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Eden Hazard, João Félix, and the new faces to watch in La Liga

Another La Liga season is almost here as teams prepare to mount title challenges, ambitious fights to quality for Europe, and to stave off relegation. With that comes new signings coming in to help push the squad forward.

Looking towards this season, there have been many high profile signings that will play in the Spanish top flight for the first time. Some have been covered extensively, while others deserve to be highlighted more.

Here are the new faces in La Liga to keep an eye on this season:

Eden Hazard

Staring off with the most obvious, Eden Hazard is perhaps the most exciting player to be debuting in La Liga this season. The Belgian has shown his immense quality with Chelsea as well as the national team. His dribbling ability, composure, and eye for both goals and assists have propelled him into a bracket of players just below Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo over the years.

A winger by trade, Hazard debatably had his best ever season with Chelsea this past year. In the English Premier League, he recorded 16 goals and 15 assists. His performances meant he wouldn’t come cheap, costing the Spanish giants almost €150 million.

The 28-year-old claims to have dreamed of playing for Real Madrid, and now those dreams have come true. Not only will he play for Los Blancos, he has the chance to player under the tutelage of his idol, Zinedine Zidane.

With Cristiano Ronaldo gone and Gareth Bale failing to live up to the expectations placed on his shoulders following his move from Tottenham, Hotspur, it is up to Hazard to take up the mantle and help lead Real Madrid back to the top.

Luka Jović

A below-par season for Real Madrid has triggered a spending spree that didn’t  stop at Eden Hazard. Another offensive player has joined the club to bolster their attack.

Luka Jović will be Los Merengues second center forward after Karim Benzema, assuming he retains his spot in the starting lineup. The Serbian international was signed from Eintracht Frankfurt for €65 million before add-ons.

The 21-year-old has been making waves for the last few years now, despite a bumpy stay at Benfica. Real Madrid was convinced of his capabilities after last season where Jović scored 17 goals in the Bundesliga and 10 goals in the Europa League.

Now at one of the biggest clubs in the world, the young striker will have to continue to prove his worth to continue his stay at the club, let alone to displace Benzema.

Frenkie de Jong

One of Ajax’s bright stars that lit up the UEFA Champions League last season, Frenkie de Jong was the first to announce his departure. The Dutch international joined Barcelona in a transfer that was announced in January. The 22-year-old set the Blaugrana back an initial €75 million.

A player that fits the profile of the ideal Barcelona signing, adding de Jong made perfect sense. Los Cules pride themselves on a possession based style of soccer that pulls the opposition and always pushes the team forward. De Jong has a shown he is more than capable of doing that on the big stage for both Ajax and the Netherlands.

Not only does he offer an option in midfield today, he is seen as the potential successor to Sergio Busquets. De Jong, much like Busquets, has the capacity to pull the strings for his team and control the tempo, abilities that are essential for a functioning Barcelona team. The 31-year-old Busquets is not getting any younger, but de Jong can provide Ernesto Valverde a possibility for rotation in the center of the park to rest the Spaniard.

João Félix

One of the biggest moves in the transfer window so far comes from Atletico Madrid who spent a whopping €126 million on João Félix. The Portuguese wonderkid is 19 years old and has just a single season at the senior level under his belt.

Yet, that limited experience was enough to convince Diego Simeone that he was the right player to replace the outgoing Antoine Griezmann. Félix is in no way a finished product, but comes to a club that has produced some of the world’s best forwards. Fernando Torres, Sergio Agüero, and Diego Costa were developed with Los Colchoneros. Meanwhile, a number of other attacking players arrived and continued to flourish as they had with previous clubs like Radamel Falcao, Diego Forlán, and others.

Last season, Félix emerged on to the scene with club Benfica. He made his debut in August and featured sparingly for the next few months. Thanks to his patience, Félix would eventually do enough to become a regular starter around the month of December. By the end of the season, he scored 15 goals and recorded 7 assists in the league from 26 appearances. In addition to that, he had a performance that made the whole world pay attention.

With Benfica through to the Europa League quarterfinals, they faced a tough test against Eintracht Frankfurt. Many players might be fazed by such an occasion, but Félix showed he is not one of those players. Instead, he rose to the occasion and scored his first senior hattrick while also providing an assist for a 4-2 win.

The young forward still has a lot to prove and will have his doubters, but that’s not something new for him. Having been rejected at former club Porto after being deemed too small, Félix went on to become a star for Benfica and a national team player.

Atletico Madrid has a player ready to contribute today, who will only improve moving forward.

Kieran Trippier

The trend of Englishmen moving abroad continues as Kieran Trippier made the move to Atletico Madrid. The former Tottenham fullback cost his new team £20 million.

Trippier was lauded two seasons ago for his amazing crossing abilities and overall performances at right back for Spurs. He did well enough to win a starting spot at the 2018 World Cup where he played a major role in the Three Lions run to the semifinals. Many of England’s goals came from set-pieces taken by Trippier including a penalty in their quarterfinal shootout against Colombia and a free kick in the semifinal to put his nation in the lead.

