In the space of ten years dating back to the 2006/07 season you would struggle to argue against Spain becoming the most dominant nation not only in European football but on a much wider, worldwide scale too. In the last decade both the Europa League and UEFA Cup Equivalent as well as the UEFA Champions League have been won by Spanish clubs in six of the ten occasions in both competitions. On the international stage, Spain have enjoyed widespread success with two European Championship wins in 2008 and 2012 only bettered by their exploits in the 2010 South Africa World Cup, resulting as winners of the prestigious tournament. Likewise at a domestic level, La Liga continues to leave competing European leagues trailing behind with the top tier of Spanish football sailing clear of the likes of France, England and Italy with regards to its UEFA Coefficient – 22 points higher than nearest rivals Germany. Therefore for the influence of the past decades’ success in Spain as well as the level of competition and standard of football running right throughout La Liga, you can perhaps understand why more and more Premier League managers are looking to the Spanish example and embracing such ideals at their individual clubs.
From the different and perhaps forward-thinking style(s) of football brought to the Premier League through the likes of Pep Guardiola and Aitor Karanka’s during their first seasons’ in the English top flight, simply to the sheer number of players that choose to swap Spain for England during their footballing careers, at a domestic level Spanish football continues to play an important role in the development of the modern English game. Due to such influence, you can inevitably expect players excelling in Spain to be soon linked with a move to the Premier League and vice versa. For this reason, @ASelbyInfo takes a look at five La Liga hotshots, who after impressive individual seasons this league campaign, may realistically end up following the rest of the La Liga crowd this January in moving to the English Premier League.
Steven N’Zonzi (Sevilla)
Position: Central Midfield
Estimated Value: €25-30M
Linked with: Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City
From basking in the Spanish sun in Sevilla to the British winter blues – if recent rumours are anything to go by then French central midfielder Steven N’Zonzi looks set to be swapping the brighter Spanish skies for those at are well, much more grey and overcast with a return to the Premier League firmly on the cards. Of course no stranger to the top tier of English football, it was spells at Blackburn Rovers and Stoke City that consequently propelled N’Zonzi into the limelight with a number of impressive performances operating as a roaming yet robust central midfielder with a good passing ability and astute reading of the game from midfield. After a total of six seasons spent in English football, N’Zonzi joined Sevilla back in the summer of 2015 and his profile has consequently continued to grow ever since – catching the attention of numerous bystanding Premier League clubs intent on purchasing a midfielder enforcer just as good as N’Zonzi. With a total of 40 appearances for Sevilla to date alongside a Europa League trophy added to his name, the 27 year old midfielder would return to English football with much more experience than the amount that he had departed with and would be sure to stand him in good stead ahead of a potential return to the Premier League. Plus with a reported release clause set at £25.5m, N’Zonzi is evidently an incredibly affordable option this January for a number of top flight clubs with title ambitions and none more so than in England. With at least four of the current top six teams rumoured to be interested in his signature this January, N’Zonzi could be one of the biggest transfer sagas this winter and it is well worth watching this space as the month progresses.
Daniel Parejo (Valencia)
Position: Central Midfield
Estimated Value: €15-20M
Linked with: Middlesbrough, Southampton, Swansea City
For your daily dose of thrills, spills and drama you could say that Valencia are the gift that just keeps on giving. With a total six La Liga titles, seven Copa del Rey trophies and numerous European trophies to their name, you nowadays need look no further than one of the most successful clubs both in Spanish football as well as the continent to find a team that is performing quite as badly off the pitch as it has been doing in all competitions on the pitch – not just during this season but arguably for the past two years. Whether fans and critics alike may point the finger of blame at the manager, the players or even at those behind the scenes, inevitably it cannot be denied that there is something not quite right at Valencia and as things have continued to worsen in recent weeks, you would think that there has come a point where things simply have to change. With the greatest amount of stability at the club since Nuno Santo’s spell in charge of Valencia, under the once caretaker and now full-time boss Voro, a spring clean is much-needed and is likely to be kickstarted with the transfer of former club captain Daniel Parejo in attempt to refresh a struggling Valencia side. An undisputed starter for Valencia until the 2015/16 season, Parejo’s relationship with both the clubs hierarchy and supporters has reportedly however become increasingly strained most notably during the current league campaign. Consequently after footage of Parejo emerged in a Spanish nightclub despite the clubs poor form this season, his apology to the Valencia faithful appears to have done little to win the fans over and with this in mind, a quick exit this winter could be the best option for both Valencia and Parejo himself with Middlesbrough and Southampton heavily rumoured in recent weeks.
