There may not have been a new Galáctico superstar signing at Real Madrid this summer, and Barcelona have focussed more on bringing in young, versatile players to add balance and competition for places within their squad, rather than splash €80 million in another Neymar or Luis Suárez. But there has still been plenty of interesting acquisitions made by La Liga clubs this summer.

Some have come relatively cheap, in adherence to the model of bringing in young, undiscovered players with the potential for huge re-sale value that clubs like Sevilla and Villarreal have become known for.

While others have stretched the budget of the buying club a little more: André Gomes moving from Valencia to Barça for €55 million, for example, or Álvaro Morata’s return to Real Madrid from Juventus for €30 million.

But, regardless of price, here are the five signings – who are all newcomers to La Liga – that could have the biggest impact in Spain’s top division this season.

Samuel Umtiti

Barcelona have signed Samuel Umtiti from French side Lyon for €25 million. The 22-year-old central defender was superb last season, as he helped l’OL finish runners-up to Paris Saint Germain in Ligue 1.

So impressive were Umtiti’s performances that when Jeremy Mathieu and Raphaël Varane were ruled out of Euro 2016 with injuries, France boss Didier Deschamps drafted the Cameroon-born defender in to take their place. And when Adil Rami’s tournament was also ended by injury, Umtiti made his senior international debut in the quarter-finals of the tournament against Iceland.

Umtiti’s coolness under pressure and sublime passing skills made him a natural fit at the highest level, and he went on to star for Les Bleus in the semi-final against Germany and the disappointing final defeat to Portugal.

Umtiti will become an asset for Barcelona due to his physicality, speed and, above all, passing ability.

The Frenchman will be able to slot into the Barça backline to partner either Gerard Piqué of Javier Mascherano, who are comfortable in possession and accomplished passers in their own right. But it is Umtiti’s vertical passing that sets him apart. When the Blaugrana build from the back, midfield pivot Sergio Busquets is the man who collects possession in deep areas and looks to break through the opposition’s first line of defence with penetrative passes; Umtiti is also able to do this, offering Barça a new dimension.

Umtiti will become a mainstay of the Barça defence for years to come and, in the current market, his price represents a genuine bargain.

Nicolas Gaitan

In 2010, Benfica drafted in Boca Juniors attacking midfielder Nicolas Gaitan to replace his Real Madrid-bound compatriot Ángel di Maria. In his six seasons with the Lisbon giants, Gaitan was consistently one of the Águias’s most potent attacking weapons. Whether playing on the wing or more centrally as a number 10, Gaitan’s blend of pace, dribbling skills, eye for a killer pass and goal-scoring ability marked him out as arguably the best player in Portugal during his stay in the Primeira Liga.

After several years of speculation connecting him with a move away from the Estádio da Luz – most notably yearly links with a Manchester United switch – Gaitan has finally left Benfica to join Atlético Madrid in a €25 million deal.

The 28-year-old will be working under compatriot Diego Simeone at the Vicente Calderón, and how the fiery coach will fit Gaitan into his system is one of the most intriguing tactical question marks of the new season.

Atléti’s recent success has been built on their solid 4-4-2 formation, with Simeone also utilising a 4-5-1 shape for added protection in away games against higher calibre opposition. Gaitan does not have a natural position in either of these systems. The Argentina international is better suited to playing in one of the attacking midfield berths in a 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3 set up.

The one area Gaitan could operate in within the current Atléti system would be as a withdrawn centre-forward, but that is where star man Antoine Griezmann does his best work.

So there’s a puzzle for Simeone to solve, but if he gets it right, Gaitan will become a star for Los Colchoneros.

Paulo Henrique Ganso

Sevilla’s €10 million capture of Paulo Henrique Ganso from São Paulo is one of the most intriguing transfers of the summer.

The 26-year-old playmaker was regarded as one of the hottest properties in Brazil in his late teens and early twenties. Having made his first-team breakthrough at Santos back in 2008, Ganso became a key figure in the Alvinegro Praiano’s three consecutive Campeonato Paulista titles from 2010 to 2012, as well as their 2011 Copa Libertadores triumph, and made his senior Brazil debut in 2010.

But Ganso’s relationship with the Santos fans was an uneasy one: he became labelled as a mercenary by the club’s supporters, relating to a 2010 deal for a third party company to acquire his image rights.

