The 2023 summer transfer window has now closed, and so many established international stars have made the move to Spain’s top division, while young up-and-coming talents have been signed too and a few players have made returns to their former clubs. In this guide to the LALIGA summer signings, we’ll take a look at the new and the not-so-new faces of the competition.
Two Champions League-winning captains land in LALIGA
Two of the past three players to have lifted the Champions League trophy as captain have packed their bags to leave England for Spain this summer. İlkay Gündoğan, just weeks after leading Manchester City to last year’s European title, decided to make the move to FC Barcelona, explaining that he has always dreamt of playing for the Catalan club. He stated: “Since I was a child, I adored FC Barcelona. I always said to myself that if I got the opportunity one day then I didn’t want to miss out.” Now that this opportunity has arisen, Gündoğan has joined Los Blaugrana and will bring even more creativity to Xavi’s midfield, as well as an ability to score big goals in big moments.
César Azpilicueta also knows what it’s like to lift the Champions League trophy as captain, having done so with Chelsea in 2021. The versatile defender played for the London club for over a decade, but was keen to return to LALIGA , where he previously represented his boyhood club CA Osasuna at the beginning of his career. When the chance to bring his experience to Atlético de Madrid came up, the Spain international grasped it. “It seemed like an important project to me,” he said upon arrival. “It was the chance to join a big club where I could contribute.”
Iñigo Martínez and Oriol Romeu are two other veteran players to have completed transfers this summer, joining FC Barcelona from Athletic Club and from Girona FC respectively. Not only do both players know LALIGA well, but both play a style of football that should allow them to quickly settle in Xavi’s system.
Joselu is another experienced player who has been on the move, in his case swapping RCD Espanyol for Real Madrid. For the 33-year-old, this is a return to one of his former clubs and he’ll look to score as many goals or more as the 16 he produced last campaign.
The next generation of LALIGA stars
Several young talents have signed with Spanish teams too, and Real Madrid have been particularly keen to bring in rising stars. Los Blancos have landed left-back Fran García following his excellent campaign with Rayo Vallecano in 2022/23, while they also won the race to prize Arda Güler away from Fenerbahçe after the Turkish teenager dazzled scouts last term.
Then, there’s Jude Bellingham, the biggest signing of the summer. Even though he only just turned 20, the English midfielder already plays like a veteran and his combination of game intelligence, technical excellence and physical prowess helped him win the 2022/23 Bundesliga Player of the Season award with Borussia Dortmund. By scoring four goals in his first three LALIGA matches, he has won the Spanish competition’s August Player of the Month award too.
There will also be several youngsters in the 2023/24 Girona FC squad, as the Catalan outfit have added promising Barça playmaker Pablo Torre on loan and have brought in the exciting Brazilian winger Sávio on another loan from French club Troyes. They’re already combining well with Artem Dovbyk, the new striker signed by Los Blanquivermells this summer.
One of the most intriguing players to arrive in the Iberian Peninsula is Arsen Zakharyan. It was Real Sociedad who won the race to sign the coveted 20-year-old Russian midfielder, one of the best young talents in world football.
In between veterans and youngsters, many players in their primes have also moved to LALIGA this off-season. One such player is new RC Celta man Jonathan Bamba, the 27-year-old Ivory Coast international who was one of the most important members of the Lille squad that won Ligue 1 in 2020/21. The winger played all 38 matches in that triumphant league campaign, scoring six goals and assisting 11 more.
Caglar Söyüncü is also 27 years old and ready to contribute immediately for his new club, Atlético de Madrid. Capped over 50 times by Turkey, the centre-back arrives in Spain’s capital from Leicester and stood out in pre-season for his tough and solid performances, the kind that will make Atleti fans think back to some of their legendary central defenders of the past.
Two of the many players to put pen to paper on a contract with Real Betis this summer were Marc Roca and Isco. Both have arrived with a point to prove and both have hit the ground running, commanding Los Verdiblancos‘ midfield. In the case of Isco, he has won three MVP awards already.
Across the city, at Sevilla FC, the experienced Switzerland international Djibril Sow has arrived from Eintracht Frankfurt, the team with which he won the Europa League at the Estadio Ramón Sánchez-Pizjuán, his new home.
Someone who has already demonstrated what he can do in LALIGA is Alexander Sørloth, the 27-year-old Norwegian who bagged 12 goals for Real Sociedad last season when on loan from RB Leipzig. Up for sale this summer, it’s another Spanish club who won that race, as Villarreal CF have added the striker to their squad. Sørloth will be joined in El Submarino Amarillo‘s attack by Ben Brereton Díaz, aged 24 and with an incredible story behind him. Born in England to a Chilean mother, he has been called up by the Chilean national team in recent years and has really embraced his South American heritage, even taking Spanish lessons three times per week. By moving to Spain from Blackburn Rovers, Brereton Díaz will be able to continue with that unique journey.
Transfer market reunions
They say you never forget your first love and that’s why it makes sense that many players have returned to their former clubs. That has been the case with some of the aforementioned signings, such as La Masia graduate Romeu returning to FC Barcelona, or former Castilla players Fran García and Joselu signing for Real Madrid.
Real Betis, meanwhile, have brought a couple of former players back to the Estadio Benito Villamarín, with defenders Héctor Bellerín and Marc Bartra returning to the club where they won the 2021/22 Copa del Rey. In the Basque Country, Álvaro Odriozola will play for Real Sociedad again after five years away. And, in Catalonia, Portu is back to Girona FC.
Another type of transfer has been the conversion of loan deals into permanent ones. It was already announced during last season that Antoine Griezmann would be remaining at Atlético de Madrid on a permanent basis and this has given Los Colchoneros reasons for optimism, given how well the Frenchman performed last term as he produced 15 goals and 17 assists.
Other players who impressed so much on loan last season that they have been kept on for 2023/24 include Loïc Badé, the French centre-back who won the Europa League with Sevilla FC, Cenk Özkacar, the Turkish centre-back who made a positive impact at Valencia CF, Ayoze Pérez, the Spanish forward who immediately impressed the Real Betis faithful, Luis Suárez, the Colombian striker whose goals ensured UD Almería avoided the drop and Carles Pérez, the Spanish winger who grew in importance at RC Celta.
There’s also the case of Sergi Darder, the player from the island of Mallorca who has this summer signed with RCD Mallorca. Although he’d never played for the club from his hometown before, returning to the Baleraric Islands is a dream come true for the midfielder
The deals completed at the end of the window
While most of the aforementioned signings were completed before the start of the 2023/24 LALIGA campaign, some players have arrived following the season kick-off. For example, Real Madrid returned to the market to sign Spain national team goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga to cover for the injury to Thibaut Courtois, while Real Sociedad pounced on the opportunity to bring in Scottish left-back Kieran Tierney in the final week of the window.
It was also a very busy ‘Deadline Day’ in Spain, especially at FC Barcelona. The Catalan club registered two Joãos late on, acquiring João Félix on loan from Atlético de Madrid and João Cancelo on loan from Manchester City. There were also exits at Barça, as Eric García moved to Girona FC and Ez Abde complete Real Betis’ squad.
Among the other last-minute transfers that stood out, there was Mexican centre-back César Montes’ move to round off a very complete UD Almería squad, Mariano Díaz’s signing at Sevilla FC, a club that has long wanted to bring in this striker and Mason Greenwood, who lands in Getafe on loan from Manchester United.