Just How Bad Is Barcelona’s Start to This La Liga Season?

Miami, Fla. (September 23, 2019) —

Granada had only beaten Barcelona once in their last twenty meetings. Then came Saturday night, a pleasant, warm, dry evening in southern Andalusia.

By now, you’ve undoubtedly heard the final score. The shocking result over the weekend condemned Barcelona to its worst league start in 25 years and leaves the club in eighth place in the table, three points behind Granada. The previous worst start was in 1994-1995 under manager Johan Cruyff. It is also the first time since that season that Barcelona have failed to win any of its first three away games. The Blaugrana have been winless on the road stretching back to April (last season.)

Manager Ernesto Valverde made four changes to the side that unconvincingly drew 0-0 with Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League last Tuesday, as a returning Messi started on the bench once more. Summer signing Junior Firpo was handed his first start of the season after Jordi Alba had picked up an injury in midweek, but it was his defensive slip that directly led to Granada taking the lead after just one minute and five seconds.

Ramon Azeez headed in at the back post, to the delight of the over 18,000 spectators at the Nuevo Los Cármenes, who would not have dared to dream of being a goal up after less than two minutes having been played. The early advantage proved no fluke either, as the hosts pressed on and could have added to their advantage before the interval – Manchester City loanee Yangel Herrera shooting narrowly over from outside the box.

Barcelona’s best opportunity fell to Luis Suarez in first-half stoppage time, but the Uruguay forward’s goal-bound attempt was – typically of the hosts’ defensive performance – blocked on the line.

Something had to be done, and Valverde introduced Lionel Messi (replacing Carles Perez) and 16-year old superstar Ansu Fati at half-time. The pair saw plenty of the ball in the second half, but despite their best efforts, neither could achieve a breakthrough. In fact, it was a Granada substitute, Álvaro Vadillo, who had a bigger impact on the game, adding the hosts’ second from the penalty spot after Arturo Vidal’s costly hand ball in the area, which was confirmed beyond any doubt by VAR. Vadillo swept the ball to his left from the penalty spot, away from a diving Marc Andre ter Steigen.

Granada’s Álvaro Vadillo celebrates his penalty kick.

Such was the strength of Granada’s play that the visitors, despite having 73 % of the possession and out passing Granada by a wide margin, failed to register a shot on target in the first half and landed just one of their eight shots – from Messi in 82nd minute – on target in the entire game.

Barcelona never looked like getting back into the contest after that, as a resilient, dogged Granada recorded a famous victory.

One can only imagine what Ernesto is thinking.

Barcelona have now failed to score in six of their last seven La Liga away matches, while €120 million summer signing Antoine Griezmann is yet to have a shot on target after four away matches for Barcelona.

The recent form of the Culés has Luis Suarez worried:

“This defeat hurts us and makes us very worried and we need to really take hard look at ourselves if we are to improve. We didn’t manage to dominate the game in any way. We need to analyse what has gone wrong in these a way games; we are obviously concerned about the lack of chances we are creating.”

Leo Messi is not fully healthy though he is still the key to Barcelona’s fortunes.

When asked where the blame lied for the loss at Estadio Nuevo Los Carmenes, Valverde was clear in his answer.

“We’re missing precision in the final third, they tried to press us, we came out well from the pressure and then it was a matter of adding the finishing touch, that’s where we went wrong,” he explained.

“We will try to improve.” He also took responsibility for the defeat, adding, “You always blame yourself for what happens, the actors are the players but in the end, the coach is responsible,” he said.

Barcelona are also leaking goals as well, having conceded nine goals in five matches, tied for the worst defensive record in La Liga along with Real Betis.

“It’s clearly not a very good statistic for us and not in line with what we have been doing in the last few years,” said Ernesto Valverde.

Adding to the pressure the Catalan press has been unsympathetic to the Blaugrana, as this cover of yesterday’s Diario Sport clearly shows:

Playing With Conviction

Granada CF currently tied for 5th in La Liga table after 4 rounds.