The youngster’s form began to tail off around this time, and the man once thought of as the future of Brazil’s midfield, did not feature for the Seleção from 2012 up until his recent selection in the 23-man Copa América Centenario squad.

Ganso left Santos to join rivals São Paulo four years ago. Being awarded the Tricolor’s number 10 shirt in 2014 coincided with a return to form for the now 26-year-old.

If Ganso can take his recent form with him to Sevilla, Los Rojiblancos could have a player of real quality on their hands.

Pione Sisto

In a transfer that has gone somewhat under the radar, Celta de Vigo have snapped up exciting Uganda-born Denmark winger Pione Sisto from FC Midtjylland.

Sisto will be a name familiar to those who saw his displays against Manchester United in the Europa League last season. Midtjylland produced one of the shock results of the season when they beat United 2-1 in the first leg of their round of 32 tie, with Sisto’s pace, power and dribbling skills wreaking havoc among the Red Devils’ defence.

And although the 20-time English champions went on to hammer the Danes 5-1 in the return fixture at Old Trafford, Sisto still managed to score an early goal to give United a fright.

The 21-year-old seems destined for a bright future, and the fact that Celta have picked him up for just €5 million, means that the Galicians could stand to make a hefty profit on Sisto in the not too distant future.

José Angulo

Another €5 million signing who could quadruple in value if all goes to plan this season, is 21-year-old Ecuadorian striker José Angulo, who has signed for Granada from Independiente del Valle.

The young forward has earned himself the reputation of being the hottest young prospect in Ecuador over the last two seasons, scoring 24 goals and registering five assists in 45 games since his first-team debut in 2015.

It was his performances in last season’s Copa Libertadores that brought Angulo to the wider attention of the South American football audience, as his six goals powered Independiente to the tournament final, only to lose out to Atlético Nacional, with the Colombian side winning 2-1 on aggregate over two legs.

With his pace and remarkably mature finishing ability, Angulo will be one to watch this season.

About the author – Ryan Baldi

Ryan is a Midlands based freelance sports writer specialising in European football. He has been fascinated with the continental game ever since he was presented with his first football kit at the age of 7 years old whilst on holiday in Spain – a Barcelona shirt with ‘Romario 10’ printed on the back. A contributor to numerous footballing websites, Ryan has also covered martial arts for local and national print publications. Ryan’s musings on European football can be found here.

Twitter:  @RyanBaldiEFB


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Last season was very competitive for talent in La Liga, as we saw several young attacking players compete in their debut seasons for their respective clubs. Individuals such as Antonio Sanabria and Paco Alcacer were the standout names from 2015/16 who will be expected to make an even bigger impact during the forthcoming campaign. 

It’s time to take a closer look at  four other young players who are expected to make an impact during the 2016/17 campaign.

Mikel Oyarzabal – Real Sociedad

After being promoted to the first team last summer by David Moyes, Mikel Oyarzabal has been a bright spark, despite the fact the overall team performance left a lot to be desired. The 19-year-old’s hard work was rewarded with a call-up to the national squad by Vicente del Bosque and he played 30 minutes against Switzerland in a friendly match.

The key test for the winger will be to see if he can replicate his performances from last season, especially when the competition for a place in the starting line-up will increase this year. Oyarzabal slowly became a favourite for manager, Eusebio Sacristan, who picked him for the first team on 16 occasions during the second half of the campaign.

He has the natural ability that could see him develop into one of the best wingers in the league, and if he continues to command a place in the starting line-up, then he has the right foundations in place to allow him to reach his full potential.

Dani Ceballos – Real Betis

Despite only being 19 years old, he made 34 league appearances for Real Betis last season.

Dani Ceballos has turned into a key presence at the heart of midfield, with his ability to defend and attack, giving Gus Poyet the perfect balance for his first team selection. Despite playing in a number of different positions, either wide left or central midfield appear to be his best positions, which has meant that he has drawn comparisons to established La Liga stars Isco and Koke.

If he continues to be an influential player for Real Betis next season, then this will only firm up the reported interest from the likes of Real Madrid, Arsenal and Liverpool.

Marco Asensio – Real Madrid

After the success of last season’s loan at Espanyol, Zinedine Zidane will surely give Marco Asensio a chance to prove himself this season. This could possibly begin during the summer, with the manager including him in the squad for the pre-season. The 20-year-old scored ten goals and provided 4 assists during his time at Espanyol and was recognised as the club’s player of the year last season. 

