This is Part 2 of my full league preview (first part here), from Hércules to Racing Santander. Again, my approach this year was to go alphabetically rather than by how I thought they would end up.
Full Name: Hércules Club de Fútbol
Manager: Esteban Vigo
Star Players: Javier Portillo, Rodri
2009-10 finish: 2nd (Segunda)
Stadium: Estadio José Rico Pérez (30,000)
Years in Top Flight: 20 (most recently in 96-97)
Best League Finish: 5th (74-75)
Copa del Rey: Round of 16 (3 times)
In: Piet Velthuizen (GK, free, Vitesse), David Cortés (Def, free, Getafe), Cristian Pulhac (Def, loan+€300,000, Dinamo Bucarest), Mohamed Sarr (Def, €300,000, Standard Liege), Matías Fritzler (Mid, on loan, Lanús), Abel Aguilar (Mid, €1.5m, Udinese), Nelson Valdez (Fwd, €3.5m, Borussia Dortmund), David Trezeguet (Fwd, free, Juventus), Royston Drenthe (Fwd, on loan, Real Madrid), Olivier Thomert (Fwd, free, Le Mans). 10 players, €5.6m.
Out: Edu Moya (Def, free, Xerez), Dani Bautista (Def, free, Girona), Andrija Delibašić (Def, free, Rayo Vallecano), Sergio Alejandro (Def, free), Sergio Díaz (Def, free, Nàstic), Gerardo (Mid, free), Rodri (Mid, free, Nàstic), Jorge Alonso (Mid, free, Valladolid), Ionel Dănciulescu (Fwd, free, Dinamo Bucarest). 9 players, €0.
In 2008-09, Esteban Vigo managed Xerez during their run to the Segunda title and promotion to the top flight. Instead of following the club up, he moved to Hércules and ended up guiding that squad to second in the league. Now he gets a shot at the big time and will be doing so in a much better position than Xerez found themselves last year. Their biggest signing, Paraguyan World Cup striker Nelson Valdez, was a solid signing, but he was most assuredly overshadowed by the late free transfer of David Trezeguet from Juventus.
The scandal of the summer involved Hércules and allegations that they had bribed their way to their La Liga spot—allegations that ended up never being investigated by RFEF or anyone else, for that matter. Sid Lowe discusses it in-depth on this Beyond the Pitch podcast back on August 12 that is well worth a listen. This is a decent write-up as well, though I’ve never heard of the website before. There’s little to add to those, but it will be interesting to see where the allegations go and how that affects Hércules as a sporting entity.
Verdict: Hércules is easily the most improved squad in the league after extremely intelligent signings. They have a strike force that’s capable of holding its own against most clubs in Spain and which, if Valdez and Trezeguet can mesh, should be good enough to make up for any defense lapses and keep them up without a huge amount of trouble. Assuming all legal troubles stay away for the season and there are no financial repercussions from signing a big-name player like Trez, the squad should be able to play up to potential. 14th.
Full Name: Levante Unión Deportiva
Manager: Luis García Plaza
Star Players: Xisco
2009-10 finish: 3rd (Segunda)
Stadium: Estadi Ciutat de València (25,354)
Years in Top Flight: 6 (most recently 2007-08)
Best League Finish: 10th (63-64)
Copa del Rey: Round of 16 (3 times)
In: Gustavo Munúa (GK, free, Málaga), Asier Del Horno (Def, on loan, Valencia), Javi Venta (Def, free, Villarreal), Xavi Torres (Mid, on loan, Málaga), Sergio González (Mid, free, Deportivo), Miguel Pallardó (Mid, on loan, Getafe), Valdo (Mid, free, Espanyol), Nacho Gonzalez (Mid, on loan, Valencia), Nano (Fwd, free, Betis), Christian Stuani (Fwd, on loan, Reggina), Felipe Caicedo (Fwd, on loan, Manchester City). 11 players, €0.
Out: Manu Herrera (GK, free, Alcorcón), Dani Carril (Def, free, Las Palmas), Angel Sánchez (Def, free, Alcorcón), Samuel Baños (Def, free, Alcorcón), Albert Serra (Def, free, Girona), Pau Cendrós (Def, loan return, Mallorca), Jorge Pina (Mid, free, Albacete), Alvaro del Moral (Fwd, free, Logroñés), Javi Guerra (Fwd, loan return, Mallorca). 9 players, €0.
Levante returns to La Primera after a short stint in the second division; they were last seen in 2007-08 when they earned all of 16 points and scoring 20 goals. That pathetic showing (partly stemming from the lack of money to pay their players) should not hinder this particular team—new manager, 11 new faces since the end of their Segunda run—but the financial troubles that reared up before could. They have spent wisely by not spending at all (€0 on 11 players), at least not on transfers. They picked up del Horno from Valencia—remember him?—and Felipe Caicedo from Manchester City on loans that should work out well. Javi Venta and Xavi Torres (of Barça B fame) are solid enough, though Javi Venta is getting up there at 34 years old, but their lack of really class midfielders will hurt them.
