1. Miralem Pjanic – Juventus FC to FC Barcelona – €60 million
The summer of 2020 will go down as FC Barcelona’s most testing in many a year. Blaugrana firstly lost their grip on the La Liga title to fierce rivals Real Madrid and suffered a humiliating 8-2 loss in the Quarter Finals of the UEFA Champions League to Bayern Munich. Just weeks afterwards, Barca were left stunned by star man Lionel Messi informing the club via burofax of his intention to leave Camp Nou. Even if just over a week later Messi opted to stay for the final year of his contract at Barca, new manager Ronald Koeman has one heck of a mess to sort out upon his arrival.
Barca’s ageing squad has been cited as a reason for their struggles, their main summer acquisition will not exactly lower it’s age, however, he arrives in Catalonia with a point to prove, Miralem Pjanic. The 30 year-old Bosnian has been a high-class playmaker in midfielder for many a season, making most noteworthy contributions throughout the last 9 years at both AS Roma and Juventus FC. However, 2019/20 was perceived to be Pjanic’s weakest season for many a year at Juventus with only 3 goals and 8 assists in 43 games in all competitions.
Pjanic therefore arrived at Barca for a fee of €60 million, as part of the deal which saw Blaugrana’s Brazilian midfielder Arthur Melo go the other way for €72 million. Can a change of scenery prompt a return to the form of seasons’ past for Pjanic and prove a foundation stone for a Barca revival?
2. Oscar Rodriguez – Real Madrid to Sevilla FC – €13.5 million
2019/20 can be classed as a very successful season for Sevilla FC. Rojiblancos finished 4th place in La Liga, joint level on points with Atletico de Madrid, an improvement on 2018/19’s 6th place. In addition, the club won their 6th UEFA Cup/UEFA Europa League triumph, defeating Inter Milan 3-2 in the final. It capped a fine debut season in charge for new manager Julen Lopetegui and one of personal redemption after his nightmare 2018/19 campaign which saw him lose both the Spain national team and Real Madrid jobs.
Sevilla are now looking to further close the gap to Spanish football’s “Big Three” in 2020/21. It could be argued that goals from central midfield were sometimes in short supply in 2019/20. Lopetegui will hope the signing of Oscar Rodriguez will solve this issue. A Real Madrid youth academy product, Rodriguez spent the last two seasons on loan at La Liga strugglers Leganes. In 2018/19, Rodriguez noted 4 goals and 4 assists from 31 La Liga games. However, in 2019/20, the young midfielder excelled personally despite Lega’s relegation, noting 9 goals and 2 assists in 30 La Liga games.
With the path to Real’s first team blocked by their vast squad depth in the attacking midfield roles, Rodriguez needing regular first team games at a better club than Leganes to develop further and Sevilla in need of a goalscoring midfielder, this transfer on paper ticks all boxes. Can Rodriguez now step up and continue to progress for Sevilla in 2020/21 and beyond?
3. Ivan Rakitic – FC Barcelona to Sevilla FC – €1.5 million
Another priority for Sevilla in 2020/21 was finding a replacement for the departing Ever Banega. In five seasons in the Red and White half of Seville between 2014 and 2020 which also saw a season’s spell at Inter Milan, 32 year-old Banega was one of La Liga’s classy midfield playmakers. His departure to Saudi Arabian outfit Al-Shabab after being instrumental to Sevilla’s success led to fears as to how Rojiblancos would cope without their midfield playmaking maestro.
However, just weeks after Banega’s departure, Sevilla had already found a replacement. Ironically, he who will fill Banega’s shoes is the very player that Banega was signed to replace at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium, Ivan Rakitic. After impressing at Sevilla for 3 and a half seasons between 2011 and 2014, Rakitic moved to Barca in the summer of 2014 for a fee of €16.2 million. Most of Rakitic’s six seasons at Camp Nou were successful. However, in 2019/20, Rakitic saw his playing time decline to its lowest point at the Catalan giants and he was informed by incoming Barca coach Ronald Koeman that he had no future at Camp Nou.
Rakitic had made no secret of his desire to return to Sevilla, in part due to his wife being from the city and recently a deal was arranged to bring him back. Rakitic has penned a four year contract on a reported wage of €3 million per season, a vast reduction on the reported €8 million a season the Croat was earning at Barca. Can he fill Banega’s playmaking boots in midfield and lead Sevilla to more successful campaigns in 2020/21 and beyond?
4. Dani Parejo – Valencia CF to Villarreal CF – Free Transfer
Despite a 5th placed finish in 2019/20, qualifying them for the 2020/21 UEFA Europa League, Villarreal decided to part company with their manager Javier Calleja in the summer. Whilst one could term the move harsh, the arrival of former Valencia, Sevilla, Paris St Germain and Arsenal manager Unai Emery as his replacement is a strong coup for The Yellow Submarine. Emery has already dived into the transfer market since taking charge by taking advantage of the chaos at Valencia to snap up two of their Valencian regional rivals best players, Francis Coquelin and Dani Parejo.
It is the signing of the latter of these, Parejo that is the most impressive and noteworthy statement. At 31, Parejo has enjoyed some of the best seasons of his career over the last few years at Valencia and now receives frequent call-ups to the Spain national team. Staggeringly, Parejo has not just left Valencia for their regional rivals, he leaves on a free transfer. Parejo should add playmaking class to Villarreal’s midfield and crucially is a fine replacement for the influential Santi Cazorla who left at the end of 2019/20 to join Al-Sadd in Qatar.