That said it would perhaps be more beneficial for Asensio to be loaned out again next season, considering the wealth of talent that Zidane already has at his disposal. Playing regularly for a mid-table side would do more for his development than being stuck on the Real Madrid bench.

He can be used effectively either as a left winger or central attacking midfielder and represented Espanyol’s key attacking threat last season.

Asensio’s ability to keep possession in tight areas and dribble past players easily, as well as being a playmaker with an eye for a pass, make him very much one to keep an eye on and a potential star for Real Madrid in the years to come.

Jose Naranjo – Celta Vigo

After finishing as Gimnastic de Tarragona’s top goal-scorer last season, on 15 goals, Jose Naranjo earned himself a move to Celta Vigo in June. Before his transfer to La Liga, Newcastle and Aston Villa were also interested in him. The 21-year-old played a big role leading the side to a third place finish in the league, which gained them promotion to the Spanish second tier.

Having secured a move to the top flight of Spanish football Naranjo has the dedication, passion and most importantly talent to make an instant impact. With Celta Vigo’s key player, Nolito, having been sold to Manchester City this summer, it could mean the striker could be called into action straight away.

Naranjo is a goal poacher, similar to Paco Alcacer, who had a fantastic season on a personal level. When he does get his chance in the Celta Vigo first team, don’t be surprised if Naranjo grasps this opportunity with both hands and makes a name for himself in La Liga.

About the author – Asif Norat

Asif is a Manchester United fan, who simply loves the beautiful game. The youngster is a big admirer of the Premier League and La Liga, and also has an eye out for many young talents coming into the footballing world.

twitter: @HerreraTekkers


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Together, they have garnered 16 of Celta’s 22 goals this season. Outside of Real Madrid and Barcelona, no team in La Liga has scored more collectively than them. Nolito, Fabian Orellana and Iago Aspas – the all-action trident – are Spain’s best, worst kept secret.

To visit Balaidos at present day is to step into a cyclone of relentless, for-the-throat football, and the newly acquainted trio are the main proprietors. Through the season’s opening ten games, their handy work has seen Celta rise to become one of Europe’s most free-scoring teams; and ostensibly, the cheapest to assemble. Only eight clubs on the continent boast a better goals-per-game ratio than Eduardo Berizzo’s men, and even then, it is a grouping populated by the title chasers in Germany, Italy, France and Spain.

The Galicians have been known as one of La Liga’s hushed jewels for a number of seasons already, but their perception is in the midst of further change. Instead of being wildcards capable of an upset when the dog has its day, Celta are now taking on all comers without as much as a backward step; largely in part to their newfound attacking production. Even the reigning treble winners Barcelona couldn’t stand the heat on their recent trip.

On that particular evening in September, Nolito scored the first, before setting up Aspas either side of half time to make it three. Orellana didn’t score or assist, but dribbled the champions into oblivion, as Celta put an historic four past the Catalans.

It stands as the worst defeat of Luis Enrique’s Barcelona tenure.

The pertinent aspect of that win, however, was that Barcelona had not been caught cold. Even though it was somewhat of a coming out party for Celta in the new season, their threat had been well aired in the media beforehand, who billed it as the night when Barcelona could well be dispatched.

At the same time, Luis Enrique knew Balaidos and Celta like the back of his hand. He had coached in Vigo the season before accepting his current role, and played a respectable-sized hand in all that the Galicians are today. The architects of his team’s downfall were, by-and-large, players he knew extremely well. But as evidenced by the result, things had changed past the point of detectability.

“Today you have seen how well Celta can play,” he said post-game. “That is why we have lost; they played a very good game, in all senses. Today you can only congratulate them. They created many chances and one-on-ones.”

As expected, the autopsy from the defeated manager was congratulatory, but ambiguous. The current Celta trident hasn’t caused endless problems for teams simply by the way of ability; that type of success is exclusively exacted by the Neymar-Suárez-Messi’s of this world. Instead, those of the sky-blue lining have honed one redeeming feature. And one that isn’t so forthcoming to the immediate eye.

Take Nolito: for some, La Liga’s outstanding individual in 2015-16. Nobody in Spain has made more inaccurate passes than the 29-year-old. He has misplaced 136 through just eleven games, while only two other players in the country have passed 100 following the weekend’s round of fixtures.

