Guillem Balague’s January transfer window wrap from La Liga

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Guillem Balague assesses the winners and losers of the January transfer window in La Liga…

It was a record-breaking winter transfer window in La Liga, with Spanish clubs spending £250m. That’s more than ever before and, to put it into perspective, it is 10 times more than the total they spent last January.

Only clubs from the Premier League spent more – around £200m more! However, much of the spending in Spain was because of Philippe Coutinho, who joined Barcelona from Liverpool for £146m.

As well as Coutinho, Barcelona also signed Yerry Mina from Palmeiras, and allowed four players to depart the club, including Javier Mascherano. We’ll have more on him later.

As you can see from this chart, which shows the total number of players going in and out of clubs during January on permanent or loan deals, Las Palmas and Malaga were extremely busy.

They are the bottom two clubs in La Liga, so it is no surprise to see them trying to shake things up to move up the table.

Interestingly, at the other end of the scale, Real Madrid were the only La Liga side not to have any players going in or out of the club.

Given Real Madrid’s problems in La Liga this season, you may have expected them to act in the transfer window.

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But while they agreed personal terms with Athletic Bilbao keeper Kepa Arrizabalaga and he even passed the medical, Zinedine Zidane blocked the move. For now they did not want Mauro Icardi, either, who was desperate to join from Inter Milan.

In contrast, Barcelona have boosted their attacking options with Coutinho and strengthened their defence with Mina, a highly-rated, young, physical defender from Colombia.

At the same time, they loaned out the eternal hope Gerard Deulofeu to Watford, in the hope he can find form, allowed Arda Turan, who has not played a minute under Valverde, to go back to Turkey, and sent Rafinha to Inter Milan on loan.

They want to get rid of four more players in the summer, but one man who is already gone is Javier Mascherano, who has joined Chinese club, Hebei China Fortune, for the final part of his career.

After 334 appearances and winning 17 trophies, Mascherano has played an important role for Barcelona since joining them in 2010 from Liverpool.

Of course, it was not the role he was expecting. The Argentine made his name as a defensive midfielder before joining Barcelona. But Pep Guardiola believed he could best serve his team as a centre-back and Mascherano, to his credit, applied himself to the challenge.

Barcelona’s defence has been consistently one of the best in La Liga during Mascherano’s time there – even though he has told me several times that he’s not a centre back!

Here are my five standout new signings in La Liga. Diego Costa will give Atletico Madrid some much-needed firepower in attack after his move finally went through in January, while Coutinho can become one of the very best players in the world at Barcelona.

Sandro, meanwhile, can get back on track with his return to La Liga from Everton. It surprises me that a forward not wanted by Everton can find a place in a team fighting for the Champions League. Who is to blame?

I also expect Inigo Martinez to step up and fill the Laporte gap at Athletic Bilbao.

Finally, I think Watford’s Isaac Success could re-find his form at Malaga, after making his initial breakthrough at Granada.

On the other side of the coin, La Liga will miss these men. Laporte has the potential to become a star at Manchester City under the coaching of Pep Guardiola.

Mauricio Lemos, who was once linked to Barcelona, will be given a chance to impress in Serie A with Sassuolo, while Deulofeu needs to seize his opportunity at Watford if he is to have a future at the Nou Camp.

I’ll also be keeping a close eye on Enzo Zidane, Zinedine’s son, who has moved to Lausanne in Switzerland after struggling to break through at Real Madrid and Alaves.

And finally Cedric Bakambu, the former Villarreal attacker who has become the most expensive African player in history with his £65m move to Beijing.

Another interesting transfer story in La Liga this January was the arrival of nine players from Saudi Arabia.

La Liga and the Saudi Arabian Football Federation announced a partnership in 2017, to help grow the game in that country. As part of the deal, these nine Saudi Arabia players have come in on loan for six months.

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Saudi Arabia have qualified for the World Cup, so this is a great opportunity for those players to learn, improve and get into great shape ahead of the tournament.

Among them is Fahad Al Muwallad, who has joined Levante. He’s known as the ‘Messi’ of Saudi Arabia – a big label for him. It’s an unusual development – and it will be interesting to see how it works out for La Liga clubs, Saudi Arabia and the players.

So that was the January transfer window. But what could happen in the summer?

It’s still a long way off but expect Antoine Griezmann and Neymar to continue to make headlines, as their futures are discussed.

If you thought this January was dramatic – we could be in store for a blockbuster summer transfer window in La Liga.

Sourse: skysports.com

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