Over the summer, plenty of players swapped the bright lights of the Premier League for the warmer climes of Spain. And because you miss them so and wish to check on their progress, here’s how they’ve been getting on this season.
CESC FABREGAS – ARSENAL TO BARCELONA – €35million
One of the highest profile transfers of the summer as it finally brought to an end what had become a tedious two-year-long transfer saga involving Cesc ‘coming home’.
A goal on his Liga debut in a 5-0 hammering of Villarreal was a good start, with Fabregas having now scored nine goals in 20 league appearances, including the vital third in the win over Real Madrid, whilst also contributing seven assists.
He has also managed to stay relatively injury-free this campaign, although this is probably more down to being rotated and rested frequently, since Barca are not so dependent on Cesc than Arsenal were.
Oh, and he’s also won two trophies since being at Barca.
THIBAUT COURTOIS – CHELSEA TO ATLETICO MADRID – LOAN
Eyebrows were raised in the summer when Chelsea shelled out £5million for a Belgian goalkeeper only to send him out on loan instantly to Atletico Madrid. Likewise in Spain, who having seen goalkeeping prodigy David De Gea sold for mega bucks to Manchester United were expecting a more experienced replacement, with Courtois having made just five senior appearances for Genk.
However, Atletico had been keeping tabs on the Belgian giant before Chelsea’s swoop, and it proved Gregorio Manzano’s more inspired signing, as the bigger, more expensive names around him failed to impress.
With De Gea having conceded 53 goals last season, Courtois has only let 31 goals by him this season, having made 59 saves (only Zaragoza’s Roberto has made more) and kept 11 clean sheets, something not heard of at Vicente Calderon. He blotted his copybook with a sending off in the Madrid derby, but looks a fine addition for Chelsea, with Petr Cech on the wane.
ROQUE SANTA CRUZ – MANCHESTER CITY TO REAL BETIS – LOAN
Remember when he was an absolute goal-scoring machine? Now you come to realise why he ended up at Blackburn Rovers, after leaving Bayern Munich.
Injuries have been kind to him for once this season, but still the goals have not been free-flowing, with only five netted this season. Having started off the campaign as first choice, he has recently found himself sitting on the bench, with Jorge Molina and Ruben Castro preferred due to current form.
Santa Cruz probably needs a permanent move somewhere to rediscover his confidence and touch. Manchester City need to just let him go for the sake of his career, as opposed to trying to recoup money on an ageing, injury-prone goal-shy striker.
CARLOS VELA – ARSENAL TO REAL SOCIEDAD – LOAN
With so much dependence on Robin Van Persie to score the goals, Arsenal fans might be forgiven for wondering if Carlos Vela could have been some use this season. But fear not Gunners, for he has been the same inconsistent and peripheral player he has always been, only useful for chipping a keeper, while fluffing a series of easier chances in the process.
To be fair to the diminutive Mexican, he has started most games in a wider position and has seven assists to his name, showing his link up play is improving. But he still struggles to impose himself on games, with one simple fierce challenge usually enough to ensure he makes little or no impact on the game.
A decent player for Real Sociedad, but he doesn’t look like a player that will ever make himself a regular at Arsenal. Time to cut him loose, Arsene.
VLADIMIR WEISS – MANCHESTER CITY TO ESPANYOL – LOAN
Another one of those players circling the drain at Manchester City, Weiss, like Santa Cruz needs a permanent move to resume any certainty in his game. A starter of just 13 games this season for Espanyol, he struggled to make much impact in the first half of the campaign.
But 2012 has seen a more steely character coming through, somebody prepared to actually make a career out of football. Too many times it has been said that Weiss has all the talent, but little desire and it seems something has finally got through to him.
Maybe he’s realised he is 22 now and needs to make something of his talent. Maybe he just likes Barcelona as a city and would like a permanent move there. Who knows? But he has looked far more dangerous this calendar year, with two key goals securing four points for Espanyol. If he keeps this up for the remainder of the season, Espanyol may just reach around the back of the sofa and see if they can uncover whatever pittance City want for him.
GIANNI ZUIVERLOON – WEST BROM TO MALLORCA – FREE
There was a point where Zuiverloon looked quite a decent player, but he has slowly sunk back away from that and looks like he won’t be a top flight player in one of the top leagues for many years to come, and a return to Holland might be on the cards before too long.
Perhaps unlucky that the only part of the Mallorca side that has been settled this season is the defence, Zuiverloon has been restricted to just the six league starts and has struggled to even make the bench this term due to injuries.
DANI PACHECO – LIVERPOOL TO ATLETICO MADRID/RAYO VALLECANO – LOAN
Oh boy. A touchy subject perhaps, seeing how this man’s constant reserve team appearances were a stick Liverpool fans used to beat Roy Hodgson. Given that his attitude has been called into question since ‘King’ Kenny Dalglish also decided he wasn’t good enough, I’d like my Scouse chums to apologise to Roy for that one.
Anyway, Pacheco was involved in one of the more curious deals of the summer, as he was loaned out to Atletico, who subsequently loaned him out themselves to Rayo. Go figure that one out.
And what do you know? He still isn’t starting games. Jose Ramon Sandoval is no idiot, having guided the expected table-proppers in a European hunt, and Pacheco has been restricted to just eight substitute appearances, though the surprise form of his striking rivals has been part of that. And he hasn’t scored a goal in those opportunities. He’s 21 now so time is running out for him to prove his potential anywhere, let alone Anfield.
Tags: Carlos Vela, Cesc Fabregas, Dani Pacheco, Gianni Zuiverloon, La Liga, Roque Santa Cruz, Thibaut Courtois, Vladimir Weiss