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New Arrivals at El Madrigal: Jonathan de Guzmán, Ikechukwu Uche

The closest we will get to seeing Uche this season.
The closest we will get to seeing Uche this season.

We finally got our man. My man, even. Dutch midfielder Jonathan de Guzmán is officially a Villarreal player. Yes, that does sound nice.

The ex-Feyenoord player has signed a five-year deal at El Madrigal for a reported €8 million transfer fee. He came to Spain for free last summer after two consecutive injury-plagued seasons in the Eredivisie. He also featured in the 2008 Summer Olympics for his adopted country of the Netherlands (he was born in Toronto, Canada).

Replacing a full Spanish international like Santi Cazorla is a lot of pressure on a 23-year-old new signing. The talent is there, but de Guzmán has been in Spain only one season and never has taken on such a big role. The good news is that he wants to be in Vila-real: he gave up the 20% fee entitled to him.

Running the show against Sevilla and Bayern Munich in two weeks' time is a tall order. But that's why we met the asking price of €8 million. Well done, Mallorca. And they've made sure their fans know about it. Cover in case they go down?

In other news, Espanyol midfielder Joan Verdú stayed put: our €5 million offer was rejected. That's likely why Villarreal intensified its ultimately successful pursuit of de Guzmán, albeit on Mallorca's terms.

More surprisingly, we also added Nigerian striker Ikechukwu Uche from Zaragoza. The full international has signed a four-year deal for a reported €3 million transfer fee. He then packed his bags for a year-long loan with newly promoted Granada. Behind Giuseppe Rossi, Nilmar, and Marco Ruben, Uche would not see the field much in Vila-real.

Uche is another talent with pace to burn and has a brother who has played in La Liga, though the Nigerian is a few years older than de Guzmán. But Uche also has been plagued by injuries. He made his name with Recreativo de Huelva, scoring 20 goals one season in the Segunda. Other stops in Spain include Racing de Ferrol and Getafe.

Verdict: I'm a big fan of Jonathan de Guzmán. He should fit in well and fills a major need: an attack-minded central midfielder. This should allow Borja Valero to do his thing on the flank, if manager Juan Carlos Garrido so chooses. But it's an expensive transfer, and there will be a lot of pressure on Santi's replacement.

The Uche deal is much more low-key. If it doesn't work out, no real harm done. And I know that Villarreal has been keeping tabs on him. A reason to watch Granada this season, let's call it.

The transfer budget is about even for the summer, so Sr. Roig has only pocketed the Champions League money (and a bit in wage bill savings). Is the squad deeper? Yes. Better? Only time will tell.