At the same time, on the opposing wing, Orellana is the most dispossessed player in La Liga – having lost the ball 38 times through eleven games. Again, the second in line (Víctor Camarasa) has done so only 27 times; therefore making another member of the Celta trident not only the leader of an adverse category, but an anomaly within it.

Together, Berizzo’s wingers are also the pair to have recorded the most unsuccessful dribbles through the campaign’s opening months. With 66 collective attempts hitting bumps in the road, they stand above the rest in failed attacking ventures.

Though the statistics don’t reflect greatly on Celta in a host of instances; paradoxically, it also reveals just why the trident are anything but the wasteful, imprecise attacking core that the numbers might perceive.

It is by the weight of volume that the combination of the trident is providing output more akin to that of a Europe’s finest. For example, while Nolito is statistically the worst passer in the league, he was also, up until this weekend, the man to have produced the most key, chance-creating passes. Only Neymar (37) now leads him at the top, but the cushion between he and Nolito, and third place, is sizable.

Likewise, while Nolito and Orellana have recorded the most unsuccessful dribbles of any wing pair in the league, they are also in the top five for the number of successful dribbles.

In the final third, Celta are taking risks, and hyper-levels of risk at that. Eduardo Berizzo’s all-energy system is centred on quick circulation of the ball; which in its essence, acts as an all-hours supply line for their front three. Once there, it is down to Nolito, Orellana and Aspas to make instinctual, direct attacking movements – particularly in the case the former two. Aspas is generally the profiteer from those initial impulses.

The approach is thus almost a means of submission. Instead of the focus being on the quality of attacking situations, in the way that Barcelona’s trident do – given their more refined build-up play – Celta have instead increased their quantity of intent beyond a new frontier.

With Berizzo’s increased forgery of the team’s defensive system; whereby fullbacks and midfielders are aggressive as high up the field as possible, it creates a wave effect when coupled with the trident’s ‘express’ search for goal. Particularly on home soil at Balaidos, Celta are thus eroding opposition backlines by sheer, continual pressure.

Nolito and Orellana may be ceding their ownership of the ball at rates far beyond any other wide pairing in the league, but it matters not. That very same speculation is what is, eventually, opening the door for the Galicians on a consistent and reliable basis.

“The acceptance of correction and error is open,” Eduardo Berizzo said, following his team’s recent 3-2 win over Real Sociedad, where Celta came from behind twice to take the points back west.

Equivocal the Argentine may be, but his ideas are empowering an attacking trio beyond their realistic means. And for that, he is validating his own name as much the trio putting Celta within arms length of La Liga’s elite.

(all statistics collected via whoscored.com)

About the author – Jamie Kemp

Jamie is a freelance sportswriter, who writes on English and Spanish varieties of football in the main. He is also the creator of the popular blog El Rondo; a spot where you can find regular musings on the world of La Liga.

twitter: @jamiekemp


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Celta Vigo’s exciting attacking starlet, Theo Bongonda, who signed from Zulte Waregem in January, was made to wait patiently for his first La Liga start by manager Eduardo Berizzo. Despite making sporadic appearances for the club since his arrival, a starting debut had so far been something that eluded him.

Bongonda completely understood it wasn’t going to be easy to replace the likes of Nolito and Fabian Orellana to force his way into the starting line-up, though.

“This season I was expecting to feature more prominently, but the coach is the one who decides. I have two players who are very good in front of me, Orellana and Nolito, and that competition means I have to do more in training,” he said.

However, in matchday six of this La Liga campaign, his exhaustive wait ended. All his hard work in training had finally paid off handsomely, as Berizzo granted him his wish by naming him in the starting line-up against Eibar.

Despite a slow opening to the contest from the Belgian, Bongonda worked his way into the match nicely from his station out on the left, in a game where he duly repayed his manager’s faith.

“I struggled to adapt to the rhythm of my teammates but with the passing of minutes I felt much better,” he said on the match.

After his initial period of adaptation, he began to showcase so many of the attributes that make him such a special talent. Blessed with searing pace, whenever afforded time and space to run at Eibar, he was a massive threat. In tandem with his lightning sharp change of direction, incredible strength, and excellent dribbling ability, Bongonda proved a real handful for Eibar (especially for David Junca, Eibar’s left back).

