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We’ve got a crush and it never goes out. His name? Joan Verdu.
The talented creative midfielder has an explosive amount of technique and Espanyol may have been close to suicide when they realised he wasn’t going to renew his contract this summer, instead heading south to sign for Real Betis.
He’s picked up the No. 10 shirt at the Benito Villamarin and it’s unfair to suggest he’s a replacement for any of their departed midfielders (Beñat, we’re talking about you). He’s too different.
Pepe Mel’s men have been pressing high on their tour of England, winning the ball in the opposition’s half and allowing Verdu to dictate and play when they gain possession.
The La Masia product, who is now 30, seems perfect to play this role in Mel’s system. Good on the ball, his intricate passing and busy nature should make him Betis’ stand out performer in La Liga and the Europa League this season.
With Javi Fuego departed to Valencia, Raul Baena’s presence in the heart of Rayo Vallecano’s midfield will hopefully fill the fairly large gap.
The 24-year-old joined the club this summer from Espanyol, in a move much less controversial move than the one that saw him leave Barcelona for their city rivals when he was 14.
Espanyol paid €30,000 compensation for the teenager back then, but it wasn’t settled until this year that Barca would not receive the €3.5 million they were demanding – the 10 year deal they’d made his parents sign didn’t hold up.
Rayo are gaining a defensive midfielder who Espanyol were reluctant to lose, but first team football forced Baena’s hand. He’s a tough tackling player, who reads play well leading to breaking up lots of attacks in front of his back four.
Like so many before him, Vallecas could prove his platform to a bigger move next summer.
Jornada 24: Espanyol vs. Real Betis; Cornella-El Prat
To coin an old cliché, football is a very funny game.
Another illustration of this took place at Cornella-El Prat on Sunday night as an Espanyol team, inflated with the confidence that not so long ago resided in Real Betis, took on Los Verdiblancos from Seville.
one. Real Sociedad end Barca’s unbeaten season.
We should have seen it coming. Anoeta has hardly been the happiest of places for Barca to visit in recent years, and on Saturday night that again proved the case. Familiar circumstances dominated the early exchanges, first Messi and then Pedro putting La Blaugrana 2-0 up. Game over? No. Just before half time Chory Castro pulled one back, then in the second half Pique saw red for two (silly but deserved) yellow cards. Castro soon added his second and then in stoppage time Imanol Agirretxe nicked it for La Real - who were very good. It’s the first time Barca have surrendered a 2-0 lead to lose since they lost 4-3 to Atletico in March 2009.
Raul Baena scored a late winner as Espanyol clinched a crucial three points against ten-man Mallorca in a relegation battle which had five goals and one red card.
OK, we admit it, we’ve been negligent. Week eighteen admittedly passed with us failing to register a look back on what had actually happened. To all eight of our readers, we are sorry.
BUT. We’re back with a round up from week nineteen - the half way mark in La Liga - and promise not to leave you hanging again. So here it is, the five main talking points from the weekend’s (Friday and Monday included) action…
Sergio Garcia’s first half goal was enough to help Espanyol to back-to-back home wins, moving them level on 18 points with Celta Vigo who were forced to leave Cornella-el Prat pointless on Saturday.
Before anyone shouts at us, this list doesn’t necessarily feature each clubs’s statistically best player.
In some cases it may, but in other cases it may recognise an unexpected contribution of a player to their club, or a player exceeding all expectations.
So take your mind off the Christmas gap in La Liga by reminiscing on some of our top performers from the first half of the season…
With one final twist - if they were’t already damned as it was - the 2012 half of the La Liga season came to an end with another Real Madrid defear in Andulucia.
'BUT WHAT ELSE HAPPENED?' We hear you scream. Read on friends…
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