At 20:15 on Friday evening, Chris Ramos rolled the ball off the spot in Monilivi to get the 2018-19 LaLiga Santander underway, the current name of this venerable competition that has been in existence for 87 years. This latest campaign, the 88th in Spanish top-flight history, will see the introduction of VAR, which was given a thorough work-out at the World Cup. And this season will also start with the background intrigue of whether for the first time in history there will be an official Liga game staged outside of Spain. Javier Tebas’ imaginative ideas always create commotion and this has appears to be the biggest of the lot. As it stands, we do not know if the Liga chief’s counterpart at the Spanish Football Federation, Luis Rubiales, will give it his necessary blessing. It is an issue that will place the ability of the two men to forge a working understanding under intense scrutiny. Rubiales found about the proposal through the newspapers, which certainly won’t help the matter.
The Liga heavyweights will ease into the new season one by one; on Saturday Barcelona, Madrid a day later and Atlético on Monday, who this season are not a third wheel but now have to be considered primus inter pares. Diego Simeone’s summer business has created a very strong squad. Barcelona have lost Andrés Iniesta, whose star was finally starting to wane, but they have made good signings and as his performance in the Trofeo Gamper proved, possess a fired-up Leo Messi. Meanwhile, Real Madrid are in a state of flux: two summers ago Pepe, James Rodríguez, Álvaro Morata and Mariano left, and this year Cristiano Ronaldo and Mateo Kovacic followed suit. Of the arrivals during the same period of time, only Marco Asensio has been up to the task. Thibaut Courtois and Álvaro Odriozola have been added to solve a problem that didn’t exist.
Julen Lopetegui has asked for a central defender in response to Jesús Vallejo’s persistent injury problems, a midfielder and a goal scorer, and the fans agree with him. We’ll see what transpires. For now, the transfer window in Italy has closed and with it so has the door on Inter Milan’s fantasy of luring Luka Modric away from the Bernabéu. In reality, it was always a case of breaking and entering. Even so, the mere pretension that it could have come off is an indication of Serie A’s current standing after years in the wilderness. Juventus’ signing of Ronaldo, who will make his competitive debut on Saturday against Chievo, marks a beginning and an end. Italy is in the business of moving a lot of money about again, presenting another open front for LaLiga, which is already striving to hold off the Premier League. And that goes some way to explaining the latest revolutionary idea to come from Tebas’ office.