After a pulsating World Cup, the domestic season is finally back and it looks set to be another great year of European football action.
There have been some big moves in the summer transfer window while certain clubs will be benefitting from the performances of their players in Brazil – here’s a look at some of the biggest potential winners in Europe.
2014 has been a special year for Los Blancos – winning the Copa del Rey while finally ending a long wait for La Decima, Carlo Ancelotti’s side will now be aiming for a successful defense of their Champions League crown whilst also targeting La Liga. And they may just do that.
Last year’s big summer signing, Gareth Bale didn’t take part in the World Cup and so, was fully rested and is getting the pre-season training he lacked last season. A trio of World Cup stars have also been bought in James Rodriguez, Keylor Navas and Toni Kroos.
In $80 million Rodriguez, they have the star of the World Cup and the annual big name signing that a club like Madrid are accustomed to who will galvanize the team.
Navas – just 27-years-old – is far from his prime but is certainly one of the most talented goalkeepers in the world. His displays in the World Cup were phenomenal with Costa Rica conceding just 3 goals in 5 games in Brazil, and he’ll no doubt, be the long term goalkeeper of Madrid for the next 5-7 years.
Lastly, Bayern Munich’s Kroos was signed – a possible replacement for the perhaps departing Sami Khedira – the 24-year-old German brings creativity, drive and discipline in Madrid’s midfield and is an astute piece of business for just â‚¬25 million.
While current La Liga champions, Atletico Madrid pulled off a miracle to win the league last May, it’s highly unlikely they’d do the same this season, having lost the likes of Diego Costa, David Villa, Filipe Luis and Thibaut Courtois.
As for Barcelona, they’ve lost Cesc Fabregas, Victor Valdes and Alexis Sanchez while captain, Carles Puyol has retired.
Luis Suarez who is banned for 4 months, Ivan Rakitic, Claudio Bravo, Marc-Andre ter Stegen and Jeremy Mathieu have all been signed but doubts still remain whether the Blaugrana can mount a serious title challenge given how much change has occurred at the Nou Camp. There’s also the factor of Neymar who is currently recovering from the injury he suffered at the World Cup.
Hence, Real Madrid are the big winners when it comes to Spain ahead of the new season.
3rd place in the league and a Champions League semifinal finish would be great success for most managers – except for Jose Mourinho. Having now gone two seasons without a major trophy, the “Special One” will be looking to challenge on all four fronts this season with Chelsea.
The Stamford Bridge outfit have not messed about this summer, having offloaded Romelu Lukaku, Demba Ba, David Luiz and Patrick van Aanholt for an approximate $95 million while Frank Lampard, Samuel Eto’o and Ashley Cole all left on free transfers.
The incomings have seen Cesc Fabregas, Diego Costa, Filipe Luis and Didier Drogba arrive for an approximate $91 million. Not to mention that arguably the world’s best young goalkeeper in Thibaut Courtois has returned from his loan spell at Atletico Madrid, meaning that Chelsea have significantly improved in their weaker areas.
Another aspect to consider is that Chelsea finally have some stability manager-wise with Mourinho at the helm as they’ve had four different managers since 2011 – something which will only help them further now.
While other English clubs have also done their share of good business, it’s hard to look past Chelsea who are certainly the big winners in England – expect them to bag a trophy or two ahead of the new season.
After an unexpected title challenge that eventually saw them finish behind the eventual champions, Juventus in second place, Roma have much to be proud of coming off the back of a productive season.
Rudi Garcia lead the Romans to 85 points in the 2013/2014 season, conceding only 25 goals in 38 games, however Juventus™ superiority and experience ultimately paid off in the race for the Scudetto. Having led Serie A for the first few weeks of the season, Roma can still be content about the return of Champions League football, and they’ve certainly strengthened.
Stealing the signature of â‚¬22 million Juan Iturbe right under Juventus’ noses was a great piece of business but the Giallorossi have made some astute signings as well – the likes of Davide Astori, Salih Ucan and Radja Nainggolan have been added to the squad while Ashley Cole, Seydou Keita and Urby Emanuelson were all signed as free transfers adding much needed depth and experience to a young side.
Out of all the clubs in Italy, it’s fair to say that Roma are the ones who have had the best mercato and with the unexpected departure of Juventus manager, Antonio Conte, it’s now or never for Garcia’s team if they want to win the Scudetto for the first time since 2001 – they are certainly favorites to do just that.