the PlayStation. It is a pleasure to watch Barca play. They look like the best Brazilian team with the way that they use the ball. Pep Guardiola's team is truly spectacular."
And Barça full-back and Brazil team-mate Dani Alves insisted he would welcome his fellow countryman with open arms.
"He's a magnificent player and an even better person," Alves insisted this week in the Barça press room. "If it's really possible to sign Robinho, then he will be very welcome. He can contribute with different things and good ones at that."
But Alves' Brazil team-mate isn't the only one in Barça's sights. German international Mesut Özil from Werder Bremen is also tipped to land in Barcelona. The 20-year-old Turkish-born striker is a prominent star of both the Bundesliga and Joachim Löw's squad and, despite his short time in top flight football, he would be a good investment for Guardiola.
"For the moment it's not up to me, but it is a dream of mine to play for Barcelona. To achieve that, I have to work hard, very hard", Özil said recently.
Then there's the current European and Dutch top scorer, Luis Suárez. The Ajax striker is also under Barça's spotlight, but the Uruguayan has also been linked in the press with Atlético Madrid, a rumour that Suarez remains coy about.
"The season has just started and to tell the truth, there hasn't been any contact with either Barcelona or Atlético", Suárez said. Although it would not be first time that a player had refuted a rumour before signing on the dotted line.
While Barcelona can still rely on a winning team and a solid squad, Atlético's summer efforts were more concentrated on selling players than strengthening the team, so the winter transfer window would be, forcibly, the ideal time for the Madrid side to make up for lost time. Suárez plays alongside Diego Forlán in the Uruguayan national team, a strong bond which could be decisive if the Ajax star were to decide to up and leave the Eredivisie.
"We do well together, but to play alongside Diego [Forlán] is luxury, both personally and professionally", admitted Suarez.
Another Atlético target could be Milan Jovanovic from Standard Liege. The Serbian international has allegedly already received an offer from Atlético, although the player could arrive at the end of the season on a free transfer. The only problem is that Valencia are also keeping a close eye on the Belgian league star.
The Spanish league spent €53.7 million in the January 2009 window, €41.5 million of which was paid out by Real Madrid, while Barcelona and Atlético Madrid didn't spend a cent. This season it looks like the tables will turn and, without the spectre of Real Madrid looming over the European market, it's a golden chance for their rivals to send the cheques flying.