'Austrian Messi' and Simeone's ideal midfield schemer among LaLiga's exciting newcomers

By Sports Desk August 13, 2021

LaLiga has seen a lot of upheaval over the past few months, none more so than since the start of August as Lionel Messi's future unravelled.

This will be the first season that LaLiga has been without Messi since 2003-04, and as such there are plenty of people suggesting Spain's top tier has subsequently lost much of its appeal.

Be that as it may, even with spending significantly limited among clubs this year, there are still some interesting new arrivals to LaLiga.

Below, Stats Perform uses Opta data to look at five of them…

Memphis Depay, forward - Barcelona, free transfer from Lyon

Granted, Barcelona's rocky financial situation means it is yet to be confirmed if Depay will be registered for the start of the season.

But assuming Depay is involved as Barca begin the campaign against Real Sociedad, he will be under pressure to help make up for the loss of Messi.

His record at Lyon at least shows he should carry a threat, and in theory he will be surrounded by better players at Camp Nou.

Depay scored 76 goals in 178 appearances for Lyon after joining from Manchester United in January 2017 and enjoyed a particularly impressive final season in Ligue 1, finishing with 20 goals to trail only Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe (27).

 

The former PSV youth product's 12 assists and 94 chances created were more than any other player managed in France's top flight in 2020-21.

In all competitions, meanwhile, Depay scored 22 goals last term at an average of one goal every 141.5 minutes, making it his second-best season since arriving.

He massively exceeded his expected goals (xG) tally of 12.38, so perhaps he shouldn't be expected to be quite as prolific, but if he can reach double figures in goals and assists once again, Depay would have to be considered a shrewd signing.

David Alaba, centre-back - Real Madrid, free transfer from Bayern Munich

It has been a difficult few months for Madrid. While caught up in plenty of off-field controversy, they have also lost the centre-back partnership that guided them to so much success. Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane, as well as their former head coach Zinedine Zidane, are no longer around.

The one signing Madrid have managed to bring in does at least offset one of those losses, as Alaba will offer experience, versatility and all-round quality at centre-back. After all, he made 298 Bundesliga appearances for Bayern, and a player does not reach such figures without being excellent.

 

He helped Bayern keep 111 clean sheets across those games, did not receive a single red card in the league, and made only two errors leading to goals in the competition, according to Opta data.

Bayern team-mate Thomas Muller is the only other player in Bundesliga history to have won 10 titles, and Bayern had counted on Alaba as their Mr Dependable. Carlo Ancelotti will hope he can form a great partnership with Eder Militao.

Rodrigo De Paul, central midfielder - Atletico Madrid, €35m from Udinese

While Diego Simeone has perhaps been a bit hit and miss when it comes to making the most of creative talents, De Paul appears to be ideal schemer for his new coach.

Providing creativity is De Paul's bread and butter, with his 82 key passes in 2020-21 bettered by only Hakan Calhanoglu (98) in Serie A.

Of those chances, 34 came from set-pieces, highlighting his prowess from dead-ball situations and ranking him fourth in Italy's top flight.

 

Only five players got more assists than his nine, but all of them massively out-performed their modest expected assists records, which ranged from 3.4 to 6.7. De Paul topped the charts for expected assists with 10.3 xA, evidence that his assists reflected the quality of his service rather than him getting lucky or benefiting from unusually good finishing by team-mates.

Yet the area which highlights a particular compatibility with Atleti is the fact he won more duels (294) than anyone else in Serie A in 2020-21.

Combine that with his league-leading completed dribbles (122) and it paints a picture of a hard-working player who also possesses the quality to get his team on the front foot.

Jose Macias, striker - Getafe, on loan (with purchase option) from Guadalajara

It is fair to say Getafe are not particularly one of LaLiga's most-fashionable sides. Under Jose Bordalas they were more renowned for their aggression and physical style of play, though new boss Michel has significantly different ideas.

In theory, that should immediately make them a more likable proposition for the neutral, and the signing of Macias will only add to the intrigue.

