The Spanish economy may be crawling about on the floor like a boxer who has just gone through 12 rounds with Mohammed Aki in his heyday, but there is one export that everyone is very keen to get their hands on; Spanish players. After the success of Michu, European heavyweights such as Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool are flocking to Spain like Del Boy at an auction to see if they, like Swansea City, can sniff out a bargain. Here are a few tasty players that could really make an impact without breaking the bank.
Beñat Etxebarria – Real Betis
Possible Price: €10-15M
Yes he may be a little costly for this particular article, but he is catching the eye of many clubs with Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea considering him and is still a bargain for this price. Was expected to move to his former club Athletic last year but stayed and he is now one of Europe’s most sought after midfielders. A box-to-box central midfielder who has a lethal shot. There were concerns over his fitness level but he has improved this season and was unlucky not to make it into the Spanish Euro squad. Betis want to hold on to him for as long as possible and they will say they won’t accept anything lower than his release clause but they have money worries and so may end up accepting less than they're currently demanding.
Leo Baptistao – Rayo Vallecano
Possible Price: €6-8M
A player who used to play with Neymar on the beaches in Brazil has set La Liga alight this season with some fine performances. Last weekend scouts from Manchester United, Liverpool and Newcastle United were spotted at Rayo and it is believed there is only one player on their radar, Leo. Some reports say that a deal has been done with Atlético but last season a similar deal was said to be done with Leo’s team-mate Lass and it feel through. As with Michu, Rayo would prefer to sell abroad than strengthen a rival but clubs need to act fast, this talent for this price won’t be around forever.
Iago Aspas – Celta Vigo
Possible Price: €5-7M
There are two sets of prices for players in Spain. There is the price for Real Madrid and Barcelona and then there is the price for all the rest. Iago Aspas is becoming hot property in Spain and Celta may be forced to sell to help balance the books. A product of their youth academy, he blasted 25 goals in all competitions last season, although there were some concerns about his attitude and his temperament. A former team-mate of Michu, Atlético de Madrid have scouted him as a possible replacement for Falcao and Liverpool and Chelsea are keen on him to join them.
Joan Verdú– Espanyol
Possible Price: Free this summer
Has said that he wants to leave at the end of the season and the central or attacking midfielder would an asset for any club. Came up through the ranks at Barca and then had a spell at Deportivo and while he may be just about to turn 30, he still has a few good years left. Atlético de Madrid are said to have spoken to him but nothing is official. A number of English clubs have been scouting him and Seattle Sounders have invited him to come and see their facilities too so anyone interested will need to get their skates on as he is not short of suitors.
Fernando Llorente – Athletic Bilbao
Possible Price: €5-10M, In June Free
Why spend a few million now when you can get him for free in June, you might ask. Well the question is that his club may be willing to do business now. Ever since Llorente returned from the Euro's and told his club he wanted to leave, he has been linked with a number of Europe’s top clubs. The only problem was that Athletic didn’t want to play ball and demanded a ridiculous transfer fee for a player who only had one year left on his contract. Now only playing a part time role, he would welcome the chance to move although in Bilbao they say he will stay until the end of the season. A brilliant striker for this money doesn’t come around too often. Liverpool, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur should get their chequebooks out as Juventus are keen, but want to sign him in the summer for free. And before Arsenal fans use they ‘We have Giroud’ for that role argument, there is room for both in the side.
Adrián – Real Betis
Possible Price: Free this summer
At 26, this Goalkeeper is coming into his prime and showed the world his abilities this season when he put in a man of the match performance against Real Madrid when the Seville side defeated the Champions. Is a free agent in the summer and Valencia have made contact but his performances have attracted the attention of a few in the Premier League and so he will have a few offers to mull over come June. Real Betis will hope that they can persuade the player who joined them as a young boy that his future remains with them.
Ruben Castro – Real Betis
Possible Price: €2-4M
I apologise to Real Betis fans for trying to sell off all their players but anybody who has seen them play this season will know why their players are in such demand. When they got promoted they did so with second and third tier players with a few youth teamers thrown in for luck. They kept that side last season and stayed up and now they are battling in the European spots, so yes they have plenty of quality but the downside is that they have plenty of debts too. Castro may be pushing 32 but he is lethal in front of goal. In less than 100 appearances for Real Betis, he has over 50 goals. He has been a bit of a journeyman in La Liga and was on the verge of signing for Sevilla last year but that fell through. While he may not be linked with any clubs, that could change as he keeps banging them in.
Hugo Mallo – Celta Vigo
Possible Price: €3-5M
He may have just been ruled out for six months and that will put off many clubs but Mallo was on course to becoming one fine full back and for some it was only a matter of time before he sealed his place in the Spanish squad. Likes to make runs up the wing but not afraid to get back and put in a tackle. If he can return to full fitness he would be a good signing for Arsenal should they sell Sagna. Was expected to sign for Atlético de Madrid two seasons ago but the club opted for Portuguese right back Silvío. It is said that Los Rojiblancos are interested again but his injury changes everything.