Miami, Fla, 16 September 2019

It’s early in the season, but after four rounds of La Liga, fans of Granada CF are probably surprised by the club’s performance thus far: two wins, one draw and one loss. For a team which is one of the favourites to finish in the bottom three, these are good times in Andalucía.

The season has seen Granada open the campaign with a 4-4 goleado at the Cerámica against Villarreal, followed by a narrow 1-0 defeat at home against currently first-place Sevilla. Then came a surprising 3-0 win away at the RCD Espanyol stadium over the Péricos before the international break, and proving that was no fluke, winning over the weekend 2-0 at Celta de Vigo. The team has also scored 9 goals while conceding 5 (+4 differential).

Germán Sanchez heads home a goal in first half stoppage time.

Granada are coached by Diego Martinez who at 38 years old is young for a manager, but has a wealth of coaching experience having retired from playing at the age of just 20. He has steadily built his way up since, spending seven years on the coaching staff at Sevilla before getting his big break with Osasuna in 2017-18. His switch to Granada last summer ultimately worked out well for both clubs with Osasuna the other side to achieve direct promotion from the Segunda last season.

Sunday’s Result Versus Celta

Manager Diego Martínez said in the pre-game press conference that “we approach every game with maximum confidence and thinking that we can win.” And win they did, though the game didn’t go according to plan. Nonetheless, Granada’s win on Sunday came exactly 61 years after their last victory in Vigo. The game itself will likely be remembered more for the deployment of VAR than much else. Under unusually warm, sunny skies and dry conditions, something not that common in this part of Spain, the most influential person on the pitch was referee Prieto Iglesias, who issued not one but two red cards after consulting VAR that reduced Celta to nine men before 30 minutes had been played.

Referee Prieto Iglesias issues red card to Celta’s midfielder Fran Beltran in the 28′

Granada found the back of the net in first half stoppage time on a nice header from Germán Sanchez and again shortly after the restart, when, in minute 53, Yangel Herrera unleashed a blast that nearly destroyed the crossbar on its way in. From that point on, it was game over.


Related:

Summer Transfer Market: La Liga Santander And La Liga Smartbank Summer Transfer Market 2019 | Mercado de Fichajes 2019

A closer look at the squad: Granada CF (Transfermarkt)


At the post game press conference following the 2-0 victory, Manager Diego Martínez characterised it as a “marvellous victory,” adding that if someone had told him his club would have seven points after its first four matches it would have been beyond all imagination.

“Es una victoria maravillosa para un equipo recién ascendido como nosotros. Cuando salió el calendario, si nos dicen que vamos a tener siete puntos, no se lo hubiera imaginado ni el más optimista”.

One of the biggest tests of the season awaits the Nazarí side this weekend, as defending champions Barcelona make a visit to the Nuevo Estádio de Los Cármenes. Barcelona is playing well even in the absence of Lionel Messi, and has seen excellent performances turned in by young players such a Frenkie de Jong and 16-year-old forward Ansu Fati.

Discussing the upcoming game, Diego Martínez said he is hoping for a full stadium that supports Granada, and pledged that his team will approach every game as if it was the last.


Continue reading Playing With Conviction

La Liga Sets A New Record In Summer Transfer Window

La Liga Santander teams have rarely shown much appetite to spend in the summer market, yet as the fiscal gap between the Spanish top flight and Premier League has closed ever so slightly, teams have been prepared to gamble on new players.

Miami, Fla. (Monday September 9, 2019) – Photos: KE Russo

LA LIGA: Looking At The Summer Transfer Window

On September 2, 2019, the summer transfer window closed for Spanish club’s. This report highlights some facts and figures from the transfer ñwindow involving Spanish top flight clubs. Statistics about fees is sources from Transfermarkt. This is not always exact due to the fact that the reporting of transfers by the media is not consistent and even the clubs involved will quote different figures depending on how a deal is structured. Disclaimers aside, it is a good source of information.

The Numbers:

Total Euros Spent by La Liga Clubs – €1,319,620,000

On the purchasing side, over one billion Euros was a new record for La Liga in one transfer window. Real Madrid were the highest spenders, and the amount spent was also aided by the Antoine Griezmann and João Félix deals.

