Three Players to Watch in La Liga Next Season
After the FIFA World Cup this summer, attention will turn again to domestic competition in Spain. The big three - Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atlético Madrid - all have explosive talent capable of turning a game at any moment. Here, Bet UK report on just three of the great La Liga players to look out for in the 2018-19 Spanish football season.
Phillipe Coutinho - Barcelona
Spanish giants Barcelona romped to the La Liga title last season, finishing a whopping 14 points ahead of runners-up Atlético Madrid. Experts say their dominance in Spanish football is likely to continue in 2018-19, with superstar Phillipe Coutinho playing his first full season for the club.
Having played for a number of European football teams, the Brazilian number 10, who turned 26 in June, joined Barcelona in January from Premier League side Liverpool for a reported £105 million. It had been an on-off transfer saga, one of the biggest in the game, with the Spanish champions having been trying to land Coutinho since August 2017.
It was easy to see why - the playmaker had scored an impressive 41 goals in 142 games at Anfield since joining in 2012. Having linked up with his new teammates at the Nou Camp during the new year transfer window, he banged in another eight goals in 18 appearances. Already he was repaying some of that huge fee.
Coutinho was born and raised in Rio de Janeiro and played for local team Vasco da Gama before being snapped up by Italian Serie A side Internazionale in 2008 for €4 million. He went back to Brazil on loan but then debuted for the Milan club in 2010. However, he failed to live up to expectations and was loaned to La Liga side Espanyol in 2012 before making the permanent switch to Liverpool in January 2013 for £8.5 million.
A darling of the Kop, he was dubbed the Little Magician, and in 2015 was named in the PFA Team of the Year. Barcelona fans are now seeing just what made him so popular in England - and back home in Brazil, where he has represented his country over 30 times.
Marco Asensio - Real Madrid
While Barcelona will be league favourites again in 2018-19, Real Madrid will be looking to put their disappointing (for them) league campaign behind them. They may have won the Champions League once more, but they finished a distant third in La Liga. While old-school heroes like Sergio Ramos are still adored at the Bernabéu, there is some exceptional younger talent coming through. Marco Asensio is only 22, but he's already been capped 11 times by Spain and was included in Spain's 2018 World Cup squad.
With Real manager Zinedine Zidane leaving the club surprisingly after its third successive Champions League success, new manager Julien Lopetegui will look forward to working with the precocious talent of attacking midfielder Asensio.
He started out for Mallorca reserves in the fourth tier of Spanish football in 2013-14 and then stepped up to play for the first team in the Segunda División (La Liga 2). There he scored seven goals from 56 appearances and performed well enough to interest Los Blancos. Real signed him for €3.9 million on a six-year deal. He was loaned back to Mallorca and then to Espanyol before making his debut in Madrid, scoring a long-range effort in a 3–2 UEFA Super Cup win against Sevilla. He made his league debut against Real Sociedad a few days later, scoring again.
He has scored nine goals in 55 games for Real Madrid, but Spanish football experts say 2018-19 could be the year when he really makes his mark.
Diego Costa - Atlético Madrid
Diego Costa seems to have been around for much longer than his age (29) would suggest. The combative striker is well known in European football and in England, where he starred for three years at Chelsea, scoring 52 goals in 89 Premier League games. He had signed for the London club for £32 million from Atlético Madrid, for whom he had scored and knocked Chelsea out in the semi-final stage of the Champions League.
Costa had finished that 2013-14 season with 27 goals as Atlético went on to win La Liga for the first time since 1996, and his style of play and competitiveness was just what Chelsea needed after Didier Drogba had left for China. His time in the Premier League was not without controversy, and in June 2017 he was told by Antonio Conte that he was no longer part of his plans - by text message.
Atlético Madrid swooped to bring him back to the Wanda Metropolitano stadium, and he scored in each of his first two games once he was cleared to play after the club's transfer ban in January 2018. But in typical Costa fashion, he was also sent off in that second game against Getafe. In total, he has scored 137 times in 332 club games - giving Atlético manager Diego Simeone hope the club can go one better in 2018-19 and win the title again.