Spain’s top teams switch their attentions to the transfer window after the Primera Division wrapped up for the winter break on Sunday so, here, Goal takes a look at their plans
By Ben Hayward
Time for a break. La Liga wrapped up for 2013 on Sunday as both Barcelona and Real Madrid sealed hard-fought wins, with the Catalans ending the year on top of the table and Atletico in a very close second.
Attentions now turn to the winter window, with a chance for those three to strengthen their teams in order to mount a sustained challenge for the title in the second half of the campaign.
So, here, Goal takes a look at the plans for Barca, Madrid and Atletico in January, as well as the priorities of some of the other major teams.
Barcelona begin 2014 boosted by the renewal of Andres Iniesta, who signs his new deal on Monday, and the return to fitness of Lionel Messi.
However, there are still other matters to resolve for the Catalan club, with defender Marc Bartra out of contract in the summer and yet to pen a new agreement, and Martin Montoya’s future also up in the air amid interest from Liverpool.
Barca do not want to lose either player and will step up negotiations with the pair in the coming weeks, while coach Gerardo Martino is also keen to recruit a striker in the winter window.
Both Robert Lewandowski and Sergio Aguero have been considered, but neither will accept a role on the bench at Camp Nou as the Catalans seek a player who can make an impact similar to that made by Henrik Larsson during Frank Rijkaard’s time as coach.
Benfica’s Oscar Cardozo and Lazio’s Miroslav Klose are still being monitored by Barca, but the recent form of Cesc Fabregas, Pedro and Neymar in front of goal – plus the imminent return of Messi – means the Blaugrana are now unlikely to strengthen until the summer.
However, sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta will be busy in the coming weeks as he seeks a replacement for goalkeeper Victor Valdes, who is leaving in the summer. Talks are at an advanced stage with both Borussia Monchengladbach’s Marc-Andre ter Stegen and Napoli’s Pepe Reina. Both could conceivably sign and talks remain ongoing, with a decision set to be announced in January.
In terms of outgoings, Barca will consider bids for Cameroon midfielder Alex Song, although the former Arsenal man is unlikely to leave until the summer unless a huge offer is tabled.
Real Madrid are even less likely to sign in January, but coach Carlo Ancelotti hopes he can persuade midfielder Xabi Alonso, who is out of contract in the summer, to sign a new deal with the capital club.
Alonso has spoken with Madrid about the possibility of renewing his contract, but the club are less confident than they were a couple of weeks ago as the player’s familly weigh up a change of scenery. However, Xabi and his wife have just had a baby girl and Madrid hope the need for stability will help the 32-year-old decide that staying put is the best option for the Basque and his family.
In the meantime, Ancelotti is keeping tabs on Borussia Dortmund midfielder Ilkay Gundogan as a possible replacement.
Madrid have also been looking at strikers, but a new forward is unlikely to arrive in the winter window, especially after top target Luis Suarez signed an extension with Liverpool this week.
Elsewhere, winger Angel di Maria has been linked with an exit to Monaco in January, but Ancelotti hopes he will stay and a move looks unlikely. The Argentine would only be transferred to raise cash for a world-class striker, in any case, and with such a transfer on hold until at least the summer, El Fideo now seems certain to remain at Real for the foreseeable future.
Atletico Madrid are still in debt and currently operate on a tight budget, so coach Diego Simeone is unlikely to be given funds to strengthen the side in January – even though they are challenging for what would be their first Liga crown since 1995-96.
Meanwhile, the Argentine coach has told the club’s board he wants to keep his squad together to maintain the team’s title tilt right until the end of the season.
Atleti are behind Barca on goal difference alone at the top of the table after 17 rounds of the championship, but several of the side’s players are attracting interest from elsewhere, including in-form striker Diego Costa (wanted by Arsenal), Spain midfielder Koke (watched recently by Manchester United boss David Moyes) and Raul Garcia (interesting Inter).
Costa, in particular, could make the club some serious money in the winter window, but Simeone knows selling the striker would end his side’s chances of lifting the Primera Division trophy in May.
Unlike Radamel Falcao, who was always likely to leave and joined Monaco last summer, Atleti are also confident of keeping Costa at the club in the long term and continue to seek improved renenue off the pitch in order to avoid selling their key players.
Elsewhere in La Liga, there is unlikely to be much movement in January as Spain’s clubs tighten their belts in what is a period of austerity in the Iberian nation.
Athletic Bilbao have recently rewarded Ibai Gomez with a new contract after the winger was linked with several Premier League teams, while the Basque outfit will resist any offers from Manchester United for midfielder Ander Herrera.
Struggling Betis have parted company with sporting director Vlada Tosic, meanwhile, and it remains to be seen whether the Andalusians will identify new targets now for the winter window.
Also in Andalucia, Malaga could lose goalkeeper Carlos Kameni, who is playing second fiddle to Argentine Willy Caballero and is keen to secure first-team football in order to fight for a World Cup place with Cameroon next year.
Real Sociedad are likely to stick with their current squad, but have moved to renew the contract of promising right-back Joseba Zaldua until 2016.
Finally, Valencia are awaiting investment from businessman Peter Lim which is expected to clear the club’s debts and kick off an exciting new sporting project. However, with changes in the staff at the Mestalla outfit and the deal to be comfirmed officially, no major moves are expected in January.
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