Coverage of the transfer market in the media. Source: La Marca, September 7, 2019.

The record spending would have been even higher, probably in excess of €1.5 billion, if a couple of rumoured transfers had actually been completed, such as Neymar returning to FC Barcelona, or Paul Pogba and/or Tottenham’s Danish forward Christian Eriksen to Real Madrid.

The Big Three’s Impact On The Numbers

Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid disbursed a massive €806m in this transfer window. In third place was Atlético de Madrid, where the bulk of their spending, €126 million, was paid to Sport Lisboa e Benfica for João Félix, making the young Portuguese striker the most expensive Atlético signing of all time, and the most expensive Portuguese player signing ever. (You heard that right, Cristiano fans.) The big three clubs’ combined spending amounted to 61% of the money spent by La Liga clubs, with the other 17 sides spending just under €514m.

The fourth place spender was Sevilla Football Club, who accounted for a good portion of that €514m by spending almost €159m on new players.

Top Four Widen Their Margin

Including Sevilla FC along with the top three results in the combined percentage of the total spent being increased to 72.8 %, going back to an older theme of larger polarisation. All of the top spenders broke their respective club records.

Total Money Recouped by La Liga Clubs – €1,026,720,000

On the selling side of the market, Spanish top flight clubs also recouped over €1 billion during this transfer window, meaning that the total net spend is less than €300m, which averages out to under €15m per club. Take out Barcelona and Real Madrid and that total net spend for the league reduces to just €17m (less than €1m per club on average). Compared to the Premier League, where mid-table and bottom half sides are capable of spending large sums on individual players, the same cannot be said for mid-table La Liga clubs. Though the smaller clubs are packing a bit more of a finncial punch these days, it is at a lower spending level than the Premier League.

Biggest Spenders –

Rank (Spain) Club Rank in Europe

  1. Real Madrid (€307.5m) 1st
  2. Fútbol Club Barcelona (€255) 2nd
  3. Atlético de Madrid (€243.5) 3rd
  4. Sevilla Football Club (€158) 7th

Real Madrid were the biggest spenders in this transfer window with Barcelona (€255m) and Atletico Madrid (€243.5m) close behind. Los Blancos were quick to open their coffers with deals to obtain Eden Hazard, Luka Jovic, Éder Militão and Ferland Mendy, who combined for a bill of over €40m.

Lowest Spenders – Athletic Club Bilbao (€0m)

Athletic Club were the only club who didn’t spend any money this summer with the club’s famous ‘Basque only’ policy always affecting their dealings. Iñaki Williams signed a nine-year contract (practically unheard of anymore) which allowed Athletic to at least not lose their biggest player. The next lowest spenders were Real Valladolid who only signed one player on a permanent deal – Pablo Hervias for €1m from Eibar.

Most Money Received from Sales – Atletico Madrid (€313.1m)

The keys to Atlético de Madrid’s revenue from sales were the transfers of Antoine Griezman (€120) to Barcelona, Rodri (€70m) to Manchester City, Lucas Hernández (€80m) to Bayern München, and Portuguese winger Gelson Martins (€30) to Monaco. Combined these four sales generated €300m in cash to reinvest in the club. This helped to offset Atlético Madrid’s refusal to offer new longer term contracts to their ageing defenders, which resulted in Diego Godín, Filipe Luis and Juanfran all leaving for free.

Barcelona were next in this category with €156.4m coming in as Jasper Cillessen, Malcom Oliveira, Andre Gomes, Paco Alcacer and Denis Suárez all departed, while they also received an €8.5m loan fee from Bayern for Philippe Coutinho.

Most Expensive Signing – João Félix (€126m)

As mentioned, at €126m, João Félix was the most expensive signing by a La Liga club in this transfer window. However there were a couple of others that came close, with Antoine Griezmann moving to Barcelona for €120m and Eden Hazard arriving at the Bernabeu from Chelsea for €100m. Again, the exact figures may ultimately vary depending on add-ons and the success the players have at their new clubs. Those three deals were also the most expensive anywhere in Europe this summer, with Harry Maguire’s transfer to Manchester United the next highest.

