La Liga returns from the international break with Levante hosting Mallorca on Friday at 3 p.m. Eastern. But the match-ups most worth watching both take place Saturday.
Promoted side Granada (+400) has been mired in a nosedive since its shockingly strong play through its first 10 games. Granada, however, remains just four points out of fourth place. They can bounce back in a big way on Saturday when Atletico Madrid (-112) visits Los Cármenes at 12:30 p.m.
Shortly after that game wraps up, Real Madrid welcomes Real Sociedad to the Santiago Bernabéu for a 3 p.m. kickoff. Oddsmakers expect Los Blancos (-278) to cruise over fifth-place Real Sociedad (+600). The Basque side is led by RM loanee Martin Odegaard, the 20-year-old who has easily been the story of the league to this point, at least in the “non-Barca/Atleti/RM” division.
Speaking, briefly, of Barcelona, the Catalans are -240 for their trip to Leganés (+600) on Saturday at 7 a.m. We’ll talk more about Barca next week, when they host Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League on Wednesday, but expect a rout of last-place Leganés in the meantime.
João Félix to the rescue?
Atleti has let us at High Press Soccer down since convincing tricking us into believing they had become a high-powered offensive threat over the summer. With just 15 goals through 13 games – 17th-place Real Betis has just as many – we can’t say that they were ever exactly humming along. But there were at least flashes in the early months of the season, largely courtesy of João Félix.
The Portuguese starlet has done as much to live up to the hype as any high-profile transfer from this summer, but he’s been sidelined since suffering an ankle injury vs. Valencia on October 19. On the year, Félix has just two goals and an assist domestically, but has given us glimpses of the nightmare we expect him to be for La Liga opponents for years to come.
The question is whether an in-form Félix is the missing piece for a team that has been far too dependent on Álvaro Morata in recent weeks. Diego Costa’s latest injury – he’s expected to be out until February with a herniated disc — adds pressure on Félix, but the good news is that Morata is in a hell of a groove. The 27-year-old Spaniard scored in six consecutive games from October 22 through Nov. 10, when Atleti beat Espanyol 3-1 in its last game before the international break. If Félix and Morata are on point, those two, plus Atleti’s always-stout defense, should keep this team on the heels of Barcelona and RM.
As for Granada, what a difference a few weeks makes, and not in a good way. Losing three in a row is tough regardless of the opponents. Such a stretch hurts even more against the likes of 7th-place Getafe, 5th-place Real Sociedad and 9th-place Valencia … on second thought, those are actually all solid foes, if not respected brands globally. That doesn’t, however, make capturing 0 of 9 possible points any easier to stomach for a squad that was atop the table in late October.
The bottom line on Atleti-Granada is that it’s hard to see Granada scoring enough at all – they’ve netted multiple times just twice in their last nine La Liga games – to get a result on Saturday.
Can Odegaard lead Real Sociedad to the upset?
In a word, doubtful. I’d like the underdog’s chances much better if Real Sociedad were at home. Real Madrid is not exactly on a lengthy tear – Zinedine Zidane’s squad inexplicably drew Real Betis 0-0 on November 2 – but did dominate its last two opponents. RM beat UCL foe Galatasaray 6-0 on November 6 before blowing out Eibar 4-0 on November 9. Don’t expect such a comfortable victory this weekend, but a RM team that dealt with a long list of injuries should be fresh after the international break. And Gareth Bale returns to his happy place!*
Real Sociedad’s most impressive accomplishment this season was their 2-0 win over Atleti on Sept. 14. Another solid showing vs. one of Spain’s big three would be a sign that this team is a legit top-4 contender and a smart futures bet (currently at +400) to finish with one of La Liga’s UCL spots for ’20-21.**
* More on the latest spat between the Welshman and his club to come next week on HPS.
** Friendly piece of advice: If you like those odds and think an upset is likely this weekend, move on it ASAP, as they would surely shorten with a win over RM.
Where to Bet La Liga in US
In the US, you can legally bet on soccer online in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
Who: João Félix
From Where: Benfica
To Where: Atlético Madrid
For How Much: €126 million ($142.1M USD)
Grade for Atlético Madrid: A
Grade for Benfica: B+
João Félix to Atlético Madrid Overview
While Tottenham waited 517 days in between signings, this one just felt like it took 517 days to complete. But alas, it’s finally done.
