By Carlo Garganese
Juan Mata to Manchester United, Nemanja Matic to Chelsea, Pablo Osvaldo to Juventus, Hernanes to Inter – all over the continent Europe’s major teams have been completing semi-significant deals in the transfer window.
Almost everywhere that is except at the Camp Nou and Santiago Bernabeu.
The first month of the year is often described as a dangerous time to do business, but come the end of the season Barcelona and Real Madrid may regret their decision to remain inactive.
With Spain’s giants battling it out at the top of their domestic championship in a title race destined to go all the way to the wire, January offered both sides the perfect opportunity to strike a powerful blow against the other.
Indeed it is Atletico Madrid, who are currently sandwiching the Clasico couple in second place, who wisely improved their squad. The signing of Jose Sosa and the potential return of Diego will improve their chances of becoming the first team in a decade to break the big two’s stranglehold on the Primera Division.
If Atletico can snare the Brazilian from Wolfsburg it could prove an inspired piece of business by Diego Simeone. It comes at a time when Diego Costa’s goals are starting to dry up and offers Atletico offensive depth that they had lacked, having previously being so reliant on the naturalised Spaniard and David Villa.
But it is in the Champions League where Barcelona and Real Madrid may pay the heaviest price.
Bayern Munich are head and shoulders the best team in Europe right now and have not lost a league game since 2012. The Bavarians look unstoppable in their quest to become the first team since 1990 to retain the Champions League – with talent such as Arjen Robben, Franck Ribery, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Thiago in their ranks.
If Barca or Madrid wanted to give themselves a better chance of stopping the Bayern juggernaut in its tracks, they should have strengthened their weak areas in January. Despite their improved defensive form, will the Blaugrana be able to resist Bayern’s star-studded cast with Marc Bartra at the centre of defence – a youngster who was exposed so painfully less than 12 months ago?
Madrid may boast an abundance of attacking riches out wide and in midfield through the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale, Angel Di Maria and Isco, but their hopes of ending the long quest for La Decima will have increased if they had upgraded on centre forward Karim Benzema.
While it is true that selling clubs drive up the prices of their assets mid-season, the summer transfers of Neymar and Bale prove that money is no object to Barcelona and Madrid.
With a large enough offer, 2011 Champions League winners Barca could have captured a top-class centre back in the mould of, if not necessarily, Dortmund’s Mats Hummels or Roma’s Mehdi Benatia. Madrid could have done the same to snare a forward like Diego Costa from Atletico or, prior to his injury, a Radamel Falcao from Monaco.
The failure to do so means that both Barcelona and Madrid will remain big underdogs when attempting to topple Bayern in the Champions League. Meanwhile, Atletico Madrid have been handed the best chance they will ever get to stun the Spanish superpowers in La Liga.