In a market which over inflated prices for mediocre players is very much normality, it’s incredibly hard to find any type of transfer value. However, deep in the Valencian community of Spain Villarreal have done just that. After suffering three massive losses over the summer, the Yellow Submarine undertook a massive rebuilding project as their quest to bring Champions League football back to el Madrigal took a bit step in the right direction.
Despite average attendance hovering somewhere around 24,000, and the community of Vila-Real itself only boasting a population of 51,000 the club have continued to achieve above and beyond what is expecting of them. The club reached a Champions League semi-final in 2007 playing some of the most attractive football in Europe. But since then, relegation and regeneration have been the two buzz words. Since their promotion back to La Liga, the club have gone from strength to strength – achieving Europa League football at the first opportunity with a 6th place finish and appearing in the round of 16 this year.
As with any team that overachieves, bigger clubs quickly swoop in like vultures to prey upon the most desired assets. Little did Villarreal know that their three star assets would be pecked off by vultures bank-rolled by money from American TV, cement and Chinese investors. As Giovani Dos Santos, Ike Uche and Luciano Vietto disappeared off into the distance the bank balanced suddenly increased by a reported €24,000,000. It seems as though Villarreal’s summer is going to be as bright as the shirts they wear as two early arrivals from Andalusia signalled their intent. Samu Garcia and Samu Castillejo had been particularly impressive for Malaga over the past 18 months, gaining huge plaudits and even bigger admirers from overseas. The capture of Castillejo is particularly impressive – an under 21 international, the potential for him to become a starter for Spain is certainly there.
An old foe returned in the shape of Roberto Soldado, a striker who had been so lethal for near neighbours Valencia pitched up after a torrid two years in London with Tottenham Hotspur. Keen followers of the league will remember that Soldado regularly scored over 20 goals a season for Los Che, and despite his goal shy stay in England his €10m transfer back to Spain is already looking to be a good one. Two goals and two assists in three competitive starts would suggest that he is already on the long path back to his best form. Soldado acts as more than just a goalscorer, his role is now as a mentor to younger strikers Leo Baptistao and Cedric Bakambu. Baptistao showed early promise but has since become no more than a back up striker to any club that would take him off the hands of Atlético Madrid. Bakambu, however, is already showing that he has what it takes to make a name for himself despite failing in France. His renaissance in Turkey last year (13 goals in 26 apps) alerted Villarreal to a striker whose pace and power needs tutoring from a seasoned veteran. Bakambu certainly looks as though he will offer more than Uche, Gerard Moreno and Jonathan Pereira did last year.
It is most apparent that, like Sevilla, Villarreal have a transfer philosophy which focuses on short term growth but with long term profit. Most noticeable is that their policy is to buy up incredible talent in the short term for moderate prices, with the aim of securing massive margins of profit within the next three years. Vietto’s departure suggests that this policy is finally beginning to work, as the Argentinian departs for €20m after being bought for €3,45m only 12 months prior. The most impressive aspect of the business dealings is that they have strengthened the team to no end in the short term.
Castillejo certainly brings an upgrade on the one dimensional Javier Aquino (who also left for the cement backed Tigres) on the wide right. Whilst the new striking quartet of Soldado, Bakambu, Baptistao and former Atlético Madrid striker Adrian offers a dynamism that Dos Santos, Uche, Periera and Vietto lacked at times last season as 48 goals scored demonstrates. Samu Garcia adds to the creative hub in the middle, where Manu Trigueros and Tomas Pina control the game. The arrival of Denis Suarez (whom some may remember from Manchester City) is as good a demonstration of the transfer policy as any. Arriving for €3m Suarez represents a value that simply does not exist in todays market, and should he be going to a Premier League club the free could treble. He is agile, quick and remarkably intelligent for someone who is only 20 years of age. Able to control the game, he’ll add remarkable creativity to an exciting Villarreal squad.
You would be forgiven for thinking that any club who loses a host of key players would be weaker in the coming season. But results this season suggest otherwise, as Villarreal’s demonstration of how a transfer window should work pays off on the pitch.
About the Author – Ben Jarman
Freelance football writer with a penchant for Spanish and European football. Work published by Fulham FC, Italian FA and the Evening Standard.