The 19 year-old rising Portuguese star has been labeled “The Next Ronaldo.” However, that doesn’t do much justice to his overall game or moral compass.
As we’ll do for each major signing this summer, below is High Press Soccer’s breakdown of the transaction.
Who is he?
Félix was inarguably the most sought after young talent in Europe this summer.
In 26 domestic games for Primeira Liga champs Benfica last season, Félix tallied 15 goals and 7 assists. He also had that hat trick in the Europa League semis.
While often compared to Cristiano Ronaldo, he’s got a creative flair for facilitating that CR7 never possessed. Félix finds through balls and serves key passes at an elite clip.
And yes, he can score too. Maybe not in the same predatory way Ronaldo does, but who in the history of soccer has?
His 7.5 WhoScored rating was a seasonal best among Primeira Liga forwards. Did we mention he’s just 19?
Is the price fair?
The total cost of €126 million is steep. Regardless, this is becoming a popular refrain here: that’s just the modern market.
If Félix delivers on the majority of his potential for Atleti, this is a bargain. They’re buying him before his prime years even hit. Let’s say Félix gives Atleti a Griezmann-lite 4-5 years of production and gets them consistently in the UCL knockout rounds. Nobody in the Spanish capital will complain about that €126 million.
Building in an absurd €350m buy-out clause indicates they expect him to be around for a few years and the market for marquee talent to escalate. That kind of cash is Mbappe-terrority.
If transfer market values continue to climb and he performs, they’ll be able to sell him and recoup all of that and more–or resign him for what would be his actual prime year. Even if he ends up being just OK but helps keep Atleti competitive in the UCL, the the economics are probably a wash.
This really only becomes a bad investment if Félix bombs. Given the investment and resources that will be put towards his success, the odds of
Félix being a total bust seem low.
What impact should we expect?
Make no mistake, this is a HUGE win for Atlético Madrid.
Félix’s arrival is already prompting discussions around changing Atléti’s style of play. Along with the signing of Marcos Llorente, Atléti are bringing in youth and dynamism that at times seemed lacking in recent campaigns.
Atlético Madrid should–and likely will–build the offense completely around
Félix. He’s a shape-shifter and can give Diego Simeone options on how to best deploy him.
The good news for Simeone is Félix’s best statistical position is center forward. His WhoScored rating as a #9 was 7.68. While La Liga and the
Primeira aren’t apples-to-apples as far as competition, this does out-score Griezmann.
Félix will provide a comparable same set-piece threat as Griezmann, but with better finishing as he doesn’t bomb as many long range shots as the Frenchman. In theory, this should help convert more opportunities for a traditionally offensive-needy team
Atlético Madrid: When you consider how dire their outlook was just a few weeks ago, nabbing Félix is a game changer for the club. It resets their expectations for next season and over the long-haul. The A is well deserved. Sure, they paid full price. They didn’t have to loan him back to Benfica for a year though. And not nabbing a premium talent to replace Griezmann would’ve set the club back both to the fans and the organization at large.
Benfica: The Portuguese champs ideal situation would’ve been the Manchester City bid–get the full price, but get Félix back on a one year loan. They had the leverage. Regardless, this is the kind of sale that could reap long-term rewards for the club if the money is properly re-invested. They were always going to be a top table team domestically, but they can build squad depth to make some noise in Europe now too.
Quite a week for the 19 year-old wunderkinds of European soccer.
On Thursday, João Félix became the youngest player to ever record a hat trick in Europa League play, leading Benfica to a 4-2 win over Eintracht Frankfurt.
On Saturday, Borussia Dortmund‘s Jadon Sancho said, “Hold my non-alcoholic beer.”
Sancho’s brace led BVB to a much-needed 2-1 win over Mainz. BVB hold a temporary two-point Bundesliga advantage over game-in-hand Bayern Munich (who play on Sunday).
The two goals also put Sancho in rarefied air in Europe this season, as he becomes one of only five players in Europe’s top five domestic leagues to tally at least 10 goals and 10 assists for the year.
