With the second half of the La Liga campaign in full swing, how each of Spain’s ‘big three’ conducted themselves in the January transfer window could have a huge bearing on the latter part of the season – and beyond.
Of Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid, there’s been a clear winner in terms of who has done the best business, and it doesn’t make good reading for Florentino Perez.
Frankly, Los Blancos have been lagging behind Barcelona domestically now for a while, but their Champions League triumphs have masked how poor they’ve been.
Though it’s only conjecture, perhaps that’s why Perez and his board are finding it harder and harder to tempt players to come to the white half of the Spanish capital.
In January, Real only dipped into their coffers to sign Brahim Diaz from Manchester City, and with no big names signed the previous summer either, it’s left many questioning exactly what their transfer policy is likely to be moving forward.
Rodrygo Goes is known to be on the way from Brazil come July 1, and Eden Hazard is making all of the right noises, but that’s six months down the line. Signing Diaz and selling Kiko Casilla to Leeds is a pathetic return for a club of Real’s size.
Cross city rivals Atleti haven’t fared too much better in truth, but their purchase of Alvaro Morata is an interesting one.
He’s been woefully out of form but there’s little doubt that in the right team and right environment, he still has the tools to be able to flourish as a front man.
Importantly for the Rojiblancos, he’s available for the Champions League and if he hits the ground running, he presents Diego Simeone with a real conundrum.
Diego Costa, whom Morata replaced at Chelsea, is currently injured and, despite struggling himself in front of goal, has requested parity with Antoine Griezmann in terms of salary.
Considering the Frenchman is on €17.5 million per year, which is a cool €10m a season more than Costa’s current deal, there’s every chance that Morata’s hire could be the signal for Costa to up sticks and move to China – as he’d promised if a new bumper deal wasn’t forthcoming.
Loaning Gelson Martins to Monaco has barely made any ripples for the simple fact that the player has done nothing of note during his time at the Wanda Metropolitano.
By contrast, Barcelona couldn’t be any happier with their January business.
At 19 years of age, Jean-Clair Todibo was one of the hottest properties in French football before Barca made their move.
He wasn’t meant to sign officially until the summer, but the threat from his club to not play him for six months has forced Barca to act and bring him in six months ahead of schedule.
To have secured his signature is a real coup for the Catalans, and the same applies to their capture of Frenkie De Jong.
The Dutch midfielder has long been tipped to end up at the Camp Nou thanks to a skill set that seems ready made for the Blaugrana.
However, with Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain flexing their financial muscles, it was never going to be the most straightforward of purchases.
At €75m, it isn’t a cheap signing either, but if De Jong comes anywhere close to fulfilling his obvious potential, then Barca will have themselves a bargain.
It will be July at the earliest before De Jong will become a Blaugrana, but the club deserve huge praise for bringing in players in two other areas during this window.
Jeison Murillo was the first signing for the club in 2019, and whilst ostensibly a defensive back-up, he’s already made his debut and impressed in the short time he’s been with his new club. The option to make his loan permanent in July seems to be a foregone conclusion.
Kevin-Prince Boateng’s signing is a master stroke. Many were left scratching their heads at such a left-field capture, but with Luis Suarez needing to rest and Munir having been sold to Sevilla in January too, there was no striking cover available.
Boateng arrives at the club knowing he will play second fiddle to the Uruguayan, but he possesses a lot of the same attributes as his contemporary and will give his all in the role.
Denis Suarez was a deadline day loan to Arsenal, with the option of a permanent move to north London should he impress in the next six months. Frankly, that switch was long overdue given that the Galician has hardly featured in 2018/19.
Those four solid signings will certainly hold Barca in good stead, and it’s left both Madrid clubs playing catch up off the field as well as on it.