El Centrocampista

SEASON PREVIEW PART TWO: Getafe, Granada, Levante, Malaga and Mallorca

After looking at what the new season may bring for Athletic Club, Atlético Madrid, Barcelona, Real Betis and Espanyol, today we present part two of the four part series.



Stadium: Coliseum Alfonso Perez

Nickname: Azulones

Coach: Luis Garcia Plaza

Finished last season: 16th

Players in: Diego Castro, Mehdi Lacen, Juan Rodriguez, Miguel Angel Moya, Alberto Lopo, Tomeu Nadal, Michelangelo Albertazzi, Pablo Sarabia, Juan Valera, Tsepo Masilela, Dani Guiza

Players out: Borja, Victor Sanchez, Derek Boateng, Adrian Sardinero, Miguel Pallardo, Javier Arizmendi, Juan Albin, Mario Alvarez, Manu del Moral, Dani Parejo, Ivan Marcano

Much has changed at Getafe since they managed to survive the drop on the final day of the season.

Firstly, the Royal Emirates Group or ‘Team Dubai’, as they like to be called, have taken over the club, immediately replacing manager Michel with Levante’s talented young boss Luis Garcia Plaza.

Extra funds have been made available for him to spend, bringing in Miguel Angel Moya, Alberto Lopo, Juan Valera, Peter Masilela, Juan Dominguez, Michel, Mehdi Lacen, Pablo Sarabia and Diego Castro as they look to achieve a top half finish.

If Garcia can replicate his success at Levante, then Getafe have a great chance of breaking into the top half after a below-par season last year. They are crying out for a centre forward however, and could feel the force of big departures such as Derek Boateng, Dani Parejo and Manu del Moral.

KEY PLAYER: Pedro Rios

The experienced winger was one of the few shining lights last season, turning in some very good performances in the second half of the season. Bought from Xerez in 2009, Rios was forced to play a bit-part role in his first season at Getafe, but seized his chance when Pedro Leon was sold to Real Madrid. Contributing some stunning long range goals and great dribbling skill, Rios became a fan’s favourite under Michel. It’s expected that Garcia will play with two wingers in Castro and Rios, so we will have another chance to see the 29 year old in La Liga.

ONE TO WATCH: Pablo Sarabia

The talented Real Madrid graduate is going to be the one to challenge Rios for the starting spot on the right hand side of the Getafe midfield. After impressing for Real Madrid’s B team and Spain U19’s, Sarabia has landed a move to city neighbours Getafe, for a fee of €3m, signing a five year contract – though Madrid can buy Sarabia back after two years, if he impresses. This is a great chance for Sarabia to show what he’s capable of, as he possesses good speed and dribbling skills. It might take a few fleeting performances early on, but I’m hopeful that Sarabia can break into the Getafe side this season.

El centrocampista prediction: 10th



Stadium: Los Carmenes

Nickname: El Grana

Coach: Fabri Gonzalez

Finished last season: 5th (Segunda, promoted)

Players in: Yohan Mollo, Ikechi Anya, David de Coz, David Cortes, Noe Pamarot, Enrique Corrales, Fran Rico, Carlos Martins, Jorge Ribeiro, Carlos Martins, Guilherme Siquiera, Jaime Romero, Dani Benitez, Odion Ighalo, Alain Nyom, Alex Geijo

Players out: Ruben Parraga, Enrique Corrales, Mikel Rico, Fabian Orellana, Jonathan Mensah, Carlos Calvo

Having been labelled as owner Giampaolo Pozzo’s second team and nothing more than Udinese Calcio’s feeder club you can understand Granada fans frustrations at their prospects/accomplishments so far being written off so harshly.

Despite this there is geat excitement in Granada as the club returns to the top flight for the first time in 35 years. Coach Fabri has brought in a number of new faces and will once again lean heavily on loan players from Udinese, with whom the club have a partnership agreement, but still needs to strengthen in certain areas.
So far the signings of note have been experienced right-back David Cortés, 29, who has been picked up on a free transfer from Hércules to provide competition for the highly-rated Nyom, 23-year-old Ikechi Anya from Celta Vigo, whilst bringing in 3 Benfica players in Julio Cesar, Jorge Ribeiro and Carlos Martins alongside Monaco winger Yohan Mollo. However, it will take an extraordinary effort for Granada to survive next season. Their survival undoubtedly depends on the signings made, most of which loans from Udinese, and chairman Quique Pina’s commitment is crucial to this football club going into next season.