Jadon Sancho reaches double digits in goals and assists.— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) April 13, 2019
What a season for the Dortmund teenager 👏 pic.twitter.com/uPhRhrUAUX
The 2019 summer transfer period will likely lead to major changes for both Félix and Sancho. At this rate, the next record they break may end up being “highest transfer fee for a teenager in Europe football history.”
Felix’s recorded a hat trick today in Benfica‘s 4-2 Europa Cup quarterfinal Leg 1 victory over Eintracht Frankfurt. He’s the youngest player ever to tally three goals in a Europa Cup game.
⚽️✖️3️⃣ = 💪— FIFA.com (@FIFAcom) April 11, 2019
João Félix is the youngest player to score a hat-trick in @EuropaLeague at 19 years, 152 days. He tops a list that includes Marko Pjaca, Paco Alcácer, Harry Kane and Romelu Lukaku. #UEL pic.twitter.com/HVZNyrPaMS
Already being tracked by all of the usual suspects (Real Madrid, Barcelona, Manchester United, Atletico Madrid, Juventus, etc.), Felix is only seeing his transfer fee rise with performances like this.
João Félix Hat Trick Videos
Felix scored in the 21st, 43rd, and 54th minutes. Benfica, currently sitting 1st in the Portuguese Liga, will take their 4-2 Europa League quarterfinal aggregate lead to Frankfurt next Thursday.
See in the below vids, we’ll update with the official broadcast post later today.
View more João Félix video highlights.
Already stocking the cupboards for a Quadruple repeat (Doubledruple?), Manchester City are reportedly tracking the “next Ronaldo,” Portuguese star João Félix.
It’s going to be a great summer to be Félix’s agent (Pedro Cordeiro). With City tracking the Portuguese teen, and Real Madrid (which we pegged as Félix’s likely destination), AND Barcelona, Manchester United, Atlético Madrid, Juventus, West Ham (!!!) and Borussia Dortmund…Félix’s sale price is surely going well north of €100M. Cordeiro, enjoy your 10%.
Félix is publicly unaffected by all the attention, telling MARCA:
“Right now, I’m only thinking about Benfica. We are heading towards the end of the season in a very close fight for the title. I cannot pause to think about everything that is happening around me.
“My dream has always been to play for the big teams and in the biggest competitions, but, as I said, I am here and I am very happy at Benfica, which, like those teams, is also one of the biggest sides in Europe.”
More Annoying City News
After losing out on Ajax star Frenkie de Jong to Barcelona, City has zero’d in on Saul Niguez as an eventual replacement for Fernandinho.
The 24 year-old Atléti midfielder is reportedly coming over for an €80m deal.
Read More: 2019 Summer Soccer Transfers
With the 2019 summer transfer window approaching, we’re rolling out a new regular feature: Let’s Go Shopping! We’ll examine teams likely to spend over the summer and weigh in on who they may target and who we think they should buy. First up: Real Madrid.
Los Blancos are coming off a year of record revenue…and record disappointment. They were eliminated from the Champions League before the quarterfinals for the first time since 2009-10. They are more likely to miss UCL qualification than win La Liga (spoiler alert: they’re still qualifying). They have a new(ish) coach in Zinedine Zidane who is there to restore order and aging roster that needed a reboot a year ago. The times they are a changin’ for Real Madrid. Here’s a look at who they’ll likely sell and more importantly, who they should buy.
Who’s Out at Real Madrid?
Chops: First things first, who is most likely out: Gareth Bale? Karim Benzema? Agree?
Tyler Everett: I agree, Bale seems 100% gone. Marcelo is as likely to be out as Bale, and Isco is probably out as well (though new coach Zinedine Zidane already seems like he may have other plans). Luka Modric and Toni Kroos may very well be gone too. Those aren’t the only ones, and obviously I wouldn’t be shocked if Benzema stays, but I think there’s at least a chance he’s back.
Katya Gokhman: Before Zidane’s first match back, I was heavily leaning towards Bale being out no matter what. But, if Bale continues to perform as he did under Zidane’s lead last match, he may convince Zidane otherwise. Zidane came back to Real to win. If Bale can produce – why kick him to the curb? In regards to Benzema … Benzema is a product of Zidane’s schooling … and he’s French. He also hasn’t been doing a bad job of scoring this season with everything going on. With 13 goals in La Liga and 22 goals total — it’s not a bad average to have. In fact, he’s Real’s leading goal scorer. When the big names and changes happen, whether or not he starts will be the big question but I think he’d be a good sub coming off the bench at least.
