Those looking for an alternative to Barcelona’s attacking flair will not have to look far. Villarreal have played expansive, attacking and deservedly rewarding football over the past season, and it finally seems as though the Yellow Submarine have cemented their place as regulars at the top half of the Spanish Liga.
But a team with a capacity of just 25,000 at El Madrigal and with Barcelona and Real Madrid receiving maximum payoffs from their television rights, what does the future hold and what can we expect from Villarreal going into next season?
With European qualification already guaranteed, the club will surely be looking at ways to strengthen a squad that has at times played exceptional football, as well as replacing those who may be on their way through the exit door at El Madrigal.
One of those being star striker Giuseppe Rossi, who has so far bagged 18 league goals and has been the target of Barcelona with a possible £30 million transfer on the cards.
An important factor will be to look for a long-term replacement for Marcos Senna.
Seen as the engine which drives the team forward, giving them leadership as well as keeping them tidy in their defensive third, Senna has been absent from the team’s starting lineup for much of the season through injury.
You’d have to wonder if third place in the league would have been guaranteed by now if he had been available.
Another worrying issue for the Submarine is the lack of strength in depth. When you look at players such as Santi Cazorla, Borja Valero, Cani, Nilmar and Rossi, you see a foundation of young, attack-minded players who can turn possession into goals.
The problem, however, is that Villarreal are still to be considered a “selling club.” There are no ready-made replacements to come in and do the job that these players have done over the past couple of years.
It may be a case whereby the club will have to look toward sellable assets such as Rossi and possibly Borja Valero in order to reinvest heavily in the depth of the squad.
This is a team, after all, who are pushing for the finals of the Europa League and who will want to maintain a position of regulars in the Champions League.
Coupled with Valencia’s huge debt and the increasing uncertainty surrounding star players and management at Atletico Madrid, they may be able to sneak under the radar in capturing young talent.
The positives are there for a successful 2011/2012 campaign. The club understand the philosophy of their situation and the need to slowly keep building through the sale one or two big money players.
But it's so important that this small squad get the much needed investment through the transfer market. Not only to augment the existing talent and flair, but to give it further leadership in the absence of Marcos Senna and enough depth that come this time of the season they’re not worn out from a heavy schedule.
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