TALK­ING POINTS

World Soccer - - SeaSon Preview -

How will Barcelona spend the Ney­mar cash? New coach Ernesto Valverde could use the money to re-build his squad, but the ask­ing price of po­ten­tial re­place­ments for the Brazil­ian (Coutinho, Griez­mann, Mbappe) will have gone up.

Diego Sime­one’s old guard have de­fied their ages at Atletico for a long time, but can they keep do­ing it? They have some su­perb young play­ers – some on the side, some com­ing through – but can they as­sim­i­late in­juries or a loss of form from play­ers like Diego Godin and Gabi?

Will Spain be World Cup con­tenders once more? A new era un­der Julen Lopetegui has started well and has its big­gest test of all early in the sea­son with the qual­i­fier against Italy at the Bern­abeu. The early signs are pos­i­tive and there’s a re­newed speed about the na­tional side, while the next gen­er­a­tion hammers at the door. In­juries and the sea­son ahead will play their part, of course.

Never be­fore has a league ti­tle been a squad suc­cess quite like Madrid’s last sea­son. No one used the bench like they did and the way in which bal­ance was main­tained was re­mark­able. Yet there was al­ways a sense that there was some­thing tem­po­rary about the truce – the mo­ment was per­fect, but would not al­ways be. That feel­ing was deep­ened by the de­par­tures this sum­mer: put bluntly, James Ro­driguez and Al­varo Mo­rata wanted more. Zine­dine Zi­dane will seek to repli­cate that tac­tic this sea­son, but do­ing so will not be sim­ple.

Two coaches came and went, the sec­ond a dis­as­ter, and Malaga were in trou­ble last term, with rel­e­ga­tion look­ing ever closer. But then along came Michel, and last sea­son fin­ished su­perbly. Smart, elo­quent and cool, the for­mer Madrid winger is op­ti­mistic that this sea­son might start the same way. Or he would be if it wasn’t for the grow­ing list of de­par­tures.

Un­der Quique Se­tien, Las Pal­mas played some of the most cre­ative foot­ball in Spain last term. But then it all fell apart – not least be­cause Se­tien is a purist when it comes to the play and a purist when it comes to be­ing al­lowed to work too, and at Las Pal­mas he started to eye the in­ter­fer­ence with ret­i­cence. Now he’s at Betis, they will have to let him be him­self.

op­ti­mistic...Michel

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