Cedric Bakambu (Villarreal)
Position: Centre Forward
Estimated Value: €10-15M
Linked with: Hull City, Middlesbrough, Stoke City
No matter the size of the club in question, the task of signing a striker capable of scoring at least 10/15 goals of season is always a tricky one. Aside from the predictable few forwards in the modern game that you would think are more than capable of notching such amount of goals no matter the country or league they are competing in, finding the perfect striker that fits a clubs individual identity and style of play often proves to be much harder than it may sound. Take Sunderland as an example – for the £10M the club spent on Fabio Borini, it has been the free transfer of experienced Victor Anichebe that has contributed more goals throughout the season than the Italian forward. Likewise the goalscoring record Wilfried Bony achieved at Swansea City has been nowhere near matched by the Ivory Coast forward at Manchester City and for the price-tag that his reputation seemingly demanded, it was the previously unknown starlet Kelechi Iheanacho who soon surpassed Bony’s record at the club, further highlighting the problems in purchasing the ‘perfect goalscorer’ in modern-day football. Yet far from the perfect forward but still a very good one of that, Cedric Bakambu does however look every bit the Premier League striker on paper that so many clubs would jump at the chance of signing and one they would love to have at their club. With vast experience competing at the highest level in the Spanish La Liga, the Congolese forward at only 25 years of age struck an impressive 22 goals last season, guiding Villarreal to the semi-finals of the Europa League in the process. Injury in the early part of the season however has seen Bakambu struggle for regular game time during 2016/17 but with the forward open to a move to the Premier League, we may well be seeing Bakambu back in action sooner than we think except this time in the English Premier League.
Aleix Vidal (FC Barcelona)
Position: Right Back
Estimated Value: Loan Deal
Linked with: Southampton, Swansea City
With the departure of Brazilian right back Dani Alves rumoured for some time, it was only last summer when the 33 year old right back departed the Spanish top flight after a total of 14 years in Spain with 8 seasons spent at FC Barcelona that the previously peculiar signing of Sevilla defender Aleix Vidal seemed to make much more sense. For what was largely seen at the time as FC Barcelona beating the competition in securing the services of Aleix Vidal for an estimated €20M before the club was hit with a transfer embargo for breaking rules on signing under-age foreign players, Vidal was consequently unable to appear in any competitive games until January 2016. Likewise Vidal may well have been viewed initially as the long-term replacement for an aging Dani Alves yet one year on since making his debut in a Copa del Rey match and a coincidental changing of the guard with Vidal replacing Alves mid-game, the 27 year old has seemingly struggled to build on the success that he had achieved during his time at Sevilla and has regularly been kept out of the Barcelona starting XI due to the good form of versatile defender Sergi Roberto. A move certainly looks to be on the cards and despite reported interest from Turkish giants Galatasaray, recent rumours would suggest the Premier League is the most likely destination for Vidal this January. Perceived as a player that may still have a future at the Catalan club, a loan move is ultimately the most probable option with Southampton and Swansea City in pole position to take the one time Spanish international on a short-term deal until the end of the season.
Sergi Enrich (Eibar)
Position: Centre Forward
Estimated Value: €8-10M
Linked with: Hull City, Watford
Positioned in eighth place and only three points behind fellow Basque club Athletic Club, Eibar have undoubtedly been one of La Liga’s biggest surprises this current league campaign. For a club labelled in May 2014 as the smallest club to have ever been promoted to the top tier of Spanish football and with a stadium capable of only holding just under 6500 spectators, their rise to prominence has been meteoric whilst their performances this season have been somewhat unbelievable in comparison to their top flight counterparts. Looking specifically at the clubs most potent at attacking threat, whilst Middlesbrough loanee Kike and former Manchester United man Bebé may have contributed with important goals throughout the season, it really is the goalscoring exploits of 26 year old Sergi Enrich which has helped Eibar significantly in reaching their current league position; without his goals it is difficult to predict where the club may even be. At 26 years of age, the 5ft 9inches attacker has to date spent all of his playing career in Spain but with paper talk hinting at the reported interest from two English teams, January 2017 could yet see Enrich finally swapping his native Spain for England and for a coveted place at a Premier League club. The right footed centre forward generally plays as a lone centre forward for Eibar but Enrich can also operate as a supporting forward too. With his contract expiring in less than 18 months, Eibar may therefore choose to cash in on their star striker to help stabilise the club in other areas as well as not running the risk of losing out on such money in future transfer windows whilst Enrich is truly in-form.
Originally featured on The Five Guide