Rising star Yusuf Demir is earning his stripes as Barcelona’s No.11

Several legendary players have worn Barcelona’s No.11 shirt over the years, from Carles Rexach and Txiki Begiristain to Brazilian superstars Rivaldo and Neymar. Now, it belongs to Yusuf Demir and the 18-year-old is working hard to earn his Blaugrana stripes.

The winger was signed by Barcelona on loan from Rapid Vienna in the 2021 summer transfer window, with a purchase option that they could trigger next summer for €10m. When he arrived in Catalonia, Demir had already played 38 matches at senior level for the club from Austria’s capital, scoring nine goals and providing four assists in the process, plus he had just made his senior national team debut in March. Such a CV at such a young age had made him a nominee for the 2021 Golden Boy award, which recognises the best U21 player in Europe.

Given his young age, Demir was initially signed to play for Barcelona’s B team. However, he was so impressive in pre-season that coach Ronald Koeman promoted him to the first-team squad, following in Hans Krankl’s footsteps to become only the second Austrian to play for Barça’s senior side. His rising star status was confirmed further when the teenager inherited the prestigious No.11 shirt from Ousmane Dembélé, who switched to No.7 over the summer.

After wowing Koeman in training with his work ethic and his special left foot, Demir made his competitive debut for the Blaugrana away at Athletic Club in Matchday 2 of the 2021/22 LaLiga Santander season, becoming the Catalan club’s youngest foreign debutant in the league since Lionel Messi in 2004. More appearances have since followed and Demir has been one of the bright sparks in what has been a difficult start to the campaign for Barça overall.

Yusuf comes from a footballing family; his cousins Berke Kuvvet and Kerim Kuvvet play in Austria and his younger brother Furkan Demir is currently part of the Rapid Vienna youth system. And he has obvious natural talent. When he dribbles, arguably his greatest attribute, the ball appears to be glued to his boots as he keeps it so close, not letting opposition defenders anywhere near it.

There’s a lot more than just natural talent, though, as Demir has also been widely praised for his work ethic. That’s how he earned his promotion from the B team to a place in the first-team squad so quickly, taking pre-season as seriously as he would any other game and even scoring a goal in the friendly victory over Stuttgart.

Despite the rollercoaster past few months, in which Demir has suddenly found himself in starting line-ups for Barcelona, the youngster is keeping his feet on the ground. “It’s very intense and it took me a moment to adapt at first,” he admitted after his first competitive minutes with the team. “But then I got used to it and I’m very happy to have played my first match for Barcelona. I hope to play many more times for this team. It’s an honour to be at this club, a dream that’s come true and one that I worked very hard for.”

If Demir keeps working hard and keeps the good performances up, he can convince the club to extend his loan into a permanent deal. As a bright spark in an otherwise tough season so far, don’t bet against him doing just that.

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Five things you might not know about Radamel Falcao

ATHLETIC CLUB DE BILBAO-RAYO VALLECANO PARTIDO

Falcao is back in LaLiga Santander eight years after leaving Atletico de Madrid, this time with Rayo Vallecano. The Colombian superstar has started with a bang too, proving that quality is truly permanent.

1. Falcao kicked off his second spell in LaLiga and career at Rayo Vallecano in tremendous form. The Colombian is just the third player in Rayo history to score in his first two LaLiga Santander games for the club in the 21st century. The first was Moises Arteaga in 2001, the second a certain Diego Costa in 2012.

2. His chosen squad number at Rayo (3) is an odd one for a striker, but one filled with personal importance. It was the number his father Radamel Garcia, a centre-back, wore during his career and is a tribute to the man who died in 2019.

3. In fact, his name is another tribute. His parents named him Radamel Falcao in tribute to former Brazil midfielder Paulo Roberto Falcao, widely considered one of the greatest Brazilians of all time and a long-time legend at both Internacional and AS Roma.

