Spain’s first division, LaLiga returns to action this weekend. Defending champions and Champions League winners Real Madrid are once again considered favorites. LaLiga said goodbye to relegated clubs Levante, Alavés and Granada, who have been replaced by UD Almería and Real Valladolid who finished first and second in Segunda División and Girona FC, the winners of the promotion play-offs.
Almería are back in LaLiga after a 7-year absence. They won the second division by the slightest of margins, having finished level on 81 points with Real Valladolid, but became champions based on head-to-head results.
Founded in 1989, Almeria are one of the youngest clubs in LaLiga. After several seasons in lower tiers, the club was first promoted to the first division in 2007, managed by coach Unai Emery.
The Rojiblancos boast a strong defence, having conceded only 35 goals in 2021/22, six fewer than the second-best defence in the league. In attack, they had the second-best goal-tally in the league, led by Nigerian forward Umar Sadiq, who recorded 18 goals and 12 assists. He is also the club’s most valuable asset, worth EUR 19.5m. Keeping him will be a major boost to their survival hopes.
They had recruited 10 players by the end of July, strengthening mainly their back lines with five new defenders – their top signing, centre-back Kaiky, came from Brazilian side Santos for EUR 7m.
Did you know? Leading Almeria to promotion to LaLiga in 2007 for the first time in the club's history, was Unai Emery’s first major coaching success, after he had resigned from playing in 2004.
Real Valladolid CF
Valladolid returned to La Liga after only one year. The 94-year history of the club demonstrates a common “yo-yo club” pattern: they spent 46 seasons in the first and 35 in the second division. Their longest stay in LaLiga was a 12-year spell between 1980-1992, during which they also participated in the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup, reaching the quarterfinals in 1990. The best domestic performance was a fourth-place finish in LaLiga in 1963.
In 2018, Brazilian football legend, Ronaldo became the majority shareholder of the club, and today he owns 82% of the shares. Rather fittingly, the current team is also focused on attacking – they scored 71 goals, the most in the second division last season. 26-year-old Israeli forward Shon Weissman, the club’s most valuable player (valued at EUR 7m) led the line, registering 20 league goals in the campaign.
Did you know? By all-time league points, Valladolid are the 13th-best team in Spain, and are also the most successful club in the Castile and León region.
This North-Catalonia club is perhaps better known for their owners than their sporting achievements so far. Indeed, they are one of the 11 clubs under the umbrella of the City Football Group (CFG), which purchased a 44.3% share in Girona in 2017, while a similar stake belongs to Girona Football Group, led by Pere Guardiola, the brother of Pep Guardiola, the manager of CFG’s flagship club, Manchester City.
Season 2022/23 will be only Girona’s third one in the top tier. Founded in 1930, the club spent 87 years in lower divisions before being promoted to the top tier for the first time in 2017. They rely heavily on their captain and talisman, Cristhian Stuani, a Uruguayan who finished the last season as Segunda División’s joint-top scorer with 22 goals.19-year-old right-back Arnau Martínez is Girona’s most valuable player, valued at EUR 5m by Football Benchmark.
Did you know? Girona’s multi-use stadium, Estadi Montilivi is currently the smallest venue in the league, with less than 12,000 seats.