La Liga Lowdown
The Pod Squad: January Transfers
EUAN MCTEAR: Real Valladolid have won the Olaza saga
One of the most bizarre transfers of recent times is the deal that sees Lucas Olaza transplanted from Celta Vigo’s squad to that of one of their potential rivals in the relegation battle - Real Valladolid.
Given how the Uruguayan left-back has impressed since signing for Celta Vigo on loan from Boca Juniors two years ago, given that he knows LaLiga and given that he is at the perfect age of 26, you’d think this would be a player Celta Vigo would’ve wanted to keep. And they did. The problem was that they weren’t in a position to pay the €4m purchase option that would have become obligatory when Olaza reached 20 matches this season. He was on 18.
So, Celta Vigo and Boca Juniors looked for a new home for the player. With Real Valladolid seeing his value and needing to sign a left-back due to the season-ending injury of Raúl Carnero and the poor form of Nacho Martínez, this was the perfect fit and they’ve signed him on an initial loan with a purchase option of their own.
I love this transfer for Valladolid as it strengthens a position of need and there’s so little risk involved. We already know that Olaza can play in this league. He’s also going through the process of obtaining double citizenship, so shouldn’t take up a non-EU spot for much longer. When that happens, his re-sale value should go up even higher. So, this looks to be a sound investment for a side in need of a spark.
With Valladolid having also brought in striker Kenan Kodro on loan from Athletic Club this transfer window, they’ve certainly improved. Celta Vigo, on the other hand, have lost a good left-back because of complicated circumstances. They’ve brought in Aarón Martín as the replacement, but we’ll have to see how he does as he didn’t have the best time of it at Mainz 05. ROMÁN DE ARQUER: Real Sociedad and Celta snap up strikers with points to prove There’s one signing that stands out for me from the January transfer window, and that’s Carlos Fernández to Real Sociedad.
The Basque team were in desperate need of a talented striker to replace a Willian José who had lost his motivation and was longing to leave as soon as possible. Now they’ve managed to solve that situation, and the 24-year-old striker can leave behind a strange few months at Sevilla where he wasn’t getting much of a chance under Julen Lopetegui.
Carlos Fernández was a key player for Granada as they qualified for European competition for the first time in their history, featuring in 34 of the 38 games and becoming the team's top-scorer in LaLiga with 10 goals.
Now he has the opportunity to keep progressing as a player at a club which has an exceptional track record when it comes to developing young talent. La Real have given him a long-term contract that ties him to the club until 2027, so he’ll be in the perfect environment to step up his game.
Carlos Fernández is an ambitious and passionate player who can be very useful in many ways for Imanol Alguacil, capable of leading the attack on his own or of forming a partnership with Alexander Isak, as well as adapting to other attacking positions, if needed. So he’s definitely one to look out for.
The other signing I wanted to point out might come as a surprise, but here goes: it’s Facundo Ferreyra to Celta Vigo.
Many won’t expect much from him, but he showed off his knack for scoring goals during his time at Shakhtar Donetsk, especially his last season in which he netted 30 goals in 42 games, grabbing the attention of Benfica among others. Unfortunately he wasn’t able to relive those days at the Portuguese club, nor did he shine at Espanyol.
In his season-and-a-half at the Catalan club he spent almost 100 days injured, making it hard for him to play consistently. But he did show glimpses of his quality, particularly in the Europa League in which he scored seven goals in nine games, including the qualifying rounds.
Given Santi Mina’s underwhelming season at Celta and the fact that Iago Aspas needs assistance in attack, Ferreyra might just have one more chance to prove he can still be a goal-scoring threat in a competitive league such as LaLiga.
PACO POLIT: Premier League flops to become Valencian Community hotshots? Let’s start off with Étienne Capoue. Villarreal have a keen eye for signing veteran players who they can squeeze until the last drop of football has left their body. For the 32-year-old, it’s also a decent fit because, after not being particularly valued at Vicarage Road, Capoue might finally find the continuity and confidence he wasn’t able to enjoy with the Hornets. Watford let him go for a small fee (€2m), so I would say he’s only a handful of games away from actually exceeding that value, as he’s had an immediate impact playing regularly alongside Dani Parejo and replacing the long-term injured Vicente Iborra. A two-and-a-half-year contract is proof of Villarreal’s faith in the player.
Patrick Cutrone was once Italy’s wonderkid, but his development stalled both in Italy and in the Premier League. His stint at Fiorentina wasn’t terrible, but he didn’t live up to the potential he had shown in his breakout season of 2017-18. Wolves recalled him early in January, only to then bring in Willian José from Real Sociedad, knocking Cutrone back down the pecking order under Nuno Espírito Santo, so out he went on loan again, this time to Valencia. He will only be at Mestalla for a few months, but I expect him to make the most of his new chance to shine in a team which is desperate for clinical accuracy up front, as their build-up play isn’t the greatest. If we’re lucky, he and Maxi Gómez will deliver a few great nights for Los Che’s long-suffering fans.
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