Inside Spain: The curious case of Ilkay Gundogan, Real Madrid hit by injuries and Diego Simeone on the wind-up

Inside Spain is a weekly instalment brought to you by Football España, providing an insight into all of the major stories coming out of the rich and intense climes of La Liga and beyond.

‘No doubt. The players are affected by the environment around them, and what is said.’ With those words, Barcelona manager Xavi Hernandez made himself the story despite their 2-1 win over Alaves before the international break.

The story was that Xavi had blamed the press for Barcelona’s poor performances, and while it seems a long way off that Barcelona might consider dismissing him (just two points off Real Madrid), Xavi is being questioned more than ever. Publicly, President Joan Laporta has backed him, but privately, they have sounded out a potential replacement.

As is Ilkay Gundogan. Since his fiery post-Clasico rant, the ex-Manchester City midfielder has been rather disappointing himself. After that rant, stories emerged that he was not best-pleased with Barcelona for their lack of support in helping his family settle when he arrived. Partner Sara Gundogan publicly denied that.

This international break, Gundogan was linked with a move to Galatasaray, which his brother and agent Ilhan Gundogan came out and denied – ‘We have no idea how this news came about’.

Real Madrid were feeling good in spite of Jude Bellingham’s shoulder injury, after a 5-1 win over Valencia showed the first real signs of Rodrygo Goes and Vinicius Junior looking at their best this season.

They had little time to enjoy that though, as Eduardo Camavinga went down in France training with sprained knee ligaments. That injury is expected to keep him out for eight weeks, and with Aurelien Tchouameni also out with a fractured metatarsal, Carlo Ancelotti will have to improvise with one of Toni Kroos or Fede Valverde moving deeper.

Arda Guler has again been injured before making his debut, and is set to miss the rest of the year too – that has led to the sacking of their chief doctor. Another of their injury prone players, Ferland Mendy, is already having his replacement lined up. Real Madrid are set to go to battle for Alphonso Davies.

Atletico Madrid manager Diego Simeone was not only on a high after renewing his contract, but also in the mood to wind up Premier League fans with some surprisingly frisky assertions for him. With Manchester United still looking at but not moving for Sporting Director Andrea Berta, former Barcelona Director of Football Mateu Alemany will not be joining, at least for now.

Villarreal are onto their third manager of the season already. The return of the prodigal son, Marcelino Garcia Toral comes back to the club he took from Segunda to the Champions League in the space of a little over three years. He has been dealt an early blow though, with Yeremy Pino tearing his ACL – it looks as if that will be the end of his Euros hopes with Spain too.

Reportedly, Rafael Benitez’s hapless Celta Vigo are negotiating a loan deal for Gabri Veiga to return from Saudi Arabia in January to get them out of the relegation zone. At the other end of the table, Girona continue their ridiculous run at the top of the table, three points clear of Real Madrid, and playing the best football in La Liga.


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