Although the mega-money move of Philippe Coutinho stole the headlines in Spain, the really smart deals were done elsewhere in La Liga
5) Francis Coquelin (Arsenal to Valencia – €13 million)
For the first half of the season, Valencia took advantage of the excellent performances of three midfielders: Geoffrey Kondogbia, Dani Parejo and youngster Carlos Soler, with Nemanja Maksimovic as a solid replacement from time to time. However, injuries and problems in defense began to wear the team down when December came around.
Enter Francis Coquelin, a player developed by Arsene Wenger, who can play both as a defensive midfielder and centre-back. After almost a decade as a ‘Gunner’, the Frenchman’s arrival has offered Marcelino an alternative to fill any holes at the back. Coquelin’s excellent game against Barcelona in the Copa del Rey on Thursday showed his strong points: positioning, tactical expertise and man-to-man marking.
4) Íñigo Martínez (Real Sociedad to Athletic Club – €35 million)
As a side effect of Aymeric Laporte’s €65 million move to Manchester City, Athletic Bilbao found themselves without their best defender and a truckload of cash on their hands. They had wooed Martínez earlier in his career, but never with such a tasty deal.
‘Modern football’ got another win and Íñigo Martínez, born and raised in Real Sociedad, one of the captains of the team and a key personality in the locker room, accepted the huge salary Athletic had to offer and paid his buyout clause. A shocker for Real Sociedad fans, whose outrage has forced the club to offer fans refunds on Martínez’s shirt, swapping it for this season’s new shirt for free… obviously, with a different player on the back.
First training session of @InigoMartinez in Lezama. @BasqueWater#athletic pic.twitter.com/sNgJv13gDQ
— Athletic Club (@Athletic_en) January 31, 2018
3) John Guidetti (Celta to Alavés – loan)
You gotta love ‘Super’ Guidetti. Such an eccentric and unpredictable player both on and off the pitch. His season at Celta hit some setbacks this season, where he wasn’t playing as much as before due to lack of confidence from new manager Juan Carlos Unzue.
Being so in love with the atmosphere and weather of northern Spain, the Swede travelled east to cold Vitoria, where he has delivered a couple of riotous performances in the few games he has played for Alavés. In fact, his arrival has been key for the team’s resurrection in the league, where newcomer Abelardo has managed to pull his side out of the relegation zone in less than two months.
2) Marc Bartra (Borussia Dortmund to Real Betis – €10 million)
The definition of ‘big signing’, Real Betis’ move caught everyone off-guard. Marc Bartra, being a Barça-DNA centre-back with plenty of quality on the ball, was having a pretty solid run in Germany with Borussia Dortmund. However, it always ends the same way: Spanish players who play abroad ultimately feel that nostalgic ‘sting’ sooner or later.
What nobody could expect was Betis ponying up a cool €10 million to sign him, after spending most of their budget last summer. They will also pay his high salary, making his possibly the highest profile player in the squad. But Quique Setien and the board believe he is worth it: if Betis needed something, it was enhancing their defense.
Looking good in Green-and-White, @MarcBartra! ??⚽#Bartra2023 pic.twitter.com/CO7yG73Ceq
— Real Betis Balompié (@RealBetis_en) January 31, 2018
1) Roque Mesa (Swansea to Sevilla CF – loan)
A personal favourite, Roque Mesa is that type of player who can single-handedly move a team from medium to top-tier. He is that good. A creative mastermind in midfield, Sevilla possibly have made the biggest coup on the market thanks to his signing.
Adding Mesa to their midfield will enhance pace, scoring ability, passing options and physical superiority against similar sides. With Roque on the team and also Sandro in front, suddenly Vincenzo Montella’s stumbling first games might soon change into powerhouse-like performances. We will need to keep an eye on Sevilla in LaLiga’s final stretch.