KEY PLAYER: Alex Geijo

Alex Geijo is clearly the main man for Granada next season, the Swiss-Spanish forward will need to work hard to replicate his impressive 24 in 34 goal tally from last season at Granada. If he gets firing then he could propel them up the table, but I feel an injury to him and Granada will slide badly. He is arguably their most important player next season, their goal scoring/attack is spearhead and relied upon Geijo scoring.

ONE TO WATCH: Yohan Mollo

Pozzo has really taken a gamble (Although at 1m euros you could argue not that much of a gamble) taking Mollo to Granada. He has always been touted as being a future French star at international level but always lacked consistency/a level head at crucial times and I get the feeling that like many other signings by promoted/bottom half clubs this could either be a move of genius or likewise a move of stupidity to bring this sort of player into the dressing room of a team that will be scrapping for it’s La Liga life come February.

El centrocampista prediction:



Stadium: Ciutat de Valencia

Nickname: Los Granotes

Coach: Juan Ignacio Martinez

Finished last season: 14th

Players in: Keylor Navas, Wellington Silva, Carlos Aranda, Jose Barkero, Gustavo Cabral, Miguel Pallardo, Javier Farinos, Nabil El Zhar, Felipe Caicedo, Xavi Torres, Pedro Lopez, Asier Del Horno

Players out: Gorka Larrea, Cerra, Manolo Reina, Felipe Caicedo, Miquel Robusté, Christian Stuani, Jefferson Montero

Levante proved to be last season’s surprise package as the Valencia based side, with the smallest budget in La Liga, finished the year in a highly commendable 14tth place.

After enduring a horrible first half of the season, Levante went on an incredible 11 match unbeaten run which meant that at one point they were third place in the league’s form guide to the second half of the season.
Although their form dipped towards the end of the campaign, simply remaining in Spain’s top flight was a major feat for a side that spent the entire campaign engulfed by a dire financial crisis.
However, the man behind the success, coach Luis Garcia Plaza has joined Getafe and has been replaced by lower league manager Juan Ignacio Martinez.
The exit of last season’s top scorer, Felipe Caicedo, who was on a season long loan from Manchester City, will prove to be a big loss for new man Martinez but has given him some much needed funds which have already been used to heavily strengthen his side.
Levante have looked for experience by bringing in the likes of Asier Del Horno, Juan Aranda, Jose Barkero and Javier Farinos.
Their experience will be crucial if Levante are to once again defy the odds.
Key Player: Sergio Ballesteros. The Levante captain was a colossal figure for Los Granotes last term. Ballesteros is more famous for his considerable backside than for his defensive prowess but with his leadership, Los Granotes finished the season with the eight best defensive record in the division. Despite this, Ballesteros turns 36 next month and it is hard to imagine him keeping the likes of Messi and Higuain at bay.

One to watch: Jose Barkero. The veteran winger has cut out a successful top flight career for himself with the likes of Real Sociedad. Having joined from Numancia, where he scored 15 goals last season, Barkero’s experience should be highly valuable for Levante.

El centrocampista prediction: 17th



Stadium: La Rosaleda

Nickname: Los Boquerones

Coach: Manuel Pellegrini

Finished last season: 11th

Players in: Martin Demechelis, Ruud van Nistelrooy, Nacho Monreal, Joris Mathijsen, Jeremy Toulalan, Sergio Sanchez, Joaquin, Isco, Santi Cazorla

Players out: Quincy Owusu-Abeyie, Sergio Asenjo, Manu Torres, Manolo Gaspar, Rodrigo Galatto, David Gonzalez, Sandro Silva, Edu Ramos, Fernando, Helder Rosario, Patrick Mtiliga, Arnau

Wish I had a pound for each time someone called Malaga the ‘Man City of Spain’ – I might be able to pay an incredibly small percentage of Ruud van Nistelrooy’s wages at La Rosaleda.