Verdict: Despite making some intelligent signings, Levante just doesn’t have the power to sustain a 38-match challenge in La Liga. Their lack of true attacking power—Xisco Nadal, Rubén Suárez, and Rafa Jorda combine for something like 80 burras a game—could come back to haunt them when they need a goal most. 20th.
Full Name: Málaga Club de Fútbol
Manager: Jesualdo Ferreira
Star Players: Weligton, Duda
2009-10 finish: 17th, 37pts, 7W-16D-15L (42GF, 47GA)
Stadium: Estadio La Rosaleda (28,963)
Years in Top Flight: 30 (10 as Málaga CF, 20 as CD Málaga)
Best League Finish: 8th as Málaga CF (00-01, 08-09) 7th as CD Málaga (71-72, 73-74)
Copa del Rey: Round of 16 (3 times)
In: Rubén Martínez (GK, €1.2m, Cartagena), Rodrigo Galatto (GK, €1.2m, Litex Lovech), Eliseu (Def, €1.5m, Lazio), Javier Malagueño (Def, €950,000, Indios), Kris Stadsgaard (Def, 1.35m, Rosenborg), Quincy Owusu (Mid,on loan, Al Sadd), Sandro Silva (Mid, €2.2m, Botafogo), Salomón Rondón (Fwd, €3.5m, Las Palmas), Sebastián Fernández (Fwd, €3.6m, Banfield). 9 players, €15.5m.
Out: Gustavo Munúa (GK, free, Levante), Roberto Santamaría (GK, loan return, Las Palmas), Milan Stepanov (Def, loan return, FC Porto), Miguel Angel (Mid, free, Ponferradina), Xavi Torres (Mid, on loan, Levante), Valdo (Mid, loan return, Espanyol), Javi López (Mid, on loan, Ponferradina), Jordi Pablo (Mid, loan, Cartagena), Daniel Toribio (Mid, loan, Ponferradina), Felipe Caicedo (Fwd, loan return, Manchester City), Fernando Forestieri (Fwd, loan return, Genoa), Pere Martí (Fwd, free, Castellón), Victor Obinna (Fwd, loan return, Inter). 13 players, €0.
Taken over in the summer by Qatari Sheik Abdullah bin Nasser bin Abdullah Al Ahmed Al Thani, who is obviously just known as Sheik Abdullah, Málaga invested €15.5m in 9 players, none of whom you’ve ever heard of if you’re a casual fan. Salomón Rondón for €3.5m? Seriously? It sounds like over spending in a much more common-sense way. Like, take this mildly large sack of cash for your mildly decent player instead of the take this huge sack of cash for your hugely talented player a la Chelsea or Manchester City. At least it’s an original approach.
Verdict: Analyzed position-by-position, I’m not sure Málaga is better than they were last year when they ended up 17th. They paid €2.2m for Sandro Silva while they had Xavi Torres. Instead, they loaned the latter out. And Sandro Silva is 26 years old. Which I think tells you a lot more than you think. 19th. Boo Weligton.
Full Name: Real Club Deportivo Mallorca
Manager: Michael Laudrup
Star Players: Dudu Aouate, Pierre Webó
2009-10 finish: 5th, 62pts, 18W-8D-12L (69GF, 44GA)
Stadium: Son Moix (23,142)
Years in Top Flight: 25 (promoted 97-98)
Best League Finish: 3rd (98-99)
Copa del Rey: 1st (02-03)
In: Jonathan De Guzmán (Mid, free, Feyenoord), Sergi Enrich (Fwd, youth team, Mallorca B), Emilio Nsue (Fwd, loan return, Real Sociedad), Pau Cendrós (Fwd, loan return, Levante), Fernando Cavenaghi (Fwd, on loan, Girondins), Edson Ramos (Fwd, free, Bunyodkor), Joao Víctor (Fwd, free, Bunyodkor). 7 players, €0.
Out: Mario Suárez (Mid, €1.8m, Atlético), Julio Álvarez (Mid, free, Tenerife), Varela (Mid, free, Kasimpasa), Borja Valero (Mid, loan return, West Brom), Juanmi Callejón (Mid, free, Córdoba), Bruno China (Mid, released), Javi Guerra (Fwd, free, Valladolid), Aritz Aduriz (Fwd, €4m, Valencia), Felipe Mattioni (Fwd, free, Espanyol), Oscar Trejo (Fwd, on loan, Rayo Vallecano), Alhassane Keita (Fwd, on loan, Valladolid). 11 players, €5.8m.