One moment in particular, on 16 minutes, encapsulated his individual brilliance and penchant to change a game as a result of this. Here, after an in-dispute ball bounced in the middle of the pitch, he leapt up dynamically and beat one half of Eibar’s central defensive pairing, Aleksandar Pantic, and cheekily knocked the ball beyond him. Then, he showed off his explosive pace to latch onto his header and beat the other half of Eibar’s central defensive duo, Mauro Dos Santos, to the ball. Santos tried in vein to stop him from breaking through, but Bongonda comprehensively outmuscled him, sending him crashing to the ground in the process. The rampaging Celta number 17 now only had Eibar’s keeper, Asier Riesgo, between him and scoring one of the goals of the season. Unfortunately for him, though, his side footed attempt was superbly saved.

As a consequence of his wonderful skillset, Bongonda unsurprisingly was a huge weapon for Celta in counter attacking situations too. In such scenarios, where his unpredictability on the dribble sees him equally comfortable beating his opponents by cutting inside or by going around the outside, he presented an extremely tough proposition for Eibar to manage.

It was also important to note that his movement without the ball saw him add an additional layer of danger, particularly in terms of space creation for teammates, but also by way of giving himself a good chance to make an impact in the final third.

He’d often look to make outside-to-in runs, which would effectively drag his opponent, Junca, infield with him. By doing so, oceans of space now became available for Celta’s left back, Jonny, to maraud into, while Bongonda, courtesy of his neatly executed runs, also got into excellent positions to receive balls over the top or in behind.

His enthralling duel with Junca got even more interesting when he undertook his defensive duties. He’d track back vigorously, press purposefully and impose himself physically on his adversary by flying fearlessly into tackles and throwing his weight around at every opportunity. Exuding a touch of rashness and overzealousness in his stopping efforts could have easily gotten him into trouble. But this wouldn’t have necessarily been viewed as a bad thing by his manager, for Berizzo would’ve unquestionably appreciated Bongonda’s intent to win the ball back.

So after an evening in which he covered an impressive 8.9km, the Belgian U21 international deserved plenty of praise for his encouraging body of work.

Even though his starting debut was overwhelmingly positive, there’s still plenty to work on for the gifted youngster. There’s still a sense of rawness attached to his play, which can see him momentarily lose concentration and commit errors. At just 19, and working under the thorough and expert tutelage of Berizzo, Bongonda will be given every chance to develop into the finished article. And the club will be fully expecting him to do just that.

“I am happy to play football in Spain and pleased with my progress. I have taken great steps not only tactically but also technically. Everything goes much faster. In Spain, every detail counts, and the difference with Belgium is huge,” he told Het Laatste Nieuws.

“The season is long and see what happens in the future. I feel I am important in the team and can play a key role. The coach told me to trust him long term. I have learned a lot since I got here. I learn a lot with my colleagues because the league level is higher.”

He’s a player who undoubtedly adds another dimension to Celta, who can be deployed on either flank, and this should see him earn many more minutes as the season rolls on.

For the forseeable future, though, it’s most likely he’ll have to be content predominantly featuring as an impact player off the bench. But what a great weapon he’ll be to throw on against tiring defences, who’ll find him a colossal handful.

In a fascinating side story, he’s actually great mates with Manchester City’s fine young defender, Jason Denayer, who’s currently on loan at Galatasaray. The pair have retained their strong friendship from their days at the Jean-Marc Guillou academy and are in regular contact with one another about life and football.

“I know him (Denayer) from childhood. In the academy we became close friends. We hear each day about all kinds of things,” he explained.

“We’re more than just football friends.”

He then went on to explain the sort of sacrifices he’s needed to make to reach the professional level.

“At 12, I entered the JMG academy and it was no joke. We were locked in, no friends, no family, we only had a few days of vacation per year,” he recalled.

Hearing the phrase “family always comes last” from Bongonda, who sadly even had to miss his sister’s wedding in August due to his preseason exertions with Celta, gives an insight into the harsh realities that are inherent in the life of a footballer.

Even though it must be hard for him sometimes, it’s clear to see how dedicated and driven he is to make it as a top level professional. It’s refreshing to see that despite the fame and riches that come with being a pro, Bongonda remains humble and supports his family with his earnings. He also makes sure he prays everyday – something his father instilled in him from an early age.

In a footballing and a human sense, Bongonda is unquestionably an excellent acquisition by the Galician club, who staggeringly only cost the club around £1 million. There’s every reason to suggest with his brilliant attitude and keen willingness to learn that he should progress into something very special.

