Given the season they’ve just had, there’s a certain degree of logic to Celta Vigo’s summer transfer policy. A campaign that was teetering on the brink of disastrous was ultimately rescued by a local lad whose return from injury reignited the bond between players and fans. Iago Aspas’ remarkable return of ten goals, four assists and four man-of-the-match awards in his final nine appearances was enough to keep Celta afloat but only just. Despite having a player who averaged a goal every 113 minutes in La Liga, Galicia’s sole top flight representatives finished 17th, only mathematically sealing their survival on the final weekend with Aspas inevitably scoring twice.
Celta’s response to the closest of brushes with relegation has been to look to the past for answers. The sale of Maxi Gomez to Valencia has freed up funds to bring home two Galician-born players who emerged through the club’s youth ranks before moving elsewhere. They’ve also looked to Uruguay again for fresh attacking inspiration two years on from the astute purchase of Gomez from Defensor Sporting.
8 Years on – Denis Suárez’s comes Home
OFFICIAL: Celta Vigo have signed midfielder Denis Suarez from Barcelona for €15m on a four-year contract. pic.twitter.com/2Jp5VLveAg
— Transfer News Central (@TransferNewsCen) June 30, 2019
Denis Suárez was a precocious 17 year old when he opted to leave not just Galicia but Spain behind in 2011 to join Manchester City. It was the first in a catalogue of moves which the midfielder may look back on with some regret.
His development continued at Barcelona but Suárez failed to make a senior league start for any of his first three clubs although his impressive form with Barça B was enough to earn a loan move to Sevilla in 2014. It was at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan where he finally showcased his talents on something like the big stage but it wouldn’t be long before Suárez chalked up another club with Barcelona selling the now 21 year old to Villarreal the following summer. Fast-forward another twelve months and his buy-back clause was being activated as Suárez moved on again, this time back to Camp Nou. Again with hindsight it was a decision which more hindered his development than aided it with a role that was never likely to be more than bit-part given the competition for places in the Barça midfield.
Throw in a nightmare loan spell at Arsenal last season, where Suárez was plagued by a pelvic injury and clocked up just 67 minutes of Premier League action, and it’s fair to say that his career to date has been a disjointed affair. Finally cutting all ties with Barcelona, which he did this summer with a €15 million move back to Balaidos, should at last give Suárez the chance to stamp his authority on a team.
It’s not just any team either. Born in Salceda de Caselas, a small settlement 30km south of Vigo on the border with Portugal, it’s sure to be an emotional moment when after eight years he pulls on the Celta shirt again. It’s a move that appears to make sense for all parties and should finally bring some stability and direction to the career of a player who was once considered one of Spanish football’s brightest young talents.
Did Celta get the better of the Maxi Gomez-Santi Mina Swap Deal?
— Foot and Ball (@footandballblog) July 15, 2019
One of the biggest transfer sagas so far this summer surrounded Maxi Gomez with the 22 year old striker finally moving to the Mestalla after weeks of speculation and intense Premier League interest from West Ham. The deal saw Celta Vigo receive €14.5 million plus Santi Mina for the Uruguayan.
Only time will tell who got the better of that deal but it could just prove very smart business from a Celta perspective. 23 year old Santi Mina is another homegrown talent having been born in Vigo but unlike Suárez, he did chalk up over 50 appearances for the club before moving to Valencia in 2015. While he has principally been used as a forward by Los Che, he is by no means a like-for-like replacement for Gomez but his goalscoring record is better than many might realise.
Over the past two seasons, Mina has averaged a goal every 179 minutes in La Liga compared to Gomez’s return of a strike every 201 minutes for Valencia. He also offers more in the way of creativity than Gomez, chipping in with five assists last term for Marcelino’s side and his ability to play out wide or through the middle, not dissimilar to Iago Aspas, will make him a valuable asset for Fran Escriba this term.
Gabriel Fernández completes new-look Attack
ATENCIÓN | CONFIRMADO: Gabriel Fernández es nuevo jugador del Celta de Vigo español. El club celeste paga 4 millones de euros por su fichaje y lo cede a Peñarol hasta Julio, según indica el medio vigués “El Desmarque” en su web. pic.twitter.com/aUufEPYJa1
— Iván Buela Cardozo (@IvanBuela98) January 2, 2019
The man who appears to be a more direct replacement for Gomez is Gabriel Fernández. The 25 year old leaves Uruguay behind for the first time in his career to join the Galician club following successful stints with Peñarol and Racing Montevideo.
Fernández is much more in the mould of the classic centre-forward and will be hoping to emulate the success that not just Gomez but fellow compatriots Luis Suárez and Cristhian Stuani have had in La Liga in recent years. If he can hit the ground running, Celta may go with Aspas and Mina playing either side of the Uruguayan which should ensure the Galicians have a dangerous forward-line once again as well as a team packed with local talent.
Contact: marksochon(at)hotmail.co.uk | @marksoc1 on Twitter