Everybody Against the WhitesBy: Alfonso Duro
Every year La Liga tries to reach unimaginable new heights by accumulating more international stars than the year before. And this upcoming season—kickoff is this Saturday, in case your World Cup hangover has you confused—is not an exception. This year, most eyes will be on how to stop Real Madrid after the brutal market dealings the Merengues conducted all summer and that have them looking like a squad that could steamroll past everyone. But that’s not the only thing the 2014-15 season of the world’s most exciting league (sorry, Brits) has to offer. Let’s see.
DAVID VS. GOLIATH: As mentioned above, every team—perhaps with the exception of Barcelona and Atlético Madrid—will feel like facing a battle between men and giants when they enter Santiago Bernabéu, and you can’t really blame them. After winning the Champions League in Lisbon last May, the whites have added three of the top players in the World Cup: German midfielder Toni Kroos, Colombian sensation James Rodriguez and Costa Rica’s goalie Keylor Navas. The bets on who’ll find Goliath’s weak spot are open.
THE VAMPIRE CHRONICLES: The planet seems to have been taken over by a vampire frenzy during the last few years (we’re not linking to any Twilight content here, thank you very much), and the bug has finally, er, bitten FC Barcelona and inspired them to hire Luis Suárez. Even when the Uruguayan striker can’t play for the Culés until October because of his infamous World Cup biting incident (the ban extends until 2016 with regards to his national team), they saw in the former Liverpool striker the perfect man to team up with Neymar and Messi. The three will form an attacking line that is nothing but frightening.
CHOLISMO 3.0: At Atlético Madrid, coach Diego Pablo “Cholo” Simeone leads a cult, rather than a team—a system of beliefs known as “Cholismo.” And besides his achievements—winning La Liga, being seconds away from lifting the Champions League—his semi-god stature stems from the fact that he has managed to build a team that has gotten stronger and stronger over the last two years in spite of losing most of his star players. They sell pillars of the squad like Diego Costa, Filipe Luís, David Villa or Thibaut Courtois? No problem for Cholo. He signs Mexican Raúl Jiménez, Croatian Mario Mandžukić and Frenchman Antoine Griezmann and sets out to prove, again, that nothing is impossible.
WHO TO WATCH? SAY “DEU-LO-FEU”: Everton’s manager Roberto Martinez had a bit too much fun last season showing the press how to pronounce the name of Barça’s star Gerard Deulofeu. Now it’s time for Sevilla fans to enjoy themselves. The youngster outdid himself so much at Goodison Park that Barça claimed him back—dreaming of grooming him to be the next Messi—but Culé coach Luis Enrique had different plans and decided to loan him to Sevilla FC for another year. There, he will join future star Denis Suárez (also on loan from Barça) to try to earn a spot back in the Blaugrana squad by bringing some glory back to Sevilla.
EASTERN PROMISES: Former La Liga champion and Spanish powerhouse Valencia has just put behind one the darkest periods in its history (a debt of 200 million euros) thanks to Singapore magnate Peter Lim. Yet, the moves Mr. Lim and his board have made–guided by the puppeteer genius of Portuguese agent Jorge Mendes, who provided most of the players and surprise new coach Nuno Espírito Santo—don’t seem like the wisest way to reroute the club. Letting go of 13 players to sign only eight to fill the void (some of whose names are hard to recognize to even the most avid soccer aficionado) seldom translates into a successful season. Let’s say we won’t be betting our allowance money on Mr. Lim’s Valencia this year.
LOGISTICS: Liga de Fútbol Profesional, official site