Villarreal is moving quickly in the transfer market this summer: first with the signing of Enes Unal from Manchester City for €14m, now the news is we are signing defender Ruben Semedo from Sporting Lisbon for €15m.
For those of us used to the protracted summer sagas of yore—Villarreal identifies a target, everyone knows who it is, negotiations drag on, player is eventually signed at the end of the window (remember Jonathan de Guzman, starting the season at Mallorca before signing with us?) this seems to be a major change. However, a closer look shows more similarities between this summer’s activity and past than you might think.
Villarreal’s transfer targets can be broken into three types:
Players from South American leagues continue to be important for us. These are the sorts of deals Villarreal was famous for in the 2000’s: Martin Palermo, Martin Caceres, Diego Godin, Mateo Musacchio, etc.; there is a lot more competition for these players now but we are still trolling these waters.
Gabriel, Vietto, Pato, Espinosa (and Leo Suarez, €1.8m in 2015) are recent examples. The first three have moved on at substantial profit; Espinosa and Leo, too early to tell. We seem to be willing to take a flier on a player like this each summer.
Players in other European leagues: both under Cordon’s management and after, we’ve made a lot of hay here. In recent years, Cedric Bakambu, Roberto Soldado, Roberto Soriano, Nicola Sansone, Enes Unal, Ruben Semedo have joined us from other European leagues.
These sorts of players are less likely to move on at a big profit quickly, and cost more upfront, but they are being signed to four- or five-year deals with the expectation that they will be important players for Villarreal for some time.
Yes, we have done these sorts of deals in the past (Giuseppe Rossi in 2007, Nilmar in 2009 come to mind) but the pace of these sorts of deals has picked up for sure. Many of these—in fact most of them—have been of the ‘stealth’ variety.
Players already in La Liga: these have been cheaper signings for the most part to fill perceived needs—for example, Álvaro Gonzalez last season (€4m), Victor Ruiz before that (€2.7m), as well as Bailly, Cheryshev, N’Diaye. Sergio Asenjo falls into this category, too.
Oddly enough, our record with these sorts of signings is more mixed, though that’s largely colored by the trio signed in 2011 (de Guzman, Zapata, Camuñas), whom we bought for about €19m and sold for €12m.
We’ve swept in here as well—the Samus came from Malaga very suddenly, we took Borja Valero from under Sevilla’s nose, Eric Bailly’s move was done quickly as well—but we’ve also done some loan with purchase option or loan, then buy deals too (Cheryshev, Ruiz, Asenjo).
Our two signings this summer bring a lot of excitement: EPM is already calling Semedo the ‘next Bailly’ given his physical tools, his youth and his playing style. Ünal...well, like Giuseppe Rossi, he had a prolific loan spell before being sold to us. I’d settle for that sort of success in Villarreal, wouldn’t you? Though given Man City can buy him back, it’s hard to see him playing as long in yellow as Rossi, if he’s successful.
Ünal’s agent was quoted as saying there was a team from Germany that was also very interested in him, but since Villarreal play a 4-4-2 and for the most part play possession football, they felt Villarreal was the better option.
Semedo was practically Newcastle United property but when the sides got bogged down in negotiations, Villarreal moved quickly, and from Semedo’s remarks, he felt more comfortable playing in La Liga for a successful side (after all, Newcastle are just coming back to the EPL).
The only downside—and it’s nothing Villarreal can protect itself against, as we saw with Eric Bailly—is that if these two do well with us, EPL teams will probably make them big-money offers. That’s modern football.