The 21-year-old Mexico international had been linked with numerous clubs with greater status than Getafe, such as Juventus, Borussia Dortmund and Sevilla, but Los Azulones pulled off something of a coup in bringing him to the Coliseum Alfonso Perez on loan with an option to buy.

 

Macias is the first forward that Guadalajara have sold to a European side since Javier Hernandez left for Manchester United in 2010 and he heads to Spain having netted 12 times in the most recent Mexican Apertura and Clausura campaigns.

His 20 shots on target in the 2021 Clausura was the most by a Mexican player, though it was during a loan spell with Leon where Macias really announced himself, netting 24 times in 38 Liga MX matches.

He didn't quite hit those heights again upon returning to Guadalajara, so the jury is still out to a degree, but there is lots of potential for Getafe to tap into.

Yusuf Demir, winger - Barcelona, €500k loan fee (€10m purchase option) from Rapid Vienna

Barcelona fans need not fear life without Messi, for they have signed the 'Austrian Messi'… or something like that.

Obviously that is a fair bit of pressure for an 18-year-old to have, particularly given he was initially signed for the B team, but he's produced some positive performances in pre-season for the senior side and arrived from Rapid with a burgeoning reputation.

While Demir only started in six of his 25 Austrian Bundesliga appearances (825 minutes) last season, he finished the campaign with a highly respectable seven goal involvements, which averages out at one every 117.9 minutes – only 10 players to play at least 825 minutes had a better record.

Despite only getting the one assist, Demir was a regular source of creativity when he did feature, as highlighted by the fact his 2.7 key passes per 90 was the sixth highest among those to play at least 825 minutes.

 

But arguably his most notable asset, and the one that inspires the comparison with Messi, is his ability on the ball.

A dynamic and exciting player, Demir attempted 6.3 dribbles per 90 minutes on average, a figure matched by no one who featured for more than 108 minutes last term.

Similarly, he was successful with 3.8 dribble attempts per game, which was also a league high. It was that kind of flair that helped him realise a childhood dream by moving to Camp Nou, and he could have a more prominent role than he may have initially predicted upon his arrival.

Related items

  • 'Reggae Boyz will demand respect from Mexico' - Jamaica coach Hall confident heading into crucial qualifier 'Reggae Boyz will demand respect from Mexico' - Jamaica coach Hall confident heading into crucial qualifier

    Jamaica Reggae Boy interim head coach Paul Hall was bullish ahead of Thursday’s crucial World Cup qualifiers against Mexico at the National Stadium.

    The match will be the second fixture but the first World Cup qualifier for Hall, who stepped in to replaced Theodore Whitmore in December of last year.  With the team adrift in sixth place and 7 points behind the qualifying positions, it seems safe to say only a win will do for the Reggae Boyz against a typically dangerous opponent.

    Hall is aware of the challenge at hand.

    “They won’t want to lose they are probably going to have the same attitude as ourselves, so I feel it will be a tight affair,” Hall said.

    “We will respect the Mexicans and what they bring and I would ask my team to make sure that Mexico respects what we bring, with our energy, with our rhythm, and with our desire,” he added.

    The Mexicans who will be without key players Hirving Lozano and Raul Jiminez are currently third in the standing, on 14, the same number of points as Panama.  In the reverse fixture, the Mexicans scored late to win 2-1.  The Jamaicans will play Panama three days later before hosting Costa Rica.  All teams are directly above them in the table.  

     

  • Tite: Coutinho can help Brazil replace injured Neymar Tite: Coutinho can help Brazil replace injured Neymar

    Brazil head coach Tite is bullish that Philippe Coutinho can help replace the injured Neymar in his first appearance in national colours for more than 12 months.

    Coutinho, who earlier this month joined Aston Villa on loan from Barcelona, is set to line up for Selecao in place of the suspended Lucas Paqueta in Thursday's World Cup qualifier away to Ecuador.

    The 29-year-old has not played for Brazil since October 2020 having undergone knee surgery in January 2021.

