La Liga Transfers: Top Five Deals Done So Far This Summer
Although the Spanish transfer window does not formally open until July 1, most clubs have already secured deals prior to its opening in order to get their squads sorted early and beat out their competitors for the players they want to sign.
Already more than 100 transfers have been completed by La Liga (and Segunda Division) clubs, with Malaga CF leading all La Liga clubs with seven completed transfers.
In the following slides, we take a look at the five best transfers completed thus far, and rank them on the basis of age, cost, potential contribution to the receiving team, and other factors.
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Ruud Van Nistelrooy - Hamburg to Malaga, Free Transfer
The veteran striker still knows how to score, and he will be an excellent teacher for Malaga's young up-and-coming striker, Salomon Rondon.
Caicedo scored 13 goals for Levante on loan last season to help the club stay in La Liga, and is only 22 years old. At only one million euros, he's probably one of the best purchases the club has ever made.
Ibrahima Balde - Atletico Madrid to Osasuna, Free Transfer
Balde missed more than half of last season while on loan with Numancia, but showed glimpses of his talent with six goals in 18 appearances.
At 20 years old, the Senegalese striker still has a bright future ahead of him, and will likely greatly benefit Osasuna if given the opportunity to play regularly.
Joris Mathijsen - Hamburg to Malaga, €1m
Mathijsen, when fit, was an automatic starter for Hamburg and the Netherlands last season at CB. How Malaga were able to get him for only €1m is a mystery to me.
Daniel Parejo - Getafe to Valencia, €5m
A Real Madrid reject of sorts, Parejo started out at Madrid but was never given an opportunity to stake his claim for a spot in the first team.
However, since moving to Getafe, he has made 80 appearances for the team in two seasons, and at 22 years old still has room to develop and become better for Valencia.
#5: Joao Miranda
New Club: Atletico Madrid
Former Club: Sao Paolo
Cost: Free Transfer
Position: Center Back
Since returning to Brazil and joining Sao Paolo after a less-than-stellar season with French club Sochaux in 2006, Miranda has been one of the top-rated center backs in all of Brazil.
Miranda has been named in the Brazilian Serie A Team of the Year on four separate occasions, from 2007-2010, and won the Silver Ball (given to the second-best player in the Brazilian Serie A) in 2008 and 2009. He also won the Brazilian Serie A in three consecutive seasons with Sao Paolo, in 2006, 2007 and 2008.
For Atletico Madrid, defense has consistently been the weakness of a team that offensively has been blessed with many talented players.
Last season, the acquisition of Diego Godin significantly improved Atletico's weak defense, and with Miranda, Atletico may have just given themselves one of the best center back pairings in La Liga after Barcelona and Real Madrid.
#4: Nacho Monreal
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New Club: Malaga
Former Club: Osasuna
Position: Left Back
It was very tough choosing between Monreal and Ruud Van Nistelrooy for this spot, but Monreal just edges it, as he is sure to be a key member of the Malaga squad for seasons to come.
Up until his move to Malaga, Monreal had spent his entire career at Osasuna. He made 36 league appearances for Osasuna B from 2004-06, before making the step up to the first team for the 2006-07 team.
In his first season, he made only 10 league appearances, but has since been the undisputed first choice at left back for Osasuna, averaging about 30 league starts per season.
Monreal got his first call up to the Spanish national team in August 2009, and has made three more appearances since then. With Joan Capdevila nearing retirement at 33 years old, and Alvaro Arbeloa not truly a left back (he is naturally a right back, but plays on the left at Madrid due to the presence of Sergio Ramos), the left back position is available for Monreal if he continues to improve.
With the rapidly developing project at Malaga and under the guidance of Manuel Pellegrini, it is very possible that Monreal will continue to develop, and possibly become one of the best left backs in the world.
#3: Raphael Varane
New Club: Real Madrid
Former Club: RC Lens
Position: Center Back (can also play as a Defensive Midfielder)
It's crazy to think that, prior to the 2010-2011 season, Raphael Varane was playing in Lens' U-19 team, and hadn't even signed a professional contract with the club.
In the span of a year, he has gone from a player in Lens' amateur team to courting interest from some of the biggest football clubs in the world, including Paris Saint Germain, Lyon, Manchester City, Manchester United, and finally, the club he signed with: Real Madrid.
So what makes the kid so great? To be honest, I don't fully know. Despite all the hype around him, there isn't much footage of his available online, considering he played in France for one of the worst teams in French football last season.
There are videos here and there of a good tackle, a couple of the goals he's scored, but no concrete collection of footage that would allow me to ascertain his potential or how good he can be.
So why then do I have him as the third best La Liga signing thus far?
Well, for one, he reminds me a lot of Pepe. He's predominantly a center back who also excels in the defensive midfielder position, and he's also good at scoring with his head.
Secondly, he's received nothing but praise from his ex-coaches, and has an excellent track record with Lens prior to promotion to the first team.
With his U-16 team, he won the Championnat National des 16 ans, and after being promoted to the amateur team at Lens, lost only once in the nine games he played with them.
Thirdly, he's already been capped three times at the U-21 level internationally for France. His first cap came on Feb. 3, 2011, when he was only 17 years old, 3-4 years younger than most other members of the team.
Fourthly, at only 18 years old, he stands at a little over 6 ft 3 in, and yet, at least on the basis of this video, is a very capable passer of the ball.
Finally, I think he's a very good fit for Real Madrid. Although its probably hard to believe, Real Madrid are actually rather short on center backs.