4. Falcao is known as ‘The Tiger’ thanks to a popular sports TV show back in Colombia, ‘El Tigre de Esso,’ ‘The Esso Tiger.’ During the early days of his career, River Plate teammate Gonzalo Ludeña – who is still a close friend – gave him the nickname which has stuck ever since.

5. Falcao may be a footballing superstar, but he’s a huge fan of another sport too: baseball. He lived in Venezuela, where his father played professional football, between the ages of 5 and 10 and developed a love for the country’s most popular sport.

In fact, in an interview with France Football back in 2019 he expressed his desire to play the sport once he retired from football: “I love baseball. When I was little, in Venezuela, where I grew up, it was the sport I practiced, at a very good level… I often talk about it with my wife. I think when I finish my football career, I’ll start one as a professional baseball player.”

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This Week in LaLiga…

What has been going on in LaLiga this past week? Here are 10 of the top stories, from Asensio’s hat-trick to Ansu Fati’s long-awaited return.

Here’s all you need to know from a busy week in LaLiga which included back-to-back midweek and weekend matchdays.

Ansu Fati’s triumphant return

Barcelona’s 18-year-old superstar Ansu Fati hadn’t played since last November due to a knee injury, but the young forward was able to return to action on Sunday against Levante. The Barça fans at the Camp Nou were thrilled to see him back on the pitch, 323 days after his last appearance – and he even scored the third goal of his side’s 3-0 victory to earn a standing ovation.

La Real overcome the injuries

Despite missing 10 players due to injuries, Real Sociedad stayed strong and were up to the challenge, beating Elche 1-0 on Sunday. The Basque side have now taken 16 points from their first seven matches of the LaLiga Santander season, propelling them up to second place, behind only Real Madrid.

Three in three for Falcao

Radamel Falcao has had the perfect start to his Rayo Vallecano career. After scoring on his debut against Getafe, the Colombian centre-forward then netted a stoppage time winner in a 2-1 midweek victory at Athletic Club, before producing the go-ahead goal as Rayo overcame Cádiz 3-1 on Sunday. The newly promoted side are now up to fifth in the table – their best ever start to a top flight season.

Benzema hits 200

Real Madrid enjoyed a big midweek victory, defeating RCD Mallorca 6-1 – but that wasn’t the only cause to celebrate. Karim Benzema hit a milestone during the win: his 200th LaLiga Santander goal. The Frenchman is just the 10th player to ever hit that number.

Asensio’s hometown hat-trick

Real Madrid’s midweek victory over RCD Mallorca was also special for Marco Asensio. He celebrated his return to the starting line-up against his boyhood club with the first hat-trick of his Real Madrid career – which was also the first three-goal haul for any player this LaLiga Santander season.

Alavés’ first win comes against the champions

After failing to pick up a point across their first five matches of the season, Alavés finally tasted victory this weekend, against current champions Atlético de Madrid no less. A 1-0 win over the Rojiblancos meant Alavés were finally able to put some points on the board and to do so in impressive fashion.

Iñaki Williams matches Larrañaga’s record

This weekend Iñaki Williams matched the record the most consecutive matches played in LaLiga Santander history. It’s now an incredible 202 in a row for the Basque forward, who drew level with Juan Antonio Larrañaga’s record. Williams hasn’t missed a match since April 2016, an absolutely remarkable run, and will this coming weekend break the historic record.

Some good news for Getafe

With Getafe yet to pick up a point, it hasn’t been a good start to the season for the Azulones. However, there was some good news this week as Jakub Jankto’s injury isn’t as bad as it first seemed. The Czech winger had to be stretchered off during their clash against Atlético de Madrid in midweek and it appeared he may have suffered a leg break. Thankfully, that isn’t the case and Jankto’s injury is a sprained ankle, meaning he can return in just a few weeks.