You know Bongonda, who’s one of only three Belgians in La Liga (alongside Yannick Ferreira Carrasco and Thomas Vermaelen) will do everything in his power to reach the upper echelons of the sport. He’s already sacrificed so much to get where he is today.

Expect a similar trend to continue in his quest for stardom – his tremendous dedication to his craft will see to it.

About the author – Edward Stratmann

Edward Stratmann writes regularly about the on-field aspects of the game, with a particular focus on tactics and analysis. In addition to featuring on These Football Times, Inside Spanish Football, Anfield Index, Just Football, The Eagles Beak, Think Football Ideas and JuveFC, you can also find Edward’s work at Licence to Roam, a football blog he started with his brother in 2013.

twitter: @licencetoroam


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In the summer, Celta Vigo swapped one Danish midfield star for another: Michael Krohn-Dehli departed and Daniel Wass arrived.

While losing the outstanding Krohn-Dehli came as a massive blow to the club, Daniel Wass, despite having a rather different profile to his countryman, has certainly filled the void left by the now Sevilla man.

The way the former Evian dynamo has settled into life in Vigo and seamlessly adapted to Eduardo Berizzo’s ideology has been nothing short of impressive.

With Celta flying high in La Liga, sitting fourth on equal points with Real Madrid, Wass will be extra thankful things have worked out for him in Spain, especially considering his horror end to life in France.

On the final day of the 2013/14 season, in Evian’s winner-stays-up relegation battle against Sochaux, Wass played a crucial role throughout his side’s emphatic 3-0 triumph, even scoring an unbelievable bicycle kick. Wass assumed he’d made the perfect farewell to the club, after they assured him that he would be allowed to leave in the summer if the €3 million asking price was met.

After three years of brilliant service for Evian, the Dane had every right to think the club would do what they could to fulfill his wish. As Wass recently explained, however, this was certainly not the case.

“Evian promised me a move last summer. But when clubs came willing to pay the €3 million, Evian suddenly rose up the price. So then I suddenly cost €6 million,” he said.

“I felt powerless to do anything. We tried to screw down the price. We tried everything. But Evian just sat on its hind legs and was completely indifferent and their price would depend on the interested clubs’ size.

“I knew there were lots of clubs interested. They were just not ready to pay six million.”

With the likes of Saint-Etienne, Rennes, Schalke 04, Hamburger SV, Newcastle, Tottenham and West Ham all interested, Evian refused to budge, forcing Wass to stay put for another year.

To his credit, Wass continued to star for the lowly club, in spite of the unfortunate predicament, and provided them with a real chance of avoiding the drop. Come the winter break, though, the Evian manager, Pascal Dupraz, and many of their players turned their back on him after a crisis meeting in January, believing he didn’t want to play for the club anymore and should therefore not be selected.

“Pascal Dupraz went totally crazy after the meeting, talked bad about me and threw me out of the team, so I could not do anything,” he recalled.

“I was completely in shock. I thought: ‘How can the whole squad just go against me?’ I could not understand it.”

Relegated to a spot warming the bench for the remaining five months of the season, Wass cut a desperately lonely figure, with only his fellow Danes, Jesper Hansen and Nicki Bille Nielsen, offering him any form of support. Dupraz even dropped him completely from the squad for Evian’s last two fixtures of the 2014/15 campaign.

“I lost everything for the other players – of course, not the other Danes. I can not help thinking that it is the coach who has been behind the meeting. So you just have to look at what it resulted in. Evian relegated, he (Dupraz) was even fired – a very ugly firing even – and all respect for the club disappeared,” he said.

“Pascal Dupraz had no respect for people. He destroyed everything for the club.”

So in essence, the set piece specialist went from being the star and driving force behind Les Roses in the first half of the season to a forgotten man in the second. It cost Evian dearly too, as the club ended up being relegated.

Some justice was done when the club fired the cantankerous Dupraz, but the whole episode undoubtedly had a huge effect on Wass.

Fortunately for him, Celta came to the rescue in the summer and the talented Dane hasn’t looked back since. A smile has now returned to his face, and as a consequence, The Sky Blues’ number 18 has successfully recaptured that fine form that saw him dominate Ligue 1 in his happier Evian days.