Most Signings – Mallorca & Leganes (14)

Mallorca and Leganes top the list for most signings with 14. This does not include players who have been bought and then sold or bought and immediately loaned out. Thus the actual number of ‘new’ arrivals those is much lower given that both clubs have been very active re-signing players who they had on loan last season. In terms of the highest turnover of players, Sevilla come out clearly on top with 13 new signings, none of whom were at the club last season.

Biggest Net Spenders – Real Madrid (€177.5m)

Not surprisingly, Real Madrid were the biggest net spenders. While Mateo Kovacic, Marcos Llorente, Raul de Tomás, Theo Hernández and Keylor Navas all left for €15m+ fees, they failed to find a buyer for Gareth Bale or James Rodriguez, two of their biggest earners. As a result, it was difficult for the club to finance any move for Paul Pogba or Neymar. While writers may say it was a “so-so” window for Los Blancos, the proof will ultimately come with results on the pitch. Barcelona finished with a net spend of €98.6m while Sevilla also spent over €50m more than they recouped.

Biggest Net Profit – Atletico Madrid (€69.6

Surprisingly, given Atlético de Madrid smashed their transfer record on João Félix, the third most expensive player of all time, they still managed to end up with the largest overall transfer profit of any club in La Liga. Villarreal and Espanyol also clocked up net transfer profits of over €40m. In the case of the Yellow Submarine, there was perhaps some need to be profitable after a well below par season deprived them of the revenue the Europa or Champions League will bring. However Espanyol are in the Europa League for the first time in 13 year, although they suffered losses during the summer with Borja Iglesias following coach Rubi to Real Betis, and Mario Hermoso going to Atlético. On the incoming side, Argentine left winger Matías Vargas arrived from Vélez Sarsfield (€10.5m) and central defender Fernando Calero (€8.0m) from Valladolid were the main additions Given early results like a 3-0 drubbing at home by newcomers Granada CF on September 1, they could have used more help.

Club Net Transfer Spend (€m)

Real Madrid -177.5 Barcelona -98.6 Sevilla -57.6 Valencia -30 Real Betis -26.3 Leganes -19.5 Osasuna -13.5 Real Sociedad -11.8 Levante -8.8 Mallorca -7 Granada -7 Getafe -6.8 Celta Vigo -3.3 Athletic Club 0 Real Valladolid +7 Alaves +7.2 Eibar +9.9 Villarreal +40.2 Espanyol +40.5 Atletico Madrid +69.6

How do La Liga Figures compare to the Premier League & Serie A?

Speculation was that La Liga could possibly out spend the Premier League this summer. However, with European windows now shut, that ultimately was not the case. Premier League clubs total spent a total of €1.55bn, over €200m more than the equivalent figures in La Liga. Regarding net spending the gap is wider, with Premier League clubs spending €732m more than they recouped compared to a net spend of less than €300m in La Liga. Even if Real Madrid had pulled off a late mega-deal for Paul Pogba and Barcelona had signed Neymar, it still likely would not have been enough to catch the Premier League. A closer comparison is between that of La Liga and Serie A. Italian top flight clubs paid out €1.18bn on new signings, marginally less than Spanish clubs. However their net spend was in fact greater (€328m), due to Serie A clubs recouping less money from player sales. Thus, as was the case last season, La Liga’s net transfer spending this summer was only the third highest in Europe, again behind the Premier League and Serie A.

Here is an excellent graphic found in Transfermarkt that compares the transfer balances around the world’s leagues:

Transfermarkt.com – Transfer Balances – Season 2019

The European Transfer Market for this summer was also a topic discussed at SoccerEx Europe 2019, which took place last week in the Lisbon suburb of Oeiras. Further insights are included in a new release of the Football Transfer Review 2019 by Prime Time Sport. The report was presented by Esteve Calzada, CEO of Prime Time Sport.

Esteve Calzada, CEO, Prime Time Sports 📷 SoccerEx
Chart Showing Amounts Spent On Player Acquisitions In The Top 5 European Leagues.
Continue reading La Liga Sets A New Record In Summer Transfer Window