Support for La Palma from across LaLiga

The Cumbre Vieja volcano eruption in La Palma has wreaked havoc on the Canarian island and has been a huge news story in Spain and across much of Europe over the past week. LaLiga, as well as its clubs and players, have expressed support for all those affected, Tenerife’s players have taken to the pitch with a message of ‘We are La Palma’ on their shirts, while other teams joined together behind a banner of ‘Strength and support for La Palma’ before kick-off in their fixtures.

ElClasico: it’s set

The date and time of the first ElClasico clash of the season has been set. FC Barcelona will host Real Madrid at the Camp Nou on Sunday October 24th, with the biggest club match in the world kicking off at 4.15pm CEST.

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LaLiga joins forces with Dapper Labs to launch an all new digital collectible experience for football fans around the globe

Built by the team behind NBA Top Shot, this new experience will give football fans the ability to collect and own some of the most awe-inspiring and iconic in-game Moments from their favourite LaLiga clubsThe new experience will launch on Flow in Summer 2022, and will feature both current and historical Moments from over a decade of play

Madrid, September  2021. Dapper Labs and LaLiga have today announced a partnership to introduce Official Football NFT Collectible Highlights at scale. Created by the team behind NBA Top Shot, this new experience will give fans the opportunity to collect and own some of the most talked-about contemporary and iconic in-game Moments from their favourite teams from over 10 seasons of play. Featuring dynamic video-based Moments from all of LaLiga’s clubs, including Real Madrid, FC Barcelona, Atlético de Madrid, Sevilla FC, Villarreal CF, Valencia CF, Real Betis, Athletic Club, Real Sociedad, RCD Mallorca and many others, the new experience will be available to fans on Flow blockchain starting June 2022.

Fans entering the all-new experience will instantly be immersed in football culture, having the opportunity to buy, collect, and own some of the most notable in-game Moments. Through a dedicated peer-to-peer marketplace, fans will be able to buy or sell parts of their collections with fellow football enthusiasts. Every purchase can be made via credit card through a Dapper wallet to ensure that every transaction is as easy as possible.

“The partnership between LaLiga and Dapper Labs will bring us even closer to our fans worldwide through a new and growing medium, and alongside the industry partner that created the NFT video product for the NBA,” said Javier Tebas, president at LaLiga. “This experience will place football fans all over the world at the very centre of the action, giving them a platform and product that allows them to enjoy and express their passion for LaLiga in a unique way.”

With access to both current Moments and a rich archive of historical Moments, the new experience will also give fans the ability to enjoy the rich heritage of one of the best leagues in the world. Fans will learn about age-old rivalries between teams, find out more about the league’s golden past, and deep dive into the fascinating stories of teams and players with experiences that bridge the past and present.

Though a blockchain-based experience, the product will also give fans a way to be a part of the in-game action. Through a variety of fan activations developed around key tentpole events during the season, fans will be able to enter contests to be in with a chance of once-in-a-lifetime opportunities such as being flown to Barcelona to watch ElClasico, the biggest football game in the world, from a VIP Box at Camp Nou.

“We couldn’t be more excited to be partnering with LaLiga to launch the ultimate fan-driven highlights collectible experience that is unlike anything in the space before,” said Caty Tedman, Head of Partnerships for Dapper Labs. “With over 3.5 billion football fans around the globe, the experience’s layered environment has the power to revolutionize how fans connect to the sport of football and how they engage with the teams and players they love, both virtually and in real life. We look forward to working alongside LaLiga, home to some of the best clubs  on the planet, to bring this wildly new and dynamic fan-driven experience to football lovers everywhere.”

“As Barcelona’s captain for a decade, I enjoyed some of LaLiga’s greatest moments. I also experienced some of the game’s biggest lows; but in spite of it all, the game would be impossible to play without our fans,” said Carles Puyol, six time LaLiga champion, three-time UEFA Champions League champion, and captain of FC Barcelona from 2004 to 2014. “Fans give us the energy that encourages us not to give up. They help us dig in when we’ve got nothing left and they give us support when we need it. To be part of an experience that brings players one step closer to their biggest fans is exciting and meaningful. I look forward to what this relationship holds.”

