Mourinho begins strengthening for next season

May 9, 2011

In our latest Monday post on Spanish soccer, Iain Rogers in Madrid looks at Real’s first signing for next season and the return of “The Beast” to save Malaga.

Mourinho begins strengthening for next season

Jose Mourinho has acquired the first new weapon in his arsenal for the 2011/12 campaign as his Real Madrid side seek to loosen Barcelona’s stranglehold over the domestic title and dream of a 10th triumph in Europe’s elite club competition.

Nuri Sahin, the 22-year-old Turkish playmaker who helped Borussia Dortmund to the Bundesliga title this season, signed a six-year deal with the Spanish giants on Monday for a fee of around 10 million euros ($14.3 million).

German-born Sahin set the record as the youngest player to appear in the Bundesliga when he debuted for Dortmund in 2005 and went on to become the youngest scorer in Germany’s top league.

A left-footer, he also became the youngest scorer for his country when he netted the second in a 2-1 win over Germany in Istanbul in 2005.

Here’s what Real said about their new signing on their website: “The German-born Turk has a knack for distributing the ball as well as recovering it. With a powerful left foot and an eye for ball placement, he is also a master at free-kicks.”

Sporting director Miguel Pardeza added at a news conference: “Sahin’s positioning influences the game of any side. He was used to carrying the weight of Borussia Dotmund and driving its initiative.”

With the purchase of Sahin, Real look to be seeking a long-term replacement for Xabi Alonso, who will 30 in November.

In case he needs help settling in, Sahin will be able to hang out with Real’s two German midfielders Mesut Ozil and Sami Khedira, who have been regular starters for Mourinho during the past campaign and are firm friends.

The silkily-skilled Ozil, who is of Turkish origin but chose to play for Germany, in particular has become a firm favourite with the Real faithful in his first season.

If Real are to challenge Barca in the league next term, Sahin’s mobility and distribution could make a significant contribution assuming he wins a regular place in the side.

Barca homing in on third straight title

While Real look to the future, Barca are focused on wrapping up a third consecutive La Liga title before they travel to London for the Champions League final against Manchester United on May 28.

They may win the league on Tuesday without kicking a ball if Real fail to beat relegation-threatened city rivals Getafe at the Bernabeu but can wrap it up with a point at mid-table Levante on Wednesday.

There was good news for coach Pep Guardiola on Monday when club medical staff gave forward Bojan Krkic and fullback Maxwell the all-clear.

The slew of late-season injuries has exposed the relatively thin nature of Barca’s squad and they will need to strengthen for next season if they are to maintain their dominance over their bitter rivals.

The Beast returns to save Malaga

Malaga will owe a huge debt of gratitude to Julio Baptista if they secure their La Liga status later this month, which looks increasingly likely thanks to his eight goals in nine appearances.

The 29-year-old Brazilian international, nicknamed ‘The Beast”, was signed from AS Roma for 2 million euros ($2.9 million) in January, but after scoring a couple of goals injured his knee the following month and did not return until mid-April.

The modest, south-coast club, who have never won a major title, were bought by a member of the Qatari royal family last summer and have invested heavily in new staff.

They lured former Real Madrid coach Manuel Pellegrini to head up the project, but were stuck in the relegation places until Baptista reappeared four matches ago.

He scored twice in a 3-0 win over Real Mallorca on his return, scored one and set up the second in the 2-1 victory at Racing Santander and bagged another double in a 3-1 win over Hercules.

On Saturday, he scored one and created another in an impressive 3-0 win at Atletico Madrid which fired Malaga up to the relative safety of 13th in the standings, four points above the drop zone, with three left to play.

“Not everyone can say they have played for Sao Paulo, Sevilla, Real Madrid, Arsenal and Roma,” Pellegrini said after Saturday’s game. “He brings goals, professionalism and personality.”

In planning for next year, Pellegrini now needs to work on his defence. With 64 goals conceded in 35 matches they have the leakiest backline in La Liga.

PHOTO: Borussia Dortmund’s Turkey international Nuri Sahin addresses a news conference in Dortmund, May 9, 2011. REUTERS/Ina Fassbender.

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