Manu Trigueros : As long as he’s not in the Spanish NT, I’m calling him underrated. He’s maybe been a little less than his best at times this season, but he’s been called upon to play in a number of different formations. The good news is he’s been playing in the middle of the pitch all season rather than on the wing, so THAT debate has been finally settled.
Trig has also been playing through an injury. Regardless, he’s not someone we want to lose. He’s under contract to 2022.
Rodrigo Hernandez: It hasn’t been officially announced, but it was reported in January he’s leaving in the summer for €20m of Atleti’s filthy lucre. If so, he’s sure to be a fixture there and in the Spanish NT for a long time to come. He just got too good too quick—from the B team in summer 2016 to everyday starter by fall 2017!
Javi Fuego: A stopgap ‘depth’ signing, he is under contract until 2020 and just turned 34. Hasn’t really shown anything to indicate he will be other than an injury replacement and occasional sub.
Bruno Soriano: The big question. Having missed all of the 2017-18 season, and turning 34 in June himself, will he be able to return in 2018, and if so, in what role? He’s appeared in over 400 games for us in all competitions, including 43 in 2016-17. It’s hard to imagine him being able to start every day after such a long layoff, and regardless, at his age we can’t count on him to for many more seasons.
Rodri was supposed to be his replacement...
Alfred N’Diaye: He is still Villarreal property, and while he saw a lot of action at Wolves, he was hardly key in their plans, so there is no assurance they’ll sign him for anything like the €8m or so we’d like to get. Marcelino, who thought he could make him a central defender, is gone; Escribá, who didn’t rate him, is gone. Is there any chance we keep him at least for 2018-19 (he’s under contract until 2021) and give him a chance to earn the position?
Summer activity: A player like Rukavina can sub as a defensive midfielder if need be. The B team may provide some help here in time, with Ramiro Guerra and Manu Morlanes, but neither is ready yet. But assuming Rodri indeed leaves, describing central midfield as “thin” seems generous. We need someone who can give Trigueros a rest, yes, but we really need a strong defensive midfielder. One who could also score goals would be great. Or do we go for a more offensively-minded midfielder who can play on the wing as well? Hmmm....
Defensive midfielder: Benjamin André from Stade Rennais might be worth a look; he’s 27, a strong tackler and good short passer, good in the air. Abdoulaye Touré (Nantes) is only 24, offers good physicality and skills. Either one of those players would be in the N’Diaye price range (€8m or so), I’d think.
My first pick, if possible, would be a 26 year-old Swiss international, Remo Freuler, currently playing for Atalanta. Yes, he’s a defensive midfielder, but he can support the attack too, with six goals and four assists this season for the Nerazzurri. Under contract until only 2019. €10-12m?
And, as always seems to be the case, there’s a Barcelona loanee for that. In this case, André Gomes. Are you excited? I’m not excited.
Attacking midfielder: Apparently Celta is going to try to cash in on Daniel Wass this summer. Wass has scored four goals with eight assists for Celta, and at age 28, is an intriguing possibility. He also would give us coverage along the right similar to Pedraza on the left—he can play at right back, on right wing, whatever.
And an interesting piece of trivia—he’s the cousin of Nicki Bille Nielsen, ex-Villarreal B man (remember him?). The two of them were at Evian TG together in 2014-15.
He’d probably cost about €15m. Worth it?