Like NBA Top Shot, the new experience is built on the Flow blockchain, developed for consumer experiences at scale. Flow allows fans to trace and verify the authenticity and scarcity of their digital collectibles.

This agreement is also part of the efforts of LaLiga North America – the joint venture between LaLiga and Relevent Sports – which plays an active role in searching for new attractive partners and industries to work with LaLiga.

For more information on the new experience and how to sign up in advance for experience, please visit dapperlabs.com

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“Green and white passion”: the historic connection between Real Betis and Glasgow Celtic

The two clubs share the same colours thanks to the historical figure of Manuel Ramos Asensio. They also share incredible fanbases, and have often interacted on social media in recent years.

The Benito Villamarín and Celtic Park may be 2,000 kilometres apart, but there is a connection between Real Betis and Glasgow Celtic that is so strong that it has endured over the years. Above all, these two Spanish and Scottish sides have something very visible in common: their green and white colours, uncommon in the world of football.

Let’s take a ride back in history, to over a century ago and the world of Manuel Ramos Asensio. Raised in Andalusia, he was sent to learn English in the southwestern Scottish city of Dumfries when he was a youngster. From there, he often travelled to Glasgow to watch Celtic play, making several close friends at the club in the process.

After returning to Andalusia and playing an important role in the early years of Real Betis’ existence in the early 1900s, Manuel organised for green and white fabric to be sent to Seville when Real Betis needed new shirts. Before then they’d usually sported blue and white jerseys, but then switched to green and white, the colours of Manuel’s favourite Scottish team and also, fortunately, the colours of the Andalusian flag.

In order to stand out, Real Betis wore green and white as vertical stripes, unlike the horizontal hoops of Celtic. In a match against Málaga in 2017, though, Real Betis switched to hoops for a one-off match that was taking place on February 28th to mark el Dia de Andalucia, ‘Andalusia day.’

Celtic sent a message of congratulations to Real Betis, remembering their historic connection. In fact, that was one of many messages of friendship that the two clubs have exchanged over social media in recent years. They’ve even nominated each other for various viral social media challenges.  

Despite their long history and European pedigree, these sides had never actually met on the pitch… until now: they are set to play in the Europa League this week! It means, among other things, a special return for Celtic to Seville, the city where they played their most recent European final: a dramatic 3-2 at the UEFA Cup final defeat to Jose Mourinho’s FC Porto back in 2003.  

Such a fixture is a truly special one given how passionate the fanbases of these two clubs are. Their two stadiums are of almost identical capacity, of just over 60,000, and both are able to fill almost every seat for each home match. The atmospheres at the Benito Villamarín and Celtic Park rank easily among the most special in their respective leagues and it will be an incredible occasion when these two clubs with so much in common will finally meet on the pitch. That will be a moment that would make Manuel Ramos Asensio very proud indeed.

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LaLiga Santander Matchday 5 preview: Valencia CF vs Real Madrid the pick of the bunch as LaLiga gears up for goals

LaLiga Santander Matchday 5 kicks off this Friday with a fixture list guaranteeing entertainment and history, with classic showdowns such as Valencia CF vs Real Madrid and Atletico de Madrid vs Athletic Club on the cards.

The action gets going in Vigo on Friday night with RC Celta hosting Cádiz CF. With both these sides yet to taste victory and with both teams currently inside the bottom five, this is already a huge match as the Galician and Andalusian clubs look to jumpstart their seasons.

Getafe CF are also desperate for a positive result after starting the campaign with four defeats from four, making their short trip to take on Rayo Vallecano on Saturday lunchtime a vitally important one. If the Azulones are to take a point or more back to the south of Madrid then they’ll have to stop Radamel Falcao, who is expected to make his debut for Rayo. When the Colombian striker steps onto the pitch in front of the home fans, that’ll be quite an occasion.