Mourinho has shown that he doesn't really trust Ezequiel Garay, giving him only eight appearances in all competitions last year, and Pepe has shown himself to be an excellent defensive midfielder, especially in the Clasicos vs. Barcelona.
So that leaves Mourinho with only two true, through-and-through center backs: Ricardo Carvalho and Raul Albiol. Of those two, Ricardo Carvalho is 33 years old, and likely will not be able to handle playing anywhere near the 48 games he played last season.
So, based on the above information, it seems that Varane will have opportunities next season to show his talents, and going forward can surely become a regular first team player at Real if he continues to develop. After going from amateur to Real Madrid in one season, the sky is the limit for Varane.
For more information on Varane, check out this article, but please note that Lens actually lost 2-0 on his debut, and didn't win as the article claims.
#2: Jeremy Toulalan
Michael Steele/Getty Images
New Club: Malaga
Former Club: Olympique Lyonnais
Position: Defensive Midfielder (and occasionally Center Back)
As I mentioned at the start of this slideshow, and talked extensively about in this article, Malaga have had a superb summer thus far, signing six players (Joaquin, Demichelis, Mathijsen, Van Nistelrooy, Monreal, and Toulalan) who will go straight into the team's starting 11 and help shoot the team up the table in La Liga. Yet, without a doubt, the pick of the bunch is Jeremy Toulalan.
Jeremy Toulalan has had a sparkling career in France. In 2004-05, he was Ligue 1 Young Player of the Year and named to the Ligue 1 Team of the Year for his performances with Nantes. Eventually, his good form with Nantes led to a transfer to Lyon, and more success followed Toulalan.
He won the league with Lyon in 2006-07 and 2007-08, his first two seasons with the club, and also won the Coupe de France in 2008. Individually he continued to excel, and was named in the Ligue 1 Team of the Year for the second time in 2007-08.
Toulalan's success with Lyon led to a call up to the French international team in 2006, and since then Toulalan had been a regular selection for the national team under Raymond Domenech.
Unfortunately, his participation in major international tournaments thus far has been limited to Euro 2008 and World Cup 2010, both of which France performed very poorly in, but he has been ever-present in the national team with 36 appearances in the span of four years.
Admittedly, things have gone downhill a bit since 2008 when Toulalan was in excellent form and did the double with Lyon, and was selected for every national fixture with France.
Lyon, since the departure of Juninho and Benzema, have struggled significantly to challenge for the title in the league, and Toulalan recently has also struggled with injuries, making only 20 league appearances compared to his usual 30+.
Furthermore, internationally, Laurent Blanc has chosen to replace Toulalan with younger defensive midfielders like Cabaye, M'Vila, Matuidi, and Sissoko.
Still, Toulalan without a doubt at the age of 27 is still in his prime and has much to give to a side that seems to be constantly growing and on the verge of taking La Liga by storm.
#1: Nuri Sahin
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New Club: Real Madrid
Former Club: Borussia Dortmund
Position: Central Midfielder
Drum roll please...the best transfer in La Liga thus far is Nuri Sahin!
Nuri Sahin, at only 22 years old, has had a fantastic start to his career. On Aug. 6, 2005, Sahin became the youngest player to ever play in the Bundesliga (he was 16 years and 334 days old at the time). On Nov. 25, 2005, he went one better and became the youngest player to score in the Bundesliga, vs. FC Nuremberg.
Amazingly, Sahin has the same honors on the international level; he is the youngest player to play and score for Turkey, ironically against Germany, the country of his birth.
He also has also won the Bronze Ball and Silver Shoe with Turkey in the 2005 FIFA U-17 World Cup, and was part of the U-17 Turkey team that won the the UEFA European U-17 Football Championship in the same year.
But Sahin's transfer to Real Madrid isn't about his performances and records broken in 2005, its about his play in 2010-2011 with Borussia Dortmund in their title winning season.
This season was the midfielder's best season to date, with him recording 9 goals and 13 assists in 40 appearances in all competitions.
Amazingly, Dortmund won every league game in which Sahin scored or assisted a goal, giving them an 11-0 record for the season when Sahin contributed to a goal.
Furthermore, the team struggled without Sahin in their last four games, losing two out of three matches before closing the season with a win over Eintracht Frankfurt. For his performances with Borussia Dortmund, Sahin was selected as the Bundesliga 2010-11 Player of the Season.
Now at Madrid, Sahin will likely face competition from Khedira and Diarra (although he's likely to be sold) for a starting spot in Mourinho's 4-2-3-1. He also provides Real Madrid with a replacement for Alonso whenever he's injured or unavailable that Real Madrid didn't have before.
With his great ability to score from free kicks, score long shots, make great through passes, and be a controlling presence in midfield, Sahin is sure to contribute to Real Madrid's hunt for trophies next year, and is a bargain at only €10m.
Here are some excellent videos of the player:
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That's it for now, guys!
Please note that this list only includes transfers that are 100 percent confirmed, so potential transfers like Alexis Sanchez or Cesc Fabregas to Barcelona are not included.
If the response to this slideshow is positive, and many more high profile signings are made over the next month or so, then I may make an updated form of this slideshow, and if those players are signed by then, then they will likely be included.
What do you guys think? Are there any players you can think of that have been left off that deserve a spot in the top 5 or in the honorable mentions section?
Or is there maybe a player in the top 5 who you think doesn't deserve a spot on this list? Make your opinion known by leaving a comment below. I look forward to reading your feedback!