La Liga: Big-name exodus as season ends
José Mourinho, Radamel Falcao, Gonzalo Higuaín and Manuel Pellegrini among those leaving Spanish football, while Neymar finally arrives in Barcelona.
By Halima Ali
On Saturday, with a wave to the hardcore Ultra fans at the final whistle, he was off. José Mourinho had made his exit after three years at the helm of Real Madrid and he was not the only one, with an exodus of big names from la liga this summer.
With no major international football tournament being played this year, the summer trading has got off to a quick start with a host of big players making a quick exit. Another Madrid man, this time from across town, made a highly anticipated big-money move.
Radamel Falcao, who has been a revelation for Atlético Madrid since his arrival two years ago, has been courted by a host of clubs this season, with the like of Chelsea, Manchester United and even cross-town rivals Real Madrid all vying for his services. But while much talk centered on an “anti-Madrid” clause in his contract, until recently, no one expected the Colombian to make his move to AS Monaco.
Funded by Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev, Monaco are busy assembling a side to rival French Champions Paris St Germain, and spent upwards of €50 million to acquire the striker, who will return to the Stade Louis II stadium where he scored a hat-trick in helping Atléti to a thumping 4-1 victory over Chelsea in the UEFA Super Cup last August.
Another Madrid- based striker looking for a change of scenery is Gonzalo Higuaín. The Argentinian, who was just 19 years old when he arrived at the Santiago Bernabéu from River Plate in 2007, was relatively unknown then but has since cemented his reputation as a consistent performer for both club and country with 107 goals in 187 appearances for Madrid.
But there were always doubts about his abilities, particularly among the Spanish media. A year ago, during liga title celebrations, Higuaín was implored to stay by a full capacity crowd at the Bernabéu who chanted “Pipita Quédate!” Won over, he chose to stay another year but after yet another season vying for a spot in the first 11 with Karim Benzema it seems he has had enough.
On Saturday he did not celebrate when he scored the opener as Madrid saw off Osasuna 4-2 on the final day of the season, revealing afterwards that his 122nd goal for Los Merengues would be his last. “I want to go to a club that really believes in me and where I will be happy,” he said.
Another couple of players who are leaving, this time to the Premier League, are Iago Aspas – who looks set to make the move to Liverpool – and Jesús Navas. The 27-year-old Sevilla and Spain winger is now believed to have conquered the anxiety attacks that plagued the early part of his career and is the first major signing for Manchester City this summer.
The Etihad Stadium is also awaiting the arrival of another liga export with coach Manuel Pellegrini having a verbal agreement in place with the club. The Chilean was revered at Málaga as he led the club to the quarter-finals of the UEFA Champions League this year and the city will honour him with a square named after him.
As for those coming in to la liga, the big summer signing so far has been the arrival of Neymar at Barcelona, the eighth most expensive signing in history. The Brazilian signed a five-year contract and was presented at the Camp Nou on Monday, putting to rest two years of speculation as to where he would end up playing.
The Catalans paid €57 million for their new forward, and Barça Vice President Josep Bartomeu pointed out the price tag would have been lower had it not been for the “interference of other clubs.”
The “other” club in question is Real Madrid, who currently have bigger problems, with Carlo Ancelotti – their managerial replacement of choice for the departing Mourinho – not being given an easy exit by his bosses at PSG while the number-two choice, Jupp Heynckes, who led Bayern Munich to Champions League success this season, has decided to retire from football altogether.
Real Zaragoza 1 – 3 Atlético Madrid
Levante UD 1 – 1 Real Betis
Granada CF 2 – 0 Getafe CF
Rayo Vallecano 2 – 2 Athletic Bilbao
Sevilla FC 4 – 3 Valencia CF
Deportivo La Coruña 0 – 1 Real Sociedad
Celta de Vigo 1 – 0 RCD Espanyol
RCD Mallorca 4 – 2 Real Valladolid
FC Barcelona 4 – 1 Málaga CF
Real Madrid 4 – 2 Osasuna
La Liga Winners: Barcelona
Relegated: Deportivo la Coruña, Real Zaragoza, RCD Mallorca
In the Champions League: Barcelona, Real Madrid, Atlético Madrid, Real Sociedad
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