At 4.15pm CEST comes a classic of Spanish football: Atlético Madrid host Athletic Club. These two institutions have similar names and wear similar colours for a reason; the capital city club was actually created as a sister club to the Bilbao side at the beginning of the 20th century. Their recent meetings have been very tight, with two victories each and one draw from their past five. It should be another fascinating duel on Saturday.

There are a couple of regional rivalries to conclude Saturday’s action, as Elche CF welcome Valencian Community neighbours Levante UD to the Estadio Martínez Valero. CA Osasuna then make the one-hour trip to face D. Alavés at Mendizorrotza. With fans back in the stands for both of these local clashes, passionate atmospheres should be expected.

RCD Mallorca vs Villarreal CF is the first Sunday fixture and will have several exciting young talents on show. The islanders have Kang-in Lee and Takefusa Kubo in their ranks, as well as Fer Niño, who is actually on loan from Villarreal. The Yellow Submarine themselves have the 18-year-old Yeremi Pino in their ranks, one of the rising stars of Spanish football and a man who’ll be looking to make a mark on this Sunday lunchtime fixture.

Real Sociedad and Sevilla FC meet next in a battle of two teams who’ll have been in European action in the midweek before this game. Both these clubs are aiming for another year of European qualification at least, making these three points extra valuable. Real Betis, another of Spain’s European representatives, then host RCD Espanyol in what will be a match of reunions. Former Espanyol striker Borja Iglesias now leads the line for the Green and Whites, while Loren Morón could earn his first start for the Catalan club after his summer switch from Betis.

At 9pm CEST on Sunday night comes the blockbuster clash of the weekend as Valencia CF face Real Madrid at Mestalla. This is one of the most entertaining fixtures in all of European football, with dramatic moments in recent years such as Valencia CF’s 4-1 win last season courtesy of three Carlos Soler penalties or the Real Madrid equaliser the season before when goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois went up for a late corner and set up Karim Benzema’s last-gasp equaliser. Over the past 14 years, this fixture has produced an average of 4.4 goals per game for eight Real Madrid wins, six Valencia CF wins and three draws. With both these sides – who sit joint top on 10 points – scoring and conceding goals to start 2021/22, there’s no reason why it shouldn’t be another epic encounter this Sunday night.

The Matchday 5 slate of fixtures then reaches its conclusion at 9pm CEST on Monday night at the Camp Nou, where FC Barcelona meet Granada CF. Former Barça assistant coach Robert Moreno is now in charge of Granada and his group of players know what it’s like to win at the Camp Nou, having triumphed 2-1 there back in April towards the end of last season. Under the floodlights, it’ll be interesting to see who comes out on top this time around.

Watch LaLiga Santander live this weekend on BeINSports

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SOCIOS.COM PARTNERS WITH LALIGA TO BECOME GLOBAL FAN ENGAGEMENT PARTNER


LaLiga is the first major football league to partner with Socios.com, the leading provider of blockchain solutions for the sports industry and official partner to 60+ global leading sport brands worldwide
 
LaLiga and Socios.com will work together to create new opportunities for the league’s more than 800 million global fans to actively engage with their favorite players and clubs and access unique rewards and once-in-a-lifetime VIP opportunities
 
 
Madrid, September 14h, 2021.- LaLiga and Socios.com, the leading provider of blockchain-driven Fan Engagement solutions for the sports and entertainment industry, have announced an agreement that will see the creators of Fan Tokens become Global Fan Engagement Partner of Spain’s top tier football league.
 
Socios.com and LaLiga will work together to create new opportunities for the league’s more than 800 million global fans to engage actively with the brand through the platform’s cutting-edge blockchain technology solutions.
 
This partnership will give LaLiga Santander fans the chance to get closer than ever to their heroes, regardless of where in the world they are based, and to access unique rewards such as official products, signed jerseys, free tickets and once-in-a-lifetime opportunities.
 
