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Five LaLiga players to watch out for this season

 • by Sam McGuire
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LaLiga returns this weekend and champions Barcelona kick things off with a tricky trip to the Basque region of Spain to take on Athletic Club.

Atlético Madrid and Real Madrid, meanwhile, have been busy in the transfer market this summer adding to their squad as they look to bring an end to Barca’s dominance. Several other sides have also strengthened as they look to push on and claim a Champions League place. 

There are more star names on show this time around, too.  Los Blancos have finally replaced Cristiano Ronaldo in the form of Eden Hazard. Barcelona have added Antoine Griezmann to an attack already containing Luis Suárez, Lionel Messi, Philippe Coutinho and Ousmane Dembélé. And Neymar could still yet arrive with both clubs reportedly eager to bring him back to Spain. 

It’s a division littered with talent and here we take a look at five players to watch in the forthcoming Spanish top-flight campaign. 

João Félix 

A household name after his £107million move to Atlético Madrid from Benfica this summer, Félix was courted by a host of Europe’s elite before finally deciding the Wanda Metropolitano was the best place to continue his development.

Atleti immediately showed their faith in the 19-year-old by handing him Griezmann’s number – the famous No.7.  

Certain players let a hefty price tag weigh them down yet Felix has flourished in Diego Simeone’s system during pre-season.

He scored in the 7-3 destruction of Real Madrid and netted against Juventus as Los Rojiblancos avenged their Champions League elimination last season by claiming victory over the Italian giants. 

This new-look Atlético side are fun to watch and Félix is instrumental. He could be the new prince of LaLiga. 

Rodrygo

All eyes will be on Hazard this season from a Real Madrid fan perspective but Rodrygo has the potential, and the ability, to make the 2019/20 campaign all about him.

He announced himself to the Real Madrid faithful with a stunning goal against FC Bayern during pre-season and he carried himself like a player who feels he deserves to be playing for Los Blancos.

The big question is whether Zinedine Zidane will trust him to start when he’s able to call on Isco, Hazard and Lucas Vázquez. Compatriot Vinícius Júnior may also feel he has a stronger claim having already spent a year at the club.

Even if the 18-year-old is used sparingly – there have been reports the Brazilian will start the campaign with the club’s second string, Castilla – you can guarantee Rodrygo will add to his highlight reel at some point this season.

Alexander Isak 

Dubbed ‘the new Zlatan Ibrahimović’, Isak reportedly turned down Real Madrid before his switch to Borussia Dortmund in 2017.

The 19-year-old struggled to break into the BVB starting XI, though, and spent the second half of last season on loan with Willem II in the Eredivisie. It’s fair to say he flourished.

In Isak’s opening 12 matches for the Dutch club, he netted 12 times. His loan spell finished with him having scored 14 times in 18 appearances. Calling it a success would be an understatement.

His form didn’t go unnoticed and Real Sociedad struck a deal with BVB to sign him on a permanent basis. Likely viewed as an alternative to Willian José in the attack, if the pair are deployed together La Real could blow teams away.

If Isak hits the ground running as he did in the Eredivisie, he’ll be one to keep an eye on. Bigger clubs will be watching, too.

Nabil Fekir

The 26-year-old could be one of the signings of the summer. Real Betis capitalised on his contract status to land the Lyon captain for an initial £18million, just 12 months after Liverpool almost signed him for around £50million.

While he failed to replicate the form he showed during the 2017/18 season last term, he was still a match-winner and a game-changer for OL in Ligue 1 and the Champions League.

After losing Giovani Lo Celso to Spurs, Betis are in need of a player to step up and be the creative hub for the team – the perfect role for Fekir to fill. He could flourish at the Benito Villamarín after a season of stagnation in France.

If the left-footed maestro is able to get close to matching his output from two seasons ago, Betis could be an outside bet for Champions League qualification.

Rony Lopes

A Manchester City academy graduate, Lopes joined Sevilla from Monaco as a replacement for Wissam Ben Yedder, who moved in the opposite direction.

Lopes cut his teeth with Lille before a move to the principality club and he was one of the star players for Leonardo Jardim’s side during the 2017/18 campaign. He netted 15 times in Ligue 1 and emerged as the man to replace Kylian Mbappé.

Last season was a disappointing one for the Portugal international on an individual basis as well as from a club perspective. Monaco struggled in a relegation battle and Lopes managed just two goals in Ligue 1.

However, a fresh start in a new league could see him rediscover his goalscoring for. If he gets close to his 2017/18 performances, Sevilla have a serious talent on their hands. One who could be the poster-boy for their new-look side.

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