The 2017-18 La Liga season has begun with some familiar elements thus far, such as the incredible skill of Lionel Messi and the fantastic defensive work-rate of Athletic Bilbao. But there have been some surprises as well, including title-holders Real Madrid dropping points at home.
The Spanish top flight normally comes down to the performances of its two footballing giants, and that battle is fought off the pitch as well. Transfer windows can feature high transfer fees and astronomical wages from the El Clasico rivals, with this summer being the first opportunity to strike.
We examine how Real Madrid and Barcelona fared during the recent transfer period.
Los Blancos and manager Zinedine Zidane had a very quiet window by their lofty standards. But when you capture a league and European double, there may not have been much improving needed in the Spanish capital.
There was certainly a scare a few months ago regarding Cristiano Ronaldo’s future with the club, with the issue resolved quickly. However, Madrid mostly understood that the key to continued success was keeping their talented squad at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Rumours of Gareth Bale’s departure ended up as false, but several noteworthy players did leave this summer. Alvaro Morata (Chelsea) and Pepe (Besiktas) each found new settings for their careers, while James Rodriguez was sent out on-loan to Bayern Munich.
The major addition was on the back-line, and a reported €30 million fee for Theo Hernandez. The 19-year-old joins from city rival Atletico Madrid, and will certainly benefit from working with Marcelo over the next few seasons.
The left-back played well last season on-loan at Deportivo Alaves and has displayed immense quality at a young age.
With a star-studded line-up already in place, Real Madrid president Florentino Perez took a more calculated and measured approach in the transfer market.
For the Blaugrana, everything involving this summer came down to one man – Neymar.
The Brazilian’s record-breaking move to Paris Saint-Germain sent shockwaves throughout Europe, and clearly re-shaped the future plans that were in place at the Camp Nou.
The Catalans have worked towards making the adjustments necessary moving forward, with mixed results of both success and failure. Nelson Semedo, Paulinho and Ousmane Dembele were signed and will each have an impact.
Barcelona’s pursuit of Liverpool star Philippe Coutinho ended up as the failure, as what seemed like a finished deal ultimately fell through. However, the Cules will almost assuredly have another bid lined up for him in January.
The added talent will help, but the loss of Neymar will hurt the team’s long-term quality.
Barcelona have begun well and sit atop the table through the first three league fixtures, while Cristiano Ronaldo’s five-match ban has had an influence on Real Madrid’s two consecutive draws.
The group stage of the UEFA Champions League gets underway this week, as depth in the squad will be tested for both sides.
With that being said, Neymar’s exit will undermine Barcelona success this season. Their sparkling form will be tested, and their eternal rivals are prepared to re-claim their spot at La Liga’s summit.