The Sheikh Al-Thani funded club endured a difficult season last year, sacking Jesualdo Ferreira after just 5 months in charge. Ex Villarreal and Read Madrid boss Manuel Pellegrini was appointed to steady the ship, but Malaga very nearly went down – they were in the bottom three with just 6 weeks of the season left, but eventually secured an 11th place finish, spearheaded by former Galactico Julio Baptista.

The money has been splashed around this summer – big stars such as Ruud van Nistelrooy, Joaquin and Santi Cazorla have been purchased alongside solid first teamers in Joris Mathijsen and Natxo Monreal.

Much is expected of the big spenders, but a top 6 finish would be a superb achievement – I can see them sneaking into the Champions League places though.

KEY PLAYER: Santi Cazorla

Purchased for €21m, Cazorla is expected to provide a vast amount of creativity and flair in this Malaga side. The move came as a surprise to most, as Cazorla had once again secured Champions League qualifcation with Villarreal, only to turn his back on it and move back to Andalusia, where he used to play with Recreativo. A regular in the national team squads, Cazorla is known for his superb technique and dribbling ability – but he doesn’t contribute many goals, instead laying chances on a plate for his team mates – this worked brilliantly with Giuseppe Rossi and Nilmar at Villarreal, and should once again with the likes of van Nistelrooy, Julio Baptista and Jose Salomon Rondon to aim at.

ONE TO WATCH: Jose Salomon Rondon

Rondon has made a name for himself to a few people now, scoring 16 goals in 32 games in his first season in La Liga last year. Rondon’s main abilities lie in sheer athleticism – he’s strong and quick, good in the air and possesses a fierce shot, leading to clubs in England being attracted to him. He impressed again at Copa America and at just 21, has plenty of potential to get better. The only worry is that with Malaga splashing the cash on van Nistelrooy and Baptista, will Rondon see regular first team action?

El centrocampista prediction: 4th



Stadium: Iberostar Stadium

Nickname: Los Bermellones

Coach: Michael Laudrup

Finished last season: 17th

Players in: Gianni Zuiverloon, Pablo Caceres, Chico, Juan Catalayud, Alejandro Alfaro, Tomer Hemed

Players out: Ruben, German Lux, Ayoze, Pierre Webo, Oscar Trejo, Enrique Corrales, Sergi Enrich, Tomeu Nadal

For Real Mallorca, the upcoming season presents an extreme challenge – one that will test the true spirit and worth of the club and its playing staff.

Mallorca’s financial troubles have had a knock-on effect to this summer’s transfer policy, which has involved little spending and somewhat of a sell-before-we-buy system. Last season’s top-scorer, temperamental striker Pierre Webó, has headed through the exit door to ply his trade in Turkey. But Palma airport has been extremely busy, and has seen right-back Gianni Zuiverloon, left-back Pablo Caceres, centre-back Chico and goalkeeper Juan Catalayud head through arrivals – many on free transfers. Perhaps the most promising signing, however, was wrapped up just a few days ago, as Mallorca confirmed the arrival of Alejandro Alfaro from Sevilla in a deal thought to be worth €700,000.

They are in the proverbial mill financially no doubt about it but with a manager with such ambition and loyalty, Laudrup, they truly could not have a better man to guide them safely through this storm of uncertainty and financial worry. However, with a release clause of €12 million De Guzman does look like he could stay given Villareals reluctance to match the clause and has previously told fans on the Island that he wishes to stay and honour the clubs loyalty to him so we shall see.

KEY PLAYER: Jonathan De Guzman

The Dutch playmaker impressed last season on ‘the island’. Set piece and long range shot specialist, De Guzman has attracted strong interest from Villarreal, as mentioned before – the only thing stopping him is Villarreal’s reluctance to pay the transfer fee. After the departure of Webo, it will be up to De Guzman and winger Gonzalo Castro to provide the goals alongside new Israeli striker Tomer Hemed.

ONE TO WATCH: Akihiro Ienaga
Akihiro Ienaga is a new face at Mallorca having signed from Osaka and he is fairly experienced and if he can get a good start to his career in Spain I can see him making a significant impact on whether Laudrup’s team finishes above expectations or below expectations. He comes with a nominal fee and a small reputation which will help him, we will see how it works out for him as the season develops.



