Stars of the preseason
The long awaited arrival of the start of the season has arrived, and further signings are unlikely. We look back at our signings and how they performed in the preseason.
As was made quite clear, Victor was never a replacement for Mussachio. Had we sold the Argentine, then we would have no doubt signed two centre backs. Gabriel Paulista has proven to be a tank in defence but with frequent injuries to Dorado and Iñiguez, we were in desperate need of a centre back. Last year when Mateo was out it was clear that our defense suffered.
Ruiz is a solid defender who as many of our commenters pointed out was left to rot at Valencia. He also has proven passing abilities. Many of you may remember his strong tackle on Nilmar a couple of seasons back which earned him some bad reviews, but he may prove crucial in our success this season.
Villarreal has a comparatively high percentage of female supporters, and many of them will doubtless be pleased to have this good-looking Catalan in our squad to add a bit of glamour to our defence! On the other hand if you play Fifa 14, you'll find he has his own gamer face. And if you are a female gamer, you win both ways!!
It was somewhat surprising for fans that last year we searched for players outside our normal South American pipeline. But the signings of Pantic, and especially Jokic proved a huge success and added much needed depth to the squad. Both proved to be physically strong and well-disciplined; we have now brought in Denis on loan from Real Madrid in hopes for ore of the same.
The Russian is a fast winger who likes to cut inside. He normally plays on the left wing, and his goal against Swansea showed he is somewhat of a goal hanger. In preseason he proved himself, interacting well with the squad and launching himself into numerous runs at the opposition defenders. Again it comes down to reinforcing rather than replacing. Cani spent time on the side lines last season and we missed him. They are fairly similar players in speed and passing skill and it will be interesting to see who starts out of the two as the season rolls on.
Talking of Eastern Europeans we come to Antonio Rukavina. Now this signing may have come as a surprise to some as we already have Mario Gaspar who didn’t put a single foot wrong last season, despite what some of us may have thought. We also had Pantic (now loaned to Cordoba) who proved himself last season not just at right back but as an emergency centre back. However, we couldn't pass up the opportunity to sign Antonio, a proven defender in Spain. He played a vital role in Valladolid’s promotion run three years ago. Despite being the wrong side of 30, he is a quick, agile defender with crossing abilities that could put Cani to shame. He did not stand out in preseason, but that counts for nothing when the season eventually starts.
Jonathan dos Santos
After finally bringing in Gio last season, he made up a strong Mexican contingent with Javier Aquino. While Aquino has left on loan, gone to Rayo in search of greener pastures (or at least more playing time), after 4 years on the verges of the Barca first team squad, in comes Jonathan. The connection between the two brothers may prove helpful (Gio stated that he dreamed when they were younger they would one day play together), and the second dos Santos should be a valuable back up for Bruno.
He is a quick, agile player with clinical passing skills. It will be impressive to see him play alongside Manu and Bruno as he shares similarities with both players.
This position has needed reinforcing, as was proven last year; when Bruno was injured, we struggled. He first played as defensive midfielder back in 2010 and has now settled into his role, although he did not shine in pre-season. Villarreal are expecting a lot from the Mexican international, and he really needs to step up and resurrect his career at club level.
Yet another Barcelona prodigy. After losing Oliver Torres to FC Porto, many fans raised an eyebrow at the signing of this young star. Yet the young Spaniard has proved to be the star of the pre-season, scoring twice. At times it has been almost impossible to keep your eye on him, as he darted and made runs with his endless stamina. He seemed to form an instant partnership with Trigueros as they unleashed assist after assist.
Javier was never given a chance in the first team at Barca. As one commenter put it, he became too good for the B team and not good enough for the first team. So Villarreal gave him a life line ( on a free transfer!!) and it looks to be a shrewd bit of business. At only 21, this young star could prove a key for Villarreal. I suspect that as we are lacking a right winger he will be expected to play there.
Finally we come to our most exciting prospect, the striker that all the old hands at Villarreal have been talking about. Not to take any credit away from Jony or Perbet, but we needed another striker with big upside. This young Argentine cost us 5 million euros and at least 2 years of scouting. He practically carried Racing Avellaneda scoring goal after goal. It is exciting to see what he will able to do alongside our squad. His first game at Swansea, he had 3 shots that hit posts and a spectacular bicycle kick that just went wide. Despite not scoring he was on fire with quick runs, excellent linking play and an eye for goal. It will be interesting to see if the gaffer starts him as Uche and Gio already have a strong connection. But the "next Messi" may prove vital next season for our Europa League run.
Old hands return
We finally managed to beat down Atletico Madrid from a fee of €5m to sign Asenjo permanently. After his strong performances last season, many fans wanted this move; he is a strong, capable goalkeeper with strong leadership capabilities. The reason it took so long is because Atletico could not find a worthy replacement for Courtois who was rushed back to Chelsea, but Asenjo is certainly happy with the outcome.
Despite what many people said, we should never have sent Perez away. He had one bad game last season and unfortunately it was a week before the transfer season. Already a proven servant of Villarreal, it’s exciting to see the Paraguayan returned. He is lethal along the wing and has the pace and crossing skills to cause trouble for the opposition, though his finishing is hit-and-miss.
All of this was accomplished at an overall cost of only a couple of million euros, netted against the de Guzman and Perbet sales. An impressive bit of work for sure.