La Liga talking points: Messi presents fifth Ballon d'Or as Madrid face the fans

The Argentine will show off his latest Golden Ball at Camp Nou on Sunday, while Real president Florentino Perez could be under fire from supporters for the club's transfer ban
La Liga is into its second half. With the exception of champions Barcelona (who have played a game fewer due to their participation in the Club World Cup) and Sporting Gijon, every side has now played 19 games in the Primera Division. La segunda vuelta starts now.
In it, Barca are at home to Athletic Club (a team they will also face in the last eight of the Copa del Rey), while Madrid host Sporting in Zinedine Zidane's second game in charge and league leaders Atletico travel to Las Palmas in the 20th round of matches.

Both Madrid and Atletico were hit with a two-window transfer ban on Thursday similar to the one handed to Barcelona by Fifa last year and the two teams are set to start the appeal process in the coming days. 

With that and much more to talk about ahead of the weekend, here is Goal's guide to all the latest action and the biggest stories developing in the Primera Division...


Fernando Torres, along with Portuguese midfielder Tiago, is one of the players out of contract at Atletico Madrid in the summer and the club are keen to renew the forward in order to extend his stay at the Vicente Calderon - and they will need to do so speedily in light of the transfer ban.

However, Torres' time at Atletico has been somewhat torrid second time arond. The Spain striker is not scoring anywhere near as regularly as expected and has been stuck on 99 goals as an Atleti played since scoring against Eibar in September.

He has now played 24 times for the Rojiblancos this term and netted only twice, having hit just seven in 36 matches for the club where he started his career upon his return in 2014-15.

Torres now has only 17 days to decide his future because Atletico are unable to register or renew players in the summer unless they can delay the ban as Barcelona did in 2014 during the appeal process.

Atleti are keen to keep him, but a couple of goals in the next two games would not do any harm for the striker, who is desperately low on confidence and could do with the boost of reaching 100 Atletico goals ahead of a possible renewal.


Sevilla against Malaga is always a passionate derby and Saturday's meeting between the two teams from Andalucia will be no different.

Unai Emery's side are very strong at home this term, having beaten Barcelona and Real Madrid among others at the Sanchez Pizjuan, but they have struggled away from home and are still outside the top six - one point behind sixth-placed Eibar.

Malaga, meanwhile, are up to 10th in the Primera Division after propping up the table earlier in the season, but the Costa del Sol side are set to lose winger Nordin Amrabat to Watford and coach Javi Gracia will have a very short squad at his disposal for the remainder of the season.

"The club don't want to sell, but all players have a price," Gracia said. And ahead of the Sevilla game, he added: "We know that this match means more than the three points. It's a special game and we are excited about it."

And for his part, Emery said: "They are performing well and we have to be even more consistent to maintain our form at home. An excess of confidence is no good."


Barcelona have had a positive start to 2016 and this week has been brilliant for the Catalan club.

On Monday, Lionel Messi claimed his fifth Ballon d'Or in Zurich, while coach Luis Enrique won the prize for best coach at the Fifa gala. On Wednesday, the Blaugrana beat city rivals Espanyol 2-0 to secure a place in the last eight of the Copa del Rey. And on Thursday, they saw Liga adversaries Atletico and Real Madrid hit with a transfer ban by Fifa.

On Friday, the Catalans were drawn against Athletic Club in the Copa del Rey over two legs, but they first face the Basque outfit in La Liga on Sunday at Camp Nou.

Ahead of that match, Messi will present his fifth Ballon d'Or to the Camp Nou crowd. Already the only player to win the prestigious prize on four occasions, he has now done it five times - and could show off all of them prior to Sunday's game. 


Messi also protagonised an entertaining exchange with Espanyol defender Alvaro Gonzalez during the derby at Cornella on Wednesday night.

The Argentine attacker was unhappy at some strong tackling from Gonzalez and the two were seen to be arguing on the pitch a couple of times in the all-Catalan clash in the Copa del Rey which Barca won 2-0.

In the mixed zone after the game, Alvaro addressed the media and spoke of what had happened with the now five-time Ballon d'Or winner.

"He told me I was a bad player," the defender said. "And I called him short. Both of us were right! We laughed and will leave it at that."


Bad news for both Real Madrid and Atletico as the two capital clubs were hit with a two-window transfer ban by Fifa on Thursday.

Atletico are away to Las Palmas this weekend, but Madrid are at home to Sporting Gijon on Sunday and it will be interesting to see how the Santiago Bernabeu reacts to the latest bit of bad news in a season which has already seen the club eliminated from the Copa del Rey after they fielded a suspended player, Denis Cheryshev, plus the sacking of Rafa Benitez.

President Florentino Perez has been under pressure ever since Madrid lost the Clasico 4-0 to fierce rivals Barcelona in late November and the club chief could be in for a tough time from fans in Sunday's game.

New coach Zidane, meanwhile, takes charge of only his second game since replacing Benitez less than a fortnight ago and already he has to deal with politics as it seems Madrid cannot now register new players until the summer of 2017.