Last season the tone changed as many felt his performances were not up to the level he had set for himself. Despite that, he started a majority of Tottenham’s matches, including their run to the UCL semifinals.

Trippier is a player with plenty of experience at a high level and has shown with this move that he is wiling to test himself. Rather than stay in a comfortable environment in London, Trippier will now test the water in La Liga where he is set to become a key player in a new look defense following the departures of Diego Godín, Lucas Hernandez, Juanfran, and Filipe Luis.

Renan Lodi

A part of this new look Atletico Madrid defense is new signing Renan Lodi. The Brazilian left back will compete to replace fellow Brazilian left back, Filipe Luis.

The 21-year-old comes from Atletico Paranaense where he played a huge role in their recent success. The Brazilian club isn’t among the biggest clubs from the country, but nevertheless managed to win the Copa Sudamericana last season, the equivalent to the Europa League. In the league, they finished in seventh, qualifying for the Copa Libertadores. They finished above Brazilian teams likes Cruzeiro, Santos, Fluminense, and Corinthians. In this season’s Libertadores group stages, Lodi played a part in their win over last season’s finalists Boca Juniors as they defeated the Argentine giants 3-0.

Although he hasn’t yet been selected to play for the Brazilian national team, a call up seems more like a question of when rather than if.

Lodi has been highly rated during his time in Brazil, but will now have to step up to perform at one of the world’s biggest clubs.

Luuk de Jong

Sevilla have been especially active during this transfer window, making a number of signings. One of them comes in the form of Luuk de Jong who was signed from PSV Eindhoven for £11.2 million.

The Dutchman represents a gamble, but one that might bare fruit for the Spanish club. De Jong has had previous moves to Europe’s top five leagues with transfers to the Bundesliga and the English Premier League where he failed to live up to expectations.

However, he has been a huge success in his home country, scoring over 20 goals in the Eredivisie in five separate seasons. This includes last season when he scored 28 goals.

De Jong clearly knows where the back of the net is, the question is whether he can do it in Spain with his new club in spite of his failures in Germany and England.

Lucas Ocampos

Argentine winger Lucas Ocampos joins de Jong as a new signing for Sevilla. The 25-year-old has joined the Spanish side for €15 million from Marseille.

Ocampos comes as a replacement for Pablo Sarabia and Quincy Promes who have joined PSG and Ajax respectively.

Last season, he scored four goals and created eight in Ligue 1. The season before that Ocampos had nine goals and three assists.

Sarabia was immense for Sevilla last season, scoring 12 goals and recording 13 assists. Ocampos has big shoes to fill if he is to provide a similar attacking threat the Spaniard did.

Nabil Fekir

World Cup winner Nabil Fekir has joined Real Betis for a fee around $22 million. The Frenchman was heavily linked to a move to Liverpool last summer for a significantly larger fee, but has finally made a move away from Lyon this transfer window.

His form from two seasons ago was impressive to say the least as he scored 18 goals while supplying his teammates seven assists in Ligue 1. Not only was it good enough to attract clubs like Liverpool to sign him, it also ensured his place in France’s World Cup squad.

Although this season he only managed to score nine times and record five assists, his threat in the final third of the pitch remains clear. His creativity and eye for goal will be huge for new club Real Betis, who lost Giovanni Lo Celso to Tottenham Hotspur. Plus, club hero Joaquin isn’t getting any younger at 38 years old, so Fekir will be seen as a much needed addition to the midfield.

Alexander Isak

Labeled as “the next Zlatan Ibrahimovic,” Alexander Isak has joined Real Sociedad from Borussia Dortmund. His new club spent $11.3 million for his services.

Having made a name for himself in his native Sweden with AIK, Isak was linked to a number of teams before making the jump to the Bundesliga with Dortmund.

First team opportunities proved hard to come by for the young forward, but a loan out to Willem II in the Eredivisie showed he still knows where the back of the net it. In 16 appearances, he scored 13 goals and provided six assists. The 19-year-old has also already been called up and has scored for his national team.

Being a 6 foot 4 inch tall striker from Sweden who showed vast goalscoring ability in his native country as well as in the Netherlands, it’s no mystery why Isak is compared to Ibrahimovic.

Whether or not he lives up to the comparisons remains to be seen, but a move to La Liga, another league Zlatan has played in, may prove vital to kickstarting his career after a failed move to Germany.

André Anguissa

An interesting addition from Villarreal, André Anguissa has joined the Yellow Submarines on loan from Fulham. The Cameroon international joined the Cottagers from Marseille where he displayed a quality that piqued the interest of various clubs around Europe. However, the flurry of new faces couldn’t save Fulham from relegation, an unfortunate circumstance which has led to Anguissa making the move to Spain.

The 23-year-old is a powerful midfielder, capable of breaking up play in the middle of the park, providing the rest of the team to have a platform to go out and attack. Although he couldn’t provide that at Fulham, hopes are he can do so for Villarreal.

This summer he featured in all of Cameroon’s AFCON matches, starting three of their four games as they were eliminated in the quarterfinals.

His new team have an option to purchase him at the end of the season, making this a low risk, but potential highly rewarding move for the club.

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