Chops: I think with Bale, it comes down to the contract. Who’s buying him? However, it seems like he needs a fresh start away from Madrid fans who’ve tired of him. How about Sergio Ramos? On one hand, he’s on the wrong side of 30 (as in, he’s over 30). He’s [opinions are mine and mine alone] a thug [who I’d be fine with having on my team]. He’s an undisputed leader, though, and reportedly lobbied for Zidane to management.
Katya: Ramos could go either way. On one hand, I see Zidane being a loyal guy to the players that he gained success with in the past, especially his team leader. So, Zidane may be adamant of having him stay (especially since, as you mentioned, Ramos reportedly lobbied for Zidane). Otherwise, I think it’s time for Real Madrid to gain a new leader. Ramos is 32 — edging toward the end of his career. If Real is going to rebuild, they need to do it with newer, fresher players. Also, let’s not forget the huge argument he had with club President Florentino Pérez. I see Sergio Ramos getting sold this summer.
Tyler: Thinking about it more, with Zidane back at the helm, Isco and Asensio will both have their future decided by what happens the rest of the season. Santiago Solari obviously wasn’t crazy about either, but I bet they get plenty of minutes down the stretch.
Katya: I agree with Tyler. Isco and Asensio could go either way too. But if Real Madrid build the team as many think they should with younger players, I think Asensio is a good one to keep. He’s only 23 and has a contract until 2023 anyways. He’s had a slump of a season but, if we look at what Ryan O’Hanlon says, a player’s success highly depends on who he’s surrounded by. Asensio has done well when Zidane was around and I don’t think he’s reached his peak yet.
Isco is a great talent but his success, again, will come from who he will be surrounded by. I could see him being Real’s “Iniesta” (ok I may be pushing it with that comment, but all I’m saying is that I see the attack building up through him) but it depends on how the team will be built up. And then there’s the fact that he’s been wanting to leave Real Madrid anyways…
Chops: Isco in particular could stick. He’s on the right side of his prime curve. I can see Modric getting one more year to help the transition of young to old. There’s value there. He’s the reigning Ballon d’Or winner afterall.
Katya: I’ve always loved Modric and definitely agree. He’s well-respected and has always seemed to keep his cool — he would be a great transitional leader, especially if Ramos leaves.
Let’s Go Shopping
With that out of the way and a little extra money in the coffers, who should Real Madrid be targeting this summer?
Chops: The most interesting target to me is João Félix (if Manchester United don’t snag him first). Who better to take the old Ronaldo’s place than The Next Ronaldo? They’re already tracking him. He gives Zidane a chance to take a young player (20) and build him up, grow with him. He fits a definite need (attacking midfielder/striker). It seems like a no-brainer.
Katya: I think João Félix would be a great signing but we’ll have to see if Real can battle out Juventus and Man United for him … Man United I’m sure they can beat out. But Juventus would be a tough one …
Tyler: Eden Hazard was the first name I was going to say they will look at, but I think they go after Kylian Mbappé and or Neymar too. Many expect this summer to be like 2014, when they loaded up, adding James Rodríguez and Kroos. I doubt Zidane would have come back without a guarantee that they’ll spend like crazy — and it’s already started, as RM has reportedly agreed to a €50M deal for 21-year-old Porto center-back Eder Militao.
Katya: I’m with you, I definitely think that Hazard will be coming. He’s been talking about his interest in Real for quite some time and, now, with his childhood hero Zidane back at the helm while another coach may or may not be sacked by Chelsea this summer, I think it’s a no-brainer for Hazard. From a coaching standpoint, I think Hazard will do well under Zidane as well.
Chops: Yeah, the Sarri coaching situation is a trainwreck, and if Hazard’s patience at Chelsea is worn out, it’s hard to blame him. Mbappé seems destined to one day play for Real Madrid though.
Katya: Yeah, for me, the biggest signing would be if they got Mbappé. I love Kylian Mbappé so I am a bit biased, however, I think he could be the Ronaldo “replacement” at Real Madrid. I’m not sure he would be willing to leave France though. He’s had offers outside of the country before and he’s always been adamant to stay “local.” He grew up in Paris, so being back in Paris close to his friends and family now is a dream come true for him I think.