Mallorca, removed from the Europa League for financial problems, have at least made some cashola from getting rid of, um, all of their forwards not named Pierre Webó. Okay, so they brought in 5 new ones, including Fernando Cavenaghi who I think is pretty solid and could do some damage for Mallorca.
Verdict: They were absurdly terrific at home last year and while there’s no Gregorio Manzano to lead them to similar near perfection this year, it’s hard to see them so substantially worse under Michael Laudrup (especially with the hindsight of drawing against Real Madrid) that they’ll even be troubled with relegation. And, before you point it out in the comments with your judging, yeah, I know it’s not Son Moix anymore, but instead Iberostar Estadi, but come on, it’s Son Moix. Deal. 11th.
Full Name: Club Atlético Osasuna
Manager: José Antonio Camacho
Star Players: Javad Nekounam, Walter Pandiani
2009-10 finish: 12th, 43pts, 11W-10D-17L (37GF, 46GA)
Stadium: Estadio Reyno de Navarra (19,500)
Years in Top Flight: 33 (promoted in 00-01)
Best League Finish: 4th (90-91, 05-06)
Copa del Rey: 2nd (04-05)
In: Asier Riesgo (GK, free, Real Sociedad), Lolo (Def, free, Sevilla), Nélson (Def, loan, Betis), Fernando Soriano (Mid, free, Almería), Dejan Lekic (Fwd, €2.6m, Red Star Belgrade), Damià (Fwd, free, Betis), Kike Sola (Fwd, loan return, Levadiakos). 7 players, €2.6m.
Out: Roberto Jiménez (GK, free, Granada), César Azpilicueta (Def, €6m, Olymique Marseilles), Roversio (Def, loan, Betis), Ion Echaide (Def, loan, Huesca), Jokin Esparza (Mid, loan, Huesca), Andrés Fernández (Mid, loan, Huesca), Ludovic Delporte (Mid, free, Nàstic), Jokin Esparza (Mid, loan, Huesca), Andrés Fernández (Mid, loan, Huesca), Ludovic Delporte (Mid, free, Nàstic), Dady (Fwd, free, Bucaspor), Jorge Galán (Fwd, loan, Huesca). 9 players, €6m.
Losing Azpilicueta, a Spain U-21 player, could be huge for Osasuna, who were on the brink of relegation despite ending 12th last year (just 6 points above relegation). Without the width Azpilicueta provides, they might find it hard to earn points. I like Aranda, Nekounam, and Pandiani, but their 37 goals scored last year will simply not cut it.
Verdict: You have to have guns up front to hope to score and earn points, but they didn’t add any firepower and their lack of width could be the thing that keeps them from increasing their goal count. 18th.
Full Name: Real Racing Club de Santander
Manager: Miguel Ángel Portugal
Star Players: Pedro Munitis, Óscar Serrano
2009-10 finish: 16th, 39pts, 9W, 12D, 17L (42GF, 59GA)
Stadium: Estadio El Sardinero (22,271)
Years in Top Flight: 43 (most recently promoted for 02-03)
Best League Finish: 2nd (30-31)
Copa del Rey: Semis (07-08)
In: Domingo Cisma (Def, free, Almería), Francis (Def, free, Xerez), Osmar Barba (Def, youth, Racing B), Henrique (Def, loan, Barcelona), Waldo Ponce (Def, loan, U.Católica), Adrián González (Mid, free, Getafe), Kennedy Bakircioglu (Mid, free, Ajax), Ariel Nahuelpan (Fwd, €1.2m, Corítiba), Alexandros Tziolis (Mid, loan+€100,000, Siena), Markus Rosenberg (Fwd, loan, Werder Bremen). 10 players, €1.3m.
Out: Moratón (Def, free, Salamanca), Juanjo (Def, loan, Watford), José Ángel Crespo (Def, loan return, Sevilla), Toni Moral (Mid, free, Cartagena), Jorge Gonçalves (Mid, free, Olhanense), Oriol (Fwd, free, Aris Thessaloniki), Brian Sarmiento (Fwd, loan, Salamanca), Xisco (Fwd, loan return, Newcastle), Mémé Tchité (Fwd, €1.7m, Standard Liège), Sergio Canales (Fwd, €6m, Real Madrid). 10 players, €7.7m.
The tried-and-true method of getting rid of all your good players in favor of worse players seems to be the modus operandi of the day in La Liga. Racing is no exception to this as they shipped out Canales and Tchité, and lost Xisco to a loan return, but only really got Markus Rosenberg in return. If he can score in Spain like he did in the Bundesliga (30 in 90), he should be able to keep Racing out of the relegation zone. Big if, of course.
Verdict: The loan extension of Henrique coupled with the arrival of Domingo Cisma should help shore up some of the defensive bobbles. Pedro Munitis can do the damage up front and earn them the 40 points necessary to survive. 16th.
Back tomorrow with more, folks.