LA LIGA 2021/22: WHO CAN BE THE CHAMPIONS NEXT SEASON?
The Spanish league dominated by the powerful and historic Real Madrid and FC Barcelona is often criticised for its lack of competition, but the constant improvement of Atletico Madrid under Diego Simeone, the Unai Emery effect on Villarreal, and the possible upturn of Sevilla under Julen Lopetegui has given a new identity to the league.
The La Liga president Javier Tebas has confirmed that fans will be allowed back in the stadium at a 50% capacity from the beginning of the 21/22 season.
It is recruitment season and all clubs are busy preparing the squad for the next season. New players, new managers, and even new club presidents are arriving and attempting to change the status quo. It is predicted to be another thrilling year of football in Spain and all eyes will be on whether Atletico can retain the title or will it go back to the illustrious trophy cabinets of Los Blancos or Blaugrana.
While teams and boards prepare to challenge for the title, we, at FootTheBall, will analyse their prospects for the 21/22 season —
1. ATLETICO MADRID
El Cholo, as Diego Simeone is lovingly called by the fans of Los Rojiblancos and Argentina has established himself as one of the biggest managers in Spain and the world. His rigorous coaching methods that prepare his team for any physical and mental challenge have turned out to be fruitful. Atletico has one of the best defensive shapes in world football and is known for its compact yet dynamic gameplay.
Atletico was in brilliant form since the start of last season and took the top spot in no time. However, they had a stumble in between and almost slipped the lead. The Cholo Army got back in form and kept a close difference between them and city rivals Real Madrid and won the league by two points.
Atlético de Madrid, LaLiga champions 🏆 pic.twitter.com/I090SiEDrv
— Atlético de Madrid (@atletienglish) May 24, 2021
The recent addition of Udinese’s Rodrigo de Paul in a permanent deal for a fee of almost €35 million. De Paul had a great individual season in Serie A with Udinese, making 18 goal contributions.
The 27-year old won the Copa America with Argentina and provided the final-winning assist to Angel Di Maria. He can be a great addition to the squad considering Saul Niguez might leave in the coming days. Another signing is the 20-year old Brazilian left-winger Marcos Paulo.
Your LaLiga champions are back! 🔴⚪ pic.twitter.com/nvOvF4vECB
— Atlético de Madrid (@atletienglish) July 7, 2021
It will be a difficult task for Simeone and his players considering Barcelona and Real Madrid will aim to re-establish the old order. But one can’t write Atletico off considering their mentality and hunger after the last season’s success and players like Koke, Oblak, Suarez, and Gimenez along with de Paul.
Barcelona had a year of ups and downs both on and off the field with the Messi controversy, resignation of Bartomeu, and Joan Laporta’s election, and ultimately winning the Copa Del Rey. They got back into form from the turn of the year but could only finish third in the league.
Lionel Messi looked happy again and that rejuvenated the entire squad under Ronald Koeman. There’s still trouble ahead but Barcelona can very well defy the odds and get back to winning ways with the right mindset and the right transfers.
And the legend just keeps on growing … pic.twitter.com/6Nv56N2byI
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) July 11, 2021
Financial troubles don’t seem to end for Barcelona and the Lionel Messi contract situation is getting more and more complicating. However, there are reports of an agreement for another 5-years with a 50% pay cut. This, along with the signings of Depay and Aguero for free has pumped enthusiasm in the club and its fans for the next season.
Memphis Depay is Koeman’s compatriot and has played under him in the national team. There is no doubt about his talent and ability to turn games on his own and it is tipped to be one of the smartest transfers this window.
The signing of a 33-year old Sergio Aguero who plays alongside Messi for Argentina has a clear implication. That Barcelona regrets the decision to let go Luis Suarez who led Atletico to glory this season with 21 goals.
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) July 15, 2021
If Ronald Koeman can use the squad to its full potential with young players like Pedri and Fati along with the experience of Messi and Busquets, Barcelona can become a formidable unit.
3. REAL MADRID
Zinedine Zidane has left the club once again with the return of Carlo Ancelotti to the club six years after he was sacked in 2015 after a Champions League and Copa Del Rey winning campaign. Real Madrid and Zidane mutually parted ways with the latter having to say some harsh things about the club and its board. Eden Hazard is yet to find feet in Spain with his injury issues depriving him of regular playtime.
🏃🏻 T E A M 🏃🏻 pic.twitter.com/YLM1RUtHK3
— Real Madrid C.F. 🇬🇧🇺🇸 (@realmadriden) July 15, 2021
Ancelotti will have a big task at his disposal to turn a demoralised squad coming on the back of a trophy-less season. With the club captain Sergio Ramos leaving the club on free and Raphael Varane possibly moving to Manchester United, Madrid needs an overhaul amid financial troubles. The club is renovating its iconic Santiago Bernabeu stadium which has caused a lot of debt adding to the covid situation.
They finished second last season with a close gap of two points but it accounts for a failed season at a club as big as Real Madrid. A turnaround is expected from them but they’re yet to make a move in the transfer market apart from the free-of-cost acquisition of David Alaba from Bayern Munich.
Caption this 🧢👈 pic.twitter.com/Us7pXLCDsn
— Real Madrid C.F. 🇬🇧🇺🇸 (@realmadriden) July 14, 2021
They will need their star players to perform at the highest level to compete for the title while also adding budget-friendly but extremely talented players to provide the squad depth in midfield and the rumours of Kylian Mbappe need to come true. The players like Hazard, Asensio, Vinicius, and Odegaard need to step up and take the team to glory.
The winners of previous year’s Europa League missed out on another piece of silverware at the start of the season by losing the UEFA Super Cup to Bayern. Coached by former Spain boss Julen Lopetegui, the team had an average season but managed to book a Champions League place by finishing fourth in the league. They were knocked out of the Champions League last season in the Round of 16 and reached the semi-final of Copa Del Rey.
— Sevilla FC (@SevillaFC_ENG) July 13, 2021
They have a talented and experienced squad but it is not still capable of challenging for the title against the likes of Barcelona, Real, and Atletico Madrid unless Lopetegui pulls a miracle out of nowhere. The transfer window is still on and they can still make some acquisitions in due time to improve their chances of making that miracle a reality. Their young defender Jules Kounde has become a sensation and many clubs are in touch with the club in order to sign him.
It is too far-stretched for them to think about a title challenge but if things go right and they can have a good start to the season, it might not be as difficult as it looks.