Tyler: I think 20-year-old River Plate midfielder Exequiel Palacios is a strong possibility. There were rumors he would join RM in January, but no deal was signed. Palacios has been on the radar of Spain’s top three clubs, as well as a number of others in Europe, for a while now. Another young player I expect RM and Europe’s other wealthy clubs to make a move for is Luka Jovic. The 21-year-old is excelling for Bundesliga side Eintracht Frankfurt — he has 15 goals and five assists in 24 matches in the German league this year — and it is widely believed that he’s in for a big payday this summer.
Chops: There’s been talk of Harry Kane being a target for awhile. As with Christian Eriksen. And reports had Zidane interested in Sadio Mané at one time (how…dare…you). Do any of those Premier League scorers get a big offer?
Tyler: I don’t think money’s going to be an object for RM. With that in mind, I think Kane will get some interest, if not an offer, but that it won’t be enough to land him.
Katya: Harry Kane would be a tough one considering he’s valued at about 250 million pounds. Also, I wonder how he would do within a different playing style. Christian Eriksen seems to be a more likely purchase. As for Mané, he’s a huge Zidane fan, that we know. But Liverpool is definitely not a bad place to be right now …
Chops: All right, give me your one big name you think is the most likely to join Los Blancos this summer. I’m going to be super boring and say Hazard, with a run at Felix and Mbappé in two years.
Tyler: At this point, I’d more surprised if they didn’t land Hazard. But that seems more and more chalk by the day, so I’ll be a little bolder and say that they manage to land Mbappé. Yes, I’m predicting they get them both. And yes, I understand how outrageous that sounds. But if we believe the reports they’re willing to spend nearly $400M — and keeping in mind they’re likely to make a ton of money from player sales — I’m going to go with it.
Katya: I like the boldness, Tyler, and I would love to see Mbappé at Madrid! I’m also sticking with Hazard — I think he’s ready for a change and has nothing to lose. But my bolder prediction is Christian Eriksen — his contract will be up soon (2020) and I think this will be a good next step in his career.
Where there’s smoke, there’s usually a fire.
The resurgent United are prepared to offer Benfica around £100 million ($130M USD) for Félix during the summer transfer window.
Everybody Stay Calm Here
When you’re a teen and you have Man U and Real Madrid interested in you, people take notice. However, Benfica coach Bruno Lage says that Félix “has his feet firmly on the ground.”
A factor driving up the cost on Félix is a signed a €120m release clause in his Benfica contract, which run until June 2023. Regardless, Manchester United and Los Blancos have deep pockets enough to pay the price.
Also Read: João Félix Video Highlights
Lots of chatter today about powerhouses Real Madrid and Manchester United tracking “the next Ronaldo,” João Félix.
Along with Los Blancos and ManU, other clubs with an interest in the 19 year-old include La Liga titans Barcelona and Atletico Madrid, Seria A champs Juventus, Premier League top 20 revenue generator West Ham, and German development juggernaut Borussia Dortmund.
Félix reportedly has a €120 million release clause. Expect him to be on the move during summer of 2019 transfers.
Who is João Félix?
João Félix is a 19 year-old from Portugal. After coming through FC Porto‘s youth ranks, he moved to Benfica, where he made his senior debut in the Primeira Liga in August 2018.
He’s an attacking midfielder who also gets some play on the wing and at striker. While yes he’s Portuguese, stylistically the Ronaldo comparisons mostly end there. He (for now) lacks Ronaldo’s annoying preening bravado. He has a better handle on ball dribbling than Ronaldo at a similar age (with less step-overs), but not quite the same striking ability.
He does share some of Ronaldo’s confidence though, telling Tuttosport:
“I’m not scared by the numbers being mentioned [about me], of the comparisons [to Ronaldo] in the media, nor the interest of the biggest clubs on the planet. I’m flattered.”
Félix does consider Ronaldo to be his “idol.”
João Félix Video Highlights
Enough words on João Félix. See for yourself with these João Félix video highlights.
We’ll continue adding more highlights to this page as they come, which should be often.