Contributing 23 goals and 12 assists over his 133 games with Evian gave testament to his quality. At the same time, he also evidenced his adaptability and versatility by successfully converting into a domineering midfielder after starting out as a fullback.

Celta’s recent match against Barcelona posed another huge challenge for Wass and his Celta teammates, but the way things panned out was indicative of how happy the Dane is in his new surroundings. Celta spectacularly won 4-1, Wass’ joy apparent every time he celebrated one of his team’s goals. The way he slid in to embrace Nolito and Iago Aspas for Celta’s second and subsequently gave the same duo a great big bear hug for Celta’s third depicted his joy aptly.

From his attacking midfield position, the bold, energetic Wass did plenty of decisive work himself too.

When Celta had possession, the former Brondby and Benfica man looked compact as ever, tidily knocking the ball around with the utmost precision. In addition, his sharpness and cleanness when using the ball, while being key for his side in keeping the ball, also saw him create four clear cut chances. Statistics from StatsZone suggesting he completed 15 out of his 17 attempted passes in the final third tell the story suitably here.

While Wass was a key cog in Celta’s attacking forays, his defensive contribution held an ever greater importance. Charged with marking Barcelona’s deep lying lynchpin, Sergio Busquets, Wass performed his duty absolutely superbly. He’d mark him tightly, press him relentlessly and follow him all over, with a clear view to shutting down his effectiveness when Barcelona were passing out from the back.

It must be said the tactic worked swimmingly. Busquets struggled to gain any respite, only managing to complete 80.5% of his passes, which is in stark contrast to his average pass completion rate of 91.7% last season. As a consequence of Wass’ exploits, Luis Enrique felt it necessary to take Busquets off in the 66th minute, just as he did in Celta’s tremendous 1-0 win over Barcelona in the previous season. A nice bit of correlation, but more than that, it displayed Berizzo’s aptitude of getting his setup spot on, in order to nullify the gifted Spaniard.

Moreover, alongside his fellow attackers, Iago Aspas, Nolito and Fabian Orellana, the Celta front four won the ball back a staggering 28 times in their own half. Berizzo, who first worked under Marcelo Bielsa when he was only 14, surely would’ve loved seeing his well structured pressing game executed so beautifully.

“We’ve honoured football,” Berizzo said after the game. Luis Enrique then added: “If I have to lose, let it be against a team that plays like Celta.”

In a match where Nolito and Aspas deservedly drew the headlines, there could be no doubt that the Danish dynamo’s unheralded efforts were every bit as important. Significantly, upon leaving the field on 85 minutes, the rousing ovation he received from the fans inside a rocking Balaidos added a nice touch, demonstrating the fans’ clear appreciation. He could certainly be satisfied with the job he’d done for the team. Covering a whopping 10.5km gave a tangible figure to attach to his strong exertions.

After such a promising start to life at Celta, it’s great to witness the stars once again align for the Danish international. Now happy again after that forgettable episode at Evian, he looks a revitalised figure, and his on-field showings are certainly proving just that.

Just don’t compare him to Krohn-Dehli whatever you do.

“When I arrived everyone expected me to play like him, but I warned them that I am not Michael. I’m a different player and I hope people see me as such. It’s hard to say what I do compared to Michael, I’m just different and I hope people see,” he explained to La Voz de Galicia.

This clever little player is well and truly his own man. A unique, selfless presence that Celta were only too happy to secure.

Costing a measly €2.7 million, Wass is quickly looking like one of the most astute signings of the summer.

His plight at Evian now appears a distant memory.

About the author – Edward Stratmann

Edward Stratmann writes regularly about the on-field aspects of the game, with a particular focus on tactics and analysis. In addition to featuring on These Football Times, Inside Spanish Football, Anfield Index, Just Football, The Eagles Beak, Think Football Ideas and JuveFC, you can also find Edward’s work at Licence to Roam, a football blog he started with his brother in 2013.



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As the glitz and glamour of the Barclays Premier League transfer window edges into it’s final week, excitement is at fever pitch as cash-laden clubs scour Europe for the next big money deal. Whilst Jim White is feverishly running around the Sky Sports News studio from one touch screen to another, the mood over in Spain is all the more calm. At the same time the English clubs have been jetting off on tours to the Middle East and Australia, Spanish clubs have been tying up deals to replace those who have set off for pastures new. One aspect of the game that La Liga can gain plaudits for is the extraordinary knack of finding players who can sell on for huge profit, or revitalising careers by using them in a unique way that their previous club hadn’t thought of. These next five signings should demonstrate those two points and more over the coming season.