5. David Silva – Manchester City to Real Sociedad – Free Transfer
Despite struggling to find consistent form after the return to action post-Covid pause in 2019/20, Real Sociedad managed to finish 6th place in La Liga and secure UEFA Europa League football for 2019/20. La Real’s impressive season owed much to the brilliant form of Real Madrid loanee Martin Odegaard. The 21 year-old Norwegian noted 7 goals and 9 assists in 36 games in all competitions for the Basque outfit, finally demonstrating the talent that prompted Los Blancos to sign Odegaard as a 16 year-old back in 2015. With James Rodriguez set to leave the Spanish capital, Odegaard, rather than spending another season on loan at La Real will be integrated into Real Madrid’s first team.
However, Real Sociedad have managed to secure themselves a replacement and some replacement it is too, David Silva. The 34 year-old opted to leave Manchester City in the summer of 2020 after 10 superb seasons in English football with the Cityzens. Despite turning 34 during the 2019/20 campaign, Silva showed little signs of fading when it came to productivity, noting 6 goals and 10 assists in 27 Premier League matches. Silva had been expected to sign for Italian club SS Lazio upon the expiry of his contract at Man City, however, at the last minute chose to join Real Sociedad instead. Can the San Sebastian outfit use the capture of Silva to enjoy another fruitful campaign in 2020/21?
6. Shon Weissman – Wolfsberger AC to Real Valladolid – €4 million
Just a few months after winning promotion to La Liga for the 2018/19 season, Real Valladolid then caught the attention of the world’s press when the legendary Brazilian striker Ronaldo Nazario purchased a 51% controlling majority stake in the club. Since then, Ronaldo has gradually increased his stake in the Castille and Leon club to 82% and Real Valladolid’s 16th and 13th place finishes have established them in La Liga after their promotion from the second tier.
In the summer of 2020 Valladolid have so far made some impressive additions to their squad to attempt to make further progress in 2020/21. Veteran Chilean winger Fabian Orellana arrives from Eibar after impressing at the Basque outfit in 2019/20. However, their intriguing summer capture comes from overseas, more specifically the Austrian Bundesliga in the shape of Shon Weissman.
24 year-old Israeli international striker Weissman arrives at Valladolid from Austrian club Wolfsberger AC after a breakthrough 2019/20 campaign. Weissman noted 37 goals and 8 assists in 40 games in all competitions for the Austrian club, finishing as top scorer in the Austrian Bundesliga. His feats in 2019/20 included 4 goals in a 5-0 win for Wolfsberger against SV Mattersburg and goals in the UEFA Europa League against German and Italian heavyweights Borussia Monchengladbach and AS Roma respectively. Can Weissman’s arrival possibly make Pucela challenge for a top half finish in La Liga 2020/21?
7. Takefusa Kubo – Real Madrid to Villarreal CF – Loan
As aforementioned, 2019/20 was a success for Villarreal, however, the appointment of Unai Emery as new manager has raised excitement and expectations amongst fans of El Submarino Amarillo. Excitement and expectations that have rose further owing to the arrival of another summer signing, Takefusa Kubo. The 19 year-old Japanese attacking player signed for Real Madrid on a free transfer last summer from FC Tokyo after impressing in his homeland. Most noteworthy though about Kubo is that he spent his childhood in arch-rivals FC Barcelona’s academy and had to return to his native Japan in 2015 when Barca received their transfer ban for the illegal signing of underage players.
Kubo was loaned to Real Mallorca for the 2019/20 campaign where the youngster impressed for the newly promoted outfit, contributing 4 goals and 5 assists in 36 games in all competitions in the Balearic Islands side’s unsuccessful attempt to avoid relegation. However, noting his progress, Los Blancos have decided to loan him out a second time, this time to a higher level of club like Villarreal to further monitor his progress. Where Kubo will fit into Emery’s tactical set-up at Villarreal is still open to debate, however, if he can find a suitable role and impress, he could put himself in the frame for more regular playing time at Real Madrid in 2021/22.
8. Alvaro Negredo – Al Nasr (Dubai) to Cadiz CF – Free Transfer
The final signing to watch in 2020/21 in La Liga comes from an unlikely source, Cadiz CF. After 14 seasons fluctuating between the second and third tiers of Spanish football after their relegation from La Liga in 2005/06, the Andalucians returned to the top flight for 2020/21. Many of the club’s signings so far have been logical raids on second tier clubs for some of their better performing players.
However, one transfer stands out above all, Alvaro Negredo. 34 year-old Negredo has returned back to his homeland by signing a one year contract with Cadiz after a spell playing in the United Arab Emirates with Al Nasr (Dubai). The veteran striker can count Rayo Vallecano, Real Madrid, Almeria, Sevilla FC, Manchester City, Valencia, Middlesbrough and Besiktas amongst his former clubs. After a prolific spell at Al Nasr, where he noted 25 goals and 8 assists across 36 top flight league matches in the UAE top flight, Cadiz fans will hope he can make a similar impact in South West Andalucia and make their stay in the top flight greater than just one season.