What on earth is going on at Barcelona?
It’s pretty much impossible to briefly summarise what’s gone on at Barcelona this summer, but here’s an attempt.
The club remains €1.35 billion in debt so, in order to stay competitive now, they’ve sold off future earnings.
To do this, President Joan Laporta has pulled ‘economic levers’, selling 25% of their league TV rights for the next 25 years to Sixth Street for €567 million.
That though is nowhere near enough to comply with La Liga’s profit and sustainability, so 10% of Barça studious’ revenue for 25 years has been sold to Socios.com for €100 million.
All of this has, supposedly, allowed the Catalan club to go on a mad spending spree this summer.
Andreas Christensen and Franck Yannick Kessié have arrived for free, while a combined €160 million has been spent to recruit Jules Koundé, Pablo Torre, Raphinha and Robert Lewandowski.
However, right now, none of the six new signings, as well as the two players who were briefly free agents, Sergi Roberto or Ousmane Dembélé, can be registered for the opening day of the season.
This could result in Laporta pulling a fourth lever by selling a % of Barça’s merchandising revenue, something he’s incredibly reluctant to do.
They’re also desperate to raise funds by selling Samuel Umtiti, Memphis, Miralem Pjanić, Martin Braithwaite and, of course, Frenkie de Jong.
So, on the field, Xavi does now, in theory, have an incredibly strong squad, one that should be able to challenge for the title and the Champions League as well.
But, all the off-field issues, that are more than concerning long-term, could also derail their on-pitch performance this season.
Barcelona season 2022/23
Barcelona to win the Copa del Rey- 7/2!
Will Real Madrid retain their title?
While all this crazy financial management is going on in Catalonia, Real Madrid are just sitting back, without a care in the world, gazing at the trio of trophies they lifted last season.
12 months ago, supporters were generally underwhelmed when Carlo Ancelotti returned for a second stint as Head Coach.
By the following May, this was certainly not the case, with los Blancos having won the Supercopa de España, La Liga by 13 points and the Champions League.
This is just the third time, after 1957 and 2017, Real have won the league, the European Cup as well as another trophy all in the same season.
So now, amazingly, they’re looking to retain La Liga for the first time since 2008.
The first period of this summer was all about Kylian Mbappé who, to the surprise of most, chose to stay at PSG.
Real did spend €100 million on a different Frenchman, namely Aurélien Tchouaméni, while Antonio Rüdiger has arrived on a free.
This window has more been about trimming the squad with Isco, Gareth Bale, Marcelo, Luka Jović and Takefusa Kubo all departing.
Having already beaten Eintracht Frankfurt in Wednesday’s UEFA Super Cup, Real Madrid look set to lift even more and even bigger trophies later in the campaign.
Real Madrid season 2022/23
Real Madrid to win La Liga- 6/5!
How will Atlético Madrid line-up?
As defending champions, Atlético Madrid ended last season third, 15 points worse off than the previous campaign.
At one stage, los Colchoneros’ top four place was under threat, but a strong end to the season secured a tenth successive season in the Champions League.
Nevertheless, much better is expected of Diego Simeone’s side this time round, so a few changes have been made to his squad.
Luis Suárez, Héctor Herrera and Šime Vrsaljko have all left the club, joining Nacional, Houston Dynamo and Olympiacos respectively.
In have come right-back Nahuel Molina and midfielder Axel Witsel, while Saúl Ñíguez and Álvaro Morata are back following loans.
Constructing a functioning forward line remains Simeone’s biggest challenge.
The returning Antoine Griezmann and record-signing João Félix both endured underwhelming seasons last time round.
Can they function in the same team and where do Matheus Cunha, Thomas Lemar, Ángel Correa and Morata fit into this?
A vast improvement is going to be needed from Atleti if they’re to challenge for honours.
Will Sevilla remain competitive?
Last season was a massive missed opportunity for Sevilla.
In last summer’s window, they didn’t sell star players Diego Carlos, Jules Koundé and others because they believed a first title since 1946 was ascertainable.
Los Nervionenses were very much in with a chance at the start of 2022, but then went on the worst unbeaten run of all time, drawing seven of nine games.
This came after Julen Lopetegui’s side had failed to advance through a not particularly challenging Champions League group.
Not to worry, Sevilla are back in their competition, the Europa League, with the final taking place at their stadium, Estadio Ramón Sánchez-Pizjuán.
But, turns out, it wasn’t written in the stars, with los Hispalenses crashing out in the round of 16 following a dismal performance at the London Stadium against West Ham.
They did sneak into fourth, but mut better will be demanded of Lopetegui, even though Carlos and Koundé have both now gone.
With replacement Marcão their only noteworthy acquisition, Sevilla’s sequence of three successive fourth place finishes could come to an end.
Can Real Sociedad, Real Betis or Villarreal break the top four monopoly?
If Sevilla do drop out of the Champions League places, who is best placed to usurp them?
Real Betis are the most obvious candidates, given that they came fifth and won the Copa del Rey last season.
