A month ago (May 21) Villarreal closed out its 2010-11 La Liga campaign with a meaningless loss to Osasuna, having already clinched fourth place and a spot in the Champions League qualifying round.
Going into the summer, Villarreal's goals were to improve their squad depth while retaining the nucleus of last year's squad. If a key player should move, it should only be for good money that could help achieve the first objective.
So what's the story, a month later? Virtually nothing has happened. The lone signing so far has been goalkeeper César, on a free from our neighbors Valencia. The lone departure has been Ivan Marcano, loaned yet again, this time to Valverde's Olympiacos.
Sr. Roig hit a very upbeat tone at the Gala, talking about last year being a year of transition to a better 2011-12, and has also said the team's playing budget would expand some. But with the team reassembling on July 10 in Vila-real for the start of the preseason training, and no moves made yet, Villarreal supporters are beginning to get a bit nervous.
The unspoken fear is that we may end up with a repeat of the January transfer window all over again, when in spite of a clear need to improve the team's depth very little took place. But if we look at what has happened (or hasn't) so far, we can see how interconnected so much of the transfer market is, and get some sense of where Villarreal is likely to move.
(1) Most likely to leave? Probably not Rossi after this week's events
Virtually everyone expected Giuseppe Rossi to be gone by now, but it hasn't happened. Barcelona are apparently signing Alexis Sanchez instead, and Juventus are going to make a run at Kun Aguero.
Kun clearly wants out of Madrid and Juve seem to think they can get him for around the same cost as Rossi. So I think Rossi only gets a Juve offer if the Kun talks break down.
If Juve, or another Italian club. makes an offer, and it's acceptable to the club, then Rossi has a decision to make. Giuseppe has seemed less keen on an Italian move of late, and Juventus aren't playing in Europe at all next season. Villarreal will want him to make up his mind quickly, but will hope he stays. And I suppose a club like Tottenham could make a shock last-minute offer (again) and probably have it turned down (again).
But if Rossi does depart, Villarreal don't have great options to replace him, unless Madrid can be persuaded to let Canales go. Fiorentina's Gilardino doesn't impress me particularly but might be available. Caicedo from Levante would be cheaper, and maybe a better option.
However, the Rossi saga might affect Villarreal in another way. Atletico Madrid are retooling drastically. They'll have oodles of money if they are indeed selling Ujfalusi, De Gea, Reyes, Forlan, and especially Kun. What they don't have is Champions League football next year or, should most or all of those players leave, a reasonable expectation of achieving it soon.
If Juventus sign Kun, then Rossi is likely to remain in yellow, but Atleti then will have plenty of cash to make a serious run at Borja Valero.
I don't see Villarreal letting him go easily, and I don't know that Borja would make the move anyway. He seems very happy at Villarreal and I think recognizes that some stability would help his career. And nothing about Atleti is stable!! But it is always a possibility.
Diego Lopez, Santi Cazorla, and Joan Capdevila have been rumored to interest other clubs as well. I just don't see the first two leaving, and Capdevila is still a pretty great guy to have around. He really wore down last year, though, and the club has said he is "transferable"--which makes sense given his age and the emergence of Catalá last year.
(2) Transfers of other Villarreal players have been secondary to the Rossi saga
Montero, Altidore, Joan Oriol, Matilla, Kiko Olivas, Cristobal, and Juan Carlos were either loaned or played very little last year, and all indications are they are peripheral to our plans this year as well. Juan Carlos will clearly be loaned; the others could be loaned, could be included as part of a package to acquire one of our targets, or could be sold outright, though none are likely to bring that much money.
Of the group, the players with the most upside are Altidore (and right now we have only him and Ruben behind Rossi and Nilmar), and Montero. But Jozy has struggled and Montero disappointed last year. I suspect this isn't the time to cash out on either of them, so maybe they go on loan within La Liga.
Regardless, while the club has clearly been exploring options to transfer these players, an influx of large amounts of cash for Rossi would significantly change the transfer budget and the range of potential deals, so they haven't been in any hurry to finalize things. Expect that to change over the next couple of weeks.
(3) Villarreal clearly plans several acquisitions
César came on a free, and was a good pickup inasmuch as his presence allows Juan Carlos to go on loan and get playing time, or if Diego López moves, we're not needing to spend a transfer fee to replace him.
Ideally, Villarreal ought to add about four or five outfield players to last year's roster: two defenders (one a center back), a defensive midfielder, and an attacker, possibly another attacking midfielder as well. I don't see the B team supplying any of those except possibly Hernán Pérez, who I tend to count as a second striker rather than a midfielder. So that leaves three or four buys.
The players we seem to most want are Canella from Sporting (long-term replacement for Capdevila at left back) and Camuñas, an experienced attacking midfielder from Osasuna who can also offer some backup as a second striker. Clearly Villarreal has been in talks with these teams and believe some sort of agreement can be reached. In addition, the team is known to be interested in adding a center back and a defensive midfielder.
Recently we've been linked with central defender Zapata from Udinese (expensive) and Cristian Chivu from Inter (cheap), as well as Cristian Baroni (defensive midfielder from Fenerbahce). No idea whether to believe any of these. But again, the Rossi uncertainty has been holding up progress, so we should know more soon.
The total cost for Canella, Camunas, Baroni and Chivu, say, would probably be around €10-12 million. That's probably at the top end of Villarreal's plans, but a €2-3 million reduction in that figure from player sales would reduce it to a more reasonable level.
The one other player we've clearly made a run at is Canales, but I think this was more on the assumption that Rossi would be leaving. Madrid doesn't seem willing to let him go within La Liga, so I'd be very surprised if we hear more about him unless Rossi or Borja suddenly depart.
(4) Iago Falqué and Marcos Senna--caught in the budget insecurity as well?
If Villarreal don't exercise Falqué's buyout clause (which is substantial, I think €5-6 million) he goes back to Juventus. Which makes me think this probably won't be decided either until Villarreal knows if Juve is moving for Rossi or not. Villarreal would certainly like Falqué, he is a great prospect, but I think he would go into the B team for another year; with Cani, Santi, Borja, Wakaso, and Camuñas (probably) in the A team, he's not going to get playing time there.
The failure of the club and Senna to reach an agreement is somewhat of a mystery to me. Either there's something we don't know, or the team is quite confident it has a replacement lined up (Baroni?) in case he goes elsewhere. Or, the club is trying to figure out exactly how much money it has available to spend on him. Which depends on the transfers in, which depends on the transfers out, and especially the big-money transfers.
So while it's tempting to blame the lack of action so far on Sr. Roig's conservative nature, the real reason is that the big-money sale possibilities have basically held up everything. Which is why the club seems to have issued an ultimatum to teams courting our best players: put up or shut up, we need to move on.