Five out-of-favour La Liga players who could be shrewd winter acquisitions
By Ameen Rabbani.
As we enter the final week of the January transfer window, clubs around Europe will undoubtedly be looking to La Liga in the hope of finding a winter bargain to bolster their squads for the six months that lie ahead. Here’s five out-of-favour players who could do with a change of scenery from Spain’s top flight and make a difference elsewhere.
- Denis Cheryshev
It was somewhat surprising that Denis Cheryshev was given the nod to continue at Real Madrid this season despite enjoying a largely successful loan spell at Villarreal in 2014-15. As suspected with Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema occupying the forward line and the likes of Jese and Lucas Vazquez being used as back-ups, the Russian has found minutes hard to come by managing just five appearances, all as a substitute. One of the games he did play was in the Copa del Rey against Cadiz, which he happened to be ineligible for after picking up a suspension during last term’s semi-finals and as a result, Los Blancos were expelled from the competition so he doesn’t have many friends around the Bernabeu at the moment.
Nonetheless, he would prove to be a shrewd acquisition for anyone in need of a menacing winger. While on loan at the Yellow Submarine he regularly found himself in dangerous positions contributing seven goals and nine assists. His pace makes him a serious threat on the counter attack and Villarreal’s attacking transitions suited him perfectly allowing him to drive into space or directly at opponents which caused defences many problems. When in the final third, he makes smart decisions, knowing exactly when to cross and shoot which are both strong areas of his game and will only get better, while his tenacity and work-rate off the ball will definitely be appreciated by managers.
- Marc Bartra
This was always going to be the defining season for Bartra at Barcelona. The Catalan has always made it clear that his dream was to triumph at his boyhood club and his desire to do so has seen him reject offers from elsewhere in the past. He has, however, suffered from limited opportunities, playing just 920 minutes across six competitions. There’s obviously a lack of trust being shown by manager Luis Enrique which explains why the La Masia graduate has fallen behind Jeremy Mathieu and Thomas Vermaelen in the defensive pecking order.
The foundations are in place for Batra to become a solid centre-back, he’s committed, brave, strong in the air, extremely comfortable on the ball and has experience playing alongside the likes of Carles Puyol, Gerard Pique and Sergio Ramos but inconsistency and rashness continue to let him down. The eagerness to show his worth seems to get the better of him which leads to a rush of blood that puts the team in danger and he tends to get dragged out of position rather easily. These are areas that need to be ironed out while his weak mentality will only strengthen with more time on the pitch.
He’s 25 so can no longer be considered a kid and if he wants to become an international class defender that is capable of challenging for a place in the Spanish national team, he’ll have to develop away from the Camp Nou but he’s certainly worth taking a chance on.
- Oliver Torres
Having enjoyed a productive loan spell with Porto last season, it looked like things would fall into place for Oliver Torres once he returned to the Vicente Calderon given Arda Turan’s departure to Barcelona. Instead, he’s found other youngsters like Saul Niguez, Thomas Partey, Angel Correa and Yannick Ferreira-Carrasco ahead of him while the purchases of Augusto Fernandez and Matias Kranevitter have left him further in the cold.
Diego Simeone still has doubts about Oliver’s fitness, physique, and defensive contribution and when he has played, it has usually been on the wing of a narrow midfield which doesn’t suit him. If Oliver wants to go from a world class talent into a world class player, he’ll need to leave the Spanish capital.
There’s no denying the 21-year-old has a tremendous skill-set; he’s supremely gifted and takes care of the ball with such elegance, he can pass, create chances, dribble, possesses tricks that allow him to glide past challenges and with more focus, he can become a central midfielder or number 10 who controls matches for fun. He’s a player who needs to be given freedom to express himself because when he does, as he’s displayed for the Spanish junior sides on numerous occasions, he plays with a natural flow that few players this young are capable of.
We’ve seen glimpses of what Oliver was capable of under Simeone, his two assists this season- both to Antoine Griezmann- were typically crafted with fine technique. The first against Espanyol saw him go past a couple of players before sliding the ball across the box to the Frenchman while the other, away to Granada, was laid on a plate as he cut open the defence with a perfectly weighted through pass to send the striker through on goal.
Unfortunately, we haven’t seen this too often and if Oliver is to move, he must choose his next destination carefully, an environment that allows him to showcase his evident ability but provide a stern enough challenge to become a more polished all-round player.
- Rafael van der Vaart
The Dutchman has amassed less than 350 minutes of action for Real Betis and in truth never seemed to be appreciated by former boss Pepe Mel. With Mel now gone, there is a slim chance that the ex-Spurs man could force his way into the side but with the Seville outfit preferring a 4-4-2, it’s difficult to see van der Vaart getting a look in ahead of the younger and energetic central midfielders.
At 32, he’s vastly experienced which might tempt a club seeking an older head to guide them through until the end of the campaign. His qualities have been on show for many years, intelligent and classy in possession whether operating as a number 10 or slightly deeper where he can pull the strings and link the play between defence and attack which he did so well during his time at White Hart Lane. With 28 goals to his name whilst playing for the Lilywhites, it’s clear that van der Vaart is still capable of getting into advanced positions and contributing on the goals front and when he can work the ball on to his left foot in those areas, he has the composure and technique to be deadly. An added bonus is also his speciality at set-pieces which can offer an extra dimension to a team’s attack.
- Guilherme Siqueira
Filipe Luis’s return to Atletico Madrid was good news for everyone associated with the club… except Guilherme Siqueira. The Brazilian has surrendered the left-back spot to his compatriot and in doing so has only managed 14 appearances in total this term.
Like most defenders from Brazil these days, Siqueira is an aggressive, tough-tackling player who doesn’t allow attackers to become comfortable while his energy allows him to get up in support of his team-mates without any fuss.
When he enters the final third, he can take players out the game with his dribbling skills and more often than not he’ll either link-up with his team-mates to carve out a shooting opportunity for himself or pick out a forward in the box with an accurate cross but he needs to be playing consistently to be able to produce his best form rather than feeding off scraps.
This combination of composure and drive would make him a smart addition to any team with an attacking full-back on their wishlist.