    Coutinho's return coincides with the absence of Neymar who is out for the upcoming qualifiers with an ankle injury.

    "People always want Neymar, but at times things don't happen the way you want," Tite told reporters.

    "We feel sorry that Neymar can't be here, but we have other options. I'm talking about Coutinho. He is a player that can play in that role and I believe in his quality.

    "Coutinho is an important player and he's been recovering to his best level."

    He added: "From a social and human standpoint, I know how much time he has invested and the challenges he has faced to recover from injury."

    Ex-Liverpool forward Coutinho has started life at Villa brightly, netting the equalizing goal in the 2-2 draw with Manchester United on debut.

    Brazil have already clinched their spot at Qatar 2022, but Tite wanted to push his players in the qualifiers against Ecuador and also Paraguay on Tuesday.

    "I thought the emotions and feelings would be lighter but no, we have the same emotions and anxieties," Tite said.

    "I want to test players in the upcoming qualifiers. I still have the same pressure."

    Tite confirmed that he will field Real Madrid's Vinicius Junior against Ecuador along with Raphinha and Matheus Cunha.

  • Sensational Powell century seals win for West Indies against England Sensational Powell century seals win for West Indies against England

    A ruthless century from Rovman Powell gave the West Indies the perfect base to secure a 20-run win in the third T20I against England at the Kensington Oval in Barbados to go 2-1 up in the five-match series.

    Powell became only the third West Indian to score a T20I century after Evin Lewis and Chris Gayle as he hit an incredible 107 from 53 balls, including 10 sixes. His partnership of 122 with Nicholas Pooran (70) set the hosts on their way to a daunting total of 224-5 from their 20 overs, though England and in particular Tom Banton (73 from 39 balls) and debutant Phil Salt (57 from 24 balls) put up a spirited chase.

    Brandon King (10) fell to George Garton - also making his first appearance - in the second over as the Sussex bowler found the top of off stump, before Shai Hope went for just four after clipping a Liam Livingstone delivery against his own leg pad, which sent the ball into the air for a simple catch for wicketkeeper Banton.

    Pooran and Powell then set about hitting England's attack all over the park, before the partnership was finally broken in the 17th over when Pooran hit Adil Rashid straight to the waiting Livingstone. Powell reached his century before also hitting a shot to Livingstone, this time off the final ball of Reece Topley's spell.

    Jason Roy (19) tried to get England's chase going with a couple of big sixes but soon mishit a Romario Shepherd ball to the waiting hands of Jason Holder, though things looked promising for the tourists as they reached 61-1 at the end of the powerplay, seven runs ahead of the West Indies at the same stage.

    Banton and James Vince kept the required rate within reach early on until the latter fell at the end of the eighth over as he hit Akeal Hosein to Kieron Pollard for 16. Stand-in captain Moeen Ali fell for a second-ball duck, dangerman Livingstone could only manage 11, and after Banton was caught by Holder off the bowling of Pollard, Salt and another debutant Harry Brook (10) tried to get the innings back on track before Brook was sent packing by Holder.

    Salt's knock before he was bowled by Shepherd in the final over provided a hint of what he can bring to this England team in future, but on this night it was not a victory as the West Indies closed their opponent's innings at 204-9 to edge ahead again in the series.

    Ka-Powell

    Powell only averages 22.00 from his 26 T20I innings, but did a good impression of the legendary Gayle here as he hit England all over the Kensington Oval.

    As well as reaching comfortably his highest score in T20Is, he also did so with a strike rate of 201.88, significantly above his average of 130.81.

    England's bowling attack left battered and bruised

    Rashid (25-1) and Topley (30-1) might consider themselves to have performed pretty well considering what happened their their team-mates at the hands of Pooran and Powell in particular.

    Garton took an early wicket on debut but ended with figures of 57-1, while Livingstone came away with 42-1 from just three overs, and Tymal Mills took 52-1 from his four. Ali also bowled a single over for 14 runs and no wicket.

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.