Aleix Vidal: Sevilla FC – FC Barcelona

Vidal’s move from Sevilla to Barcelona is certainly a sense of deja-vu –

the narrative of Barcelona buying converted full-backs from Sevilla has been written twice before with Adriano and more famously Dani Alves. Vidal’s move has been overshadowed by the fact that the current Champions bought him under a transfer ban, which means that he cannot feature in a competitive match until January. Due to this many have failed to spot what Vidal can actually bring to the table. An absolute workhorse down the right hand side, he can often be spotted blistering past the winger on an overlap where his magnificent crossing ability can be put to use. His new coach Luis Enrique is a fitness fanatic, and Vidal’s massive stamina will fit with Barcelona’s high-pressure ethos. Vidal is a humble player, whose rise from Almeria to Barcelona has been nothing short of magnificent and his flexibility gives Enrique the opportunity to mould him into the player he wants. Surely bought to cover the right-back slot when Alves hands the baton over, and is more than capable of doing so as his Spain call up over the summer suggests.

Roberto Soldado: Tottenham Hotspur – Villarreal CF

A familiar name for La Liga watchers returns as the ex-Valencia top-scorer joins provincial rivals Villarreal on a long term deal. Roberto Soldado certainly has the pedigree needed to send El Submarino to the next level after a season which secured European football at El Madrigal once again. After two disappointing years with Tottenham Hotspur, Soldado will be keen to exercise the memories of his time in London in which he became nothing more than the butt of jokes as he failed to settle. Primarily used as a lone-striker, his return to Spain will see him link up with Leo Baptistao or fellow new boy Cedric Bukambu as part of a two. Villarreal scored 48 goals last year, 23 behind Sevilla who finished 16 points clear of them. They will hope that the return of Soldado will go someway to closing that gap, and his impressive debut goal in the 1-1 draw with Real Betis suggests that Soldado is ready to fire on all cylinders.

Michael Krohn-Dehli: Celta de Vigo to Sevilla FC

The Danish central midfielder arrives on a free transfer from Celta Vigo and may prove to be a superb acquisition over the course of the season. Although he was the key creative hub for Celta last season, his role within the team was often overshadowed by wingers Nolito and Orellana. However, his contributions were invaluable as the Galician’s recorded an 8th place finish – their highest since their return to the top flight in 2011 – as he provided 5 assists and created a total of 69 goal scoring opportunities for the team. At 32 years old and behind some serious quality at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan, Krohn-Dehli may find it hard to make his mark full-time, but will make an impact over the course of the season as his attacking guile allows him to find space in opposition defences. His vision is second to none, and will provide a key option should Unai Emery need more attacking presence next to Ever Banega.

Samu Castillejo: Malaga CF – Villarreal CF

One of two Samu’s who left Malaga to join the yellow submarine of Villarreal this summer, which also demonstrates how well the Valencian outfit have bought after the departures of Giovani Dos Santos and Ike Uche. Castillejo burst onto the scene 18 months ago in a Malaga side that was full to the brim of home-grown talent. Since then, his development has been rapid and he has gained plaudits equally as quickly. At 20 years old, Samu is one of the most exciting talents at under-21 level, playing primarily as a winger he possesses fantastic pace with footwork to match. His ability to create chances from wide positions will certainly be an upgrade on an area that was lacking last year. Whilst work is needed on his final ball and decision making, this acquisition is certainly a strong one which will certainly have economical benefits in the future as big clubs across Europe already start to hover.

Raul Albentosa: Derby County – Malaga CF

The lanky central defender will be best remembered for his outstanding performances for the smallest club in La Liga last season. The former Eibar central defender joins Malaga on loan from Derby County for the season with the view of reviving his career after a slight lull in the British Midlands. Albentosa is certainly an upgrade on the outgoing Sergio Sanchez, and Malaga will be pleased to have secured his signature. The primary stages of his La Liga career were certainly positive with a series of assured performances for a club that many wrote off before they played their first game. It was clear to see that after the loss of Albentosa, Eibar struggled defensively – his return to La Liga will certainly add to an exciting Malaga squad.

About the Author – Ben Jarman

Freelance football writer with a penchant for Spanish and European football. Work published by Fulham FC, Italian FA and the Evening Standard.



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