Los Verdiblancos have not lost any of the key players this summer, while Luiz Felipe and Luiz Henrique look like smart editions.
Real Sociedad meanwhile came sixth, despite only scoring 16 goals at home all season, somehow accumulating ten wins and five draws at Anoeta.
Their attacking options have been bolstered by Takefusa Kubo and Brais Méndez, but Imanol Alguacil’s side look long-shots to gatecrash the top four.
Villarreal meantime, under Unai Emery, have been magnificent in Europe, but less so domestically.
In his two seasons in charge, el Submarino Amarillo have won the Europa League and then reached the Champions League semi-finals, but have come seventh in La Liga both times.
So, Villarreal will be the first-ever Spanish club to feature in the Europa Conference League, taking on Hajduk Split later this month.
It wouldn’t surprise anyone if Emery’s team won that competition, but a better league performance will also be demanded of Villarreal.
Real Betis season 2022/23
Real Betis to finish in the top 4 of La Liga- 9/2!
Can Athletic club qualify for Europe?
Following Presidential elections, won by Jon Uriarte, Athletic Club have a, sort of, new man in charge.
Despite doing a reasonably good job, Marcelino has been replaced by Ernesto Valverde, who’s back as manager five years after leaving.
His task is to get Athletic into Europe for the first time since 2017/18, with the club finishing eighth last season.
Given the Basque-only policy, it’s been the usual quiet summer window in Bilbao.
So, they’ll be hoping the return of Valverde will be enough to get the Lions back into the top seven.
Will Valencia be in danger of relegation?
La Liga’s crisis club remains Valencia, with owner Peter Lim continuing to make financial cutbacks.
Gonçalo Guedes’ €40 million sale to Wolves last week means los Che have sold €124 million worth of players in the last 24 months, spending almost nothing on replacements in this period.
This is simply unsustainable and has led to them finishing ninth, 13th and then ninth, following back-to-back fourth place finishes beforehand.
Under José Bordalás last season, they finished in the top half of the table and were only beaten in the Copa del Rey Final by Betis on penalties.
But, this was deemed not good enough, so he was dispensed with and Gennaro Gattuso is the new man in the hot seat.
As well as Guedes, they’ve also lost Jasper Cillessen, Hélder Costa, Ilaix Moriba and Bryan Gil this summer.
Samu Castillejo has arrived on a free from Milan, but this already decimated squad is already looking weaker.
Gattuso might not have realised what he walked into, so don’t be surprised if he walks out before the World Cup break.
Which Rayo Vallecano will we see?
Exactly a year ago, Rayo Vallecano were everyone’s favourites to finish rock bottom, given that they scrambled to promotion via the Segunda play-offs.
But, by New Years’ Day, los Franjirrojos sat fourth, were unbeaten at home, notably claiming wins against Athletic Club and Barcelona.
Andoni Iraola’s side then failed to win any of their first 13 games in 2022, losing nine of them.
In fact, Rayo have only won twice in La Liga this calendar year, the victories coming three days and four miles apart, beating Espanyol and then Barça, both in Catalonia.
Los Vallecanos have strengthened this summer but, after a season of such varying halves, it’s impossible to know what to expect.
How many of the newly-promoted clubs will survive?
The three newly-promoted clubs are all familiar to La Liga fans.
Segunda División champions Almería are back in the top-flight for the first time since 2015, but they were top-flight regulars in the late 2000s and early 2010s.
Real Valladolid meanwhile only endured two seasons back in the second-tier before, under Pacheta, clawing their way back up.
Blanquivioletas are majority owned by O Fenômeno Ronaldo, so are ambitious and aren’t just here to make up the numbers.
Sticking with the ownership theme, play-off winners Girona are 47% owned by City Football Group.
Blanquivermells featured in La Liga for the first time ever in 2017, finishing tenth before being relegated in season two.
Given their connections, Girona have managed to bring in Yangel Herrera, on loan from Manchester City, and MLS golden boot winner Valentín Castellanos from New York City.
Under Míchel, they look well-equipped to stay up but, in general, all three newly-promoted clubs will be, at the very least, competitive forces.
Almería season 2022/23
Almería to be relegated- 11/4!
Who will be fighting relegation?
So, of the clubs who’ve remained in La Liga, who are the prime candidates to go down this time?
Elche only surivived on the final day in 2021 and needed back-to-back wins in April to ensure their survival last season.
Roger is an excellent signing, coming in from Levante, but los Franjiverdes are likely to be down towards the bottom of the table again.
Cádiz and Mallorca meantime only preserved their status on a dramatic final day in May by beating Alavés and Osasuna respectivly.
So, if the three newly-promoted clubs are strong, these three could be in trouble.
Elche season 2022/23
Elche to be relegated- 6/4!
Champions: Real Madrid.
Other top four places: Barcelona, Atlético Madrid & Real Betis.
Europa League places: Sevilla & Villarreal.
Europa Conference League place: Real Sociedad.
Relegated: Cádiz, Elche & Almería.