  1. ollydawes

    23 August, 2011 at 19:50

    Shocking error on my part, forgot predictions on two of them! Deepest apologies.

    Mallorca – 13th

    Granada – 19th

    Thank you!

  2. Heath Chesters

    29 August, 2011 at 14:16

    I was laughed at for predicting promotion via the play-offs for Granada last season, especially after they lost their opening three games in Segunda A. I did the laughing after the 1-1 draw at Elche clinched promotion.

    This season in the Primera, it’s certainly going to be tough. They’ve already lost their first match at home to Betis, conceding a sucker punch goal with two minutes left to play.

    Quite a lot of new players brought to the club, which will take time to settle, so it’s my belief that things will be as they were last season. A slow start, followed by some good runs once the team starts to get into its rhythm.

    There’s plenty of clubs who I feel are likely to struggle a lot more than Granada this year, but I believe looking at the squad that’s coming together (with more to come before transfer deadline day), There’s enough about them to comfortably survive.

    I’ll go out on a limb and say that they should finish around mid-table. I await your laughter… and hope that once again, I’ll be the one doing the laughing at the end of the season.

    Key man for me, will be Hassan Yebda, signed on a free transfer from Benfica. but spent last season on loan at Napoli, where he was an integral part of the squad that finished 3rd in Serie A and clinched an automatic Champions League place.

    Other than Yebda, influential players like Carlos Martins (on loan from Benfica) and (if he signs today), Argentine international Franco Jara.

    There is much more ambition at Granada CF than I think a lot of people would expect of them. The inevitable difficulty though, has been attracting quality players to a club that hasn’t played at this level for 35 years. Most have heard of the Alhambra, but few outside Spain have heard of the football club. Hopefully, that will change…

  3. Heath Chesters

    29 August, 2011 at 14:24

    Will just add that revealed today, Granada CF are in talks to sign Marouane Chamakh on loan from Arsenal, with an option to buy at the end of the season…

  4. ollydawes

    29 August, 2011 at 20:45

    They’ve actually managed to bring in decent players – Pape Diakhate the latest, very impressive. Didn’t know about Jara, what’s the link with Granada and Benfica?!

  5. Heath Chesters

    1 September, 2011 at 12:41

    No official affiliate deal between Granada and Benfica, just a case of “good relations”.

    Trying to attract quality players has been incredibly difficult for Granada during the summer. The very last “big” move they made, for Chamakh on loan from Arsenal, was agreed between the two clubs with ease. Sadly, the player had apparently never heard of Granada CF and was reluctant to move to a team “new” to Liga BBVA.

    They’ve certainly not lacked in ambition though. President Quique Pina and Sporting Director Juan Carlos Cordero have revealed numerous players they’ve tried to sign, where agreements were made with clubs, but the players themselves were reluctant. Included amongst those, were the likes of Standard Liege Belgian midfield starlet, Steven Defour, who has had a number of leading English Premier League clubs (Man Utd, Man City, Chelsea, Arsenal amongst those reported) following his progress.

    Here’s the squad for the season though:


    I certainly think there’s enough quality there to survive. I can pretty much guarantee they’ll make a slow start, just like they did last season, but once the squad is gelled, they should begin to pick up points regularly… maybe even surprise a few opponents….

    …and I’m still going to predict a mid-table finish!

  6. ollydawes

    1 September, 2011 at 14:15

    Must say, since this was written they have brought in very good players – Yebda, Jara, Uche, Diakhate, Moises Hurtado, I like! Maybe they can survive, but I worry they’ll be Hercules Mark II!

  7. Heath Chesters

    2 September, 2011 at 13:40

    That’s always a thought at the back of my mind Olly. They’re amongst the teams who have brought the most players in during the summer, but that’s no different than last season.

    Hopefully the players they have will be sufficient to survive, as that will be the springboard to realise the bigger ambitions the club has. Permanence in Liga BBVA will make them a more attractive proposition. They’ll be better “known” in footballing circles and then they may be able to attract the even higher calibre of players they tried unsuccessfully to sign this time around.

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