Word from EPM today is Villarreal should have a pretty good budget by Primera Division standards (€45-50m) though it remains to be seen exactly how it will be spent.
If we were ever a serious contender for Jaime Samperio's services isn't clear, but Sevilla snapped the Racing starlet up, and yesterday Betis snapped up Joan Verdú, a player whom we definitely were in the market for. Apparently the lure of Europa League football was too much to compete against.
Although Villarreal had the second-best defense in the Segunda last year (after Elche) we all know La Liga attackers will utilize more speed against us, and in that light the departure of Mellberg isn't unexpected. Rukavina and Valiente (Valladolid) and Lora (Gijon) have been mentioned as possible reinforcements, but Federico Fazio (Sevilla) appears to be generating the most interest, per AS
Fazio is tall (roughly 6'5") and can play either center back position as well as defensive midfield. He also has EU status, though he's Argentinian.
The other fellow getting the most attention is another midfielder, Guido Pizarro of Lanus. It seems Tito Canteros will be returning to Sarsfeld barring any sudden agreement (his loan expires June 30), so Pizarro might be an appropriate player to replace him.
If those two arrive, Villarreal will still be in the market for at least a goalkeeper, another striker, and another attacker, especially if, as is rumored here, Uche is sold to Bursapor for around €3m.
How do you feel about this? For me, Uche's case is a strange one. We signed him at literally the eleventh hour of the summer 2011 transfer window, for €5m from Zaragoza, and immediately loaned him to Granada for the 2011-2012 season. While there, he scored all of 3 goals in 34 matches (one of course, being a game-winner against us, since we allowed him to play).
Last year, Uche scored 14 goals in 32 games for us. However, once he returned from the African Cup, and working with a new coach (Marcelino) and new strike partners (Perbet and Pereira) he scored eight goals in fourteen games (I don't count the Barca B match, since he came off injured very early).
Then again, Segunda pichichi Charles just moved to Celta for €1m, so getting €3m for a 29-year old striker without much success in the Primera may not be that bad a thing. Uche played very well late in the season (for the most part), but against that, you have to consider the numerous uninspiring performances, too. Tough call.
Finally, word is we have offered €5m to Mallorca for Gio Dos Santos. Valencia have offered €4m. Mallorca want €8m. I have to believe we have drawn a line in the sand, and obviously Gio doesn't want to play in the Segunda, so something has to happen here soon!