Driven by the central belief that transitioning passive fans into active fans is essential to the future of sport, Socios.com is a direct-to-consumer (D2C) platform that leverages blockchain technology to provide the world’s leading sporting organizations with the tools to engage with and monetize their  global fanbases.
 
Since its creation, in 2019, Socios.com has been enhancing Fan Experience across the global sports industry through Fan Tokens, collectible digital assets that provide owners with access to voting rights in polls, VIP rewards, exclusive promotions, AR-enabled features, chat forums, games and competitions on Socios.com.
 
Over 40 global leading sport organisations across 20 different countries and seven different sports have launched their official Fan Token on the Socios.com app, home to a growing global community of nearly 1.3M sports fans. The list includes LaLiga Santander clubs FC Barcelona, Atlético de Madrid, Valencia CF and Levante UD, as well as other football giants across the globe, Formula 1 teams, esports organisations and mixed martial arts brands, among others. 


Fan Tokens have consolidated as one of the fastest growing revenue streams for the sports industry, generating over $200 million in profits for Socios.com’s global network in a little over two years since the first token was released. 
 
The partnership with LaLiga, the first major football league to join the platform, sets a new milestone for Socios.com and strengthens its position in Spain, a strategic country in which the company is about to inaugurate its new offices. The agreement also reasserts the position of Socios.com as the global leaders of blockchain-driven fan engagement solutions for the sports industry.
 
Alexandre Dreyfus, Founder and CEO of Socios.com, said: “We are very excited and proud to be partnering with LaLiga, one of the biggest brands in global sports, with over 800 million fans around the world, and home to legendary clubs that have helped write the history of football.”
 
“The LaLiga partnership will allow us to take another step forward in our mission to bring about a new era of global fan engagement, where fans are no longer spectators, but empowered, active participants”.
 
“It is no coincidence that LaLiga has become the first major European football league to partner with Socios.com. Over the past few years they have earned a reputation for being one of the most innovative brands in sports, leading the way for organisations worldwide in terms of embracing innovation and leveraging new technologies. This partnership is yet another demonstration of their boldness and leadership”.
 
“At LaLiga we are pleased to partner with Socios.com, one of the global leaders in fan engagement solutions for the sports industry. Thanks to this agreement, all our fans around the world will be able to connect more actively with their favorite players and teams. For us it’s a way of getting closer to them and offering them new experiences”, said Oscar Mayo, Executive Director of LaLiga.
 
 
 
 
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The Asian players in LaLiga for 2021/22

Some of the top players from Asia and Oceania will be playing their football in LaLiga Santander and in LaLiga SmartBank this season.

LaLiga Santander and LaLiga SmartBank, Spain’s top two divisions, are increasingly competitive and are home to players from all over the world. This includes Asia and Oceania, two continents that are, little by little, having a greater presence in Spanish football. Players such as Takashi Inui, Ki Sung-Yueng, Yoshinori Muto and Shinji Kagawa have wowed Spanish fans in recent years and LaLiga will once again have some of the top Asian players this coming season, as well as another Asian Football Confederation (AFC) player in the form of a returning Australian. Here, we outline who these players are and why they’re worth watching.

Wu Lei: The most experienced Asian player in Spanish football

Chinese striker Wu Lei arrived at RCD Espanyol in 2019 from Shanghai SIPG, having won everything there was to win in his home country. As one of the most prolific scorers of Chinese football, the forward only needed five matches to net his first goal with the Pericos and had three by the end of that first half-season. In the 2019/20 campaign, he bagged four more goals, including a dramatic late equaliser in a Barcelona derby, as the fans at the RCDE Stadium celebrated a 2-2 draw against FC Barcelona.

When RCD Espanyol went down to LaLiga SmartBank, Wu Lei showed his commitment to the club’s project by staying in Catalonia and helping the team earn a bounce-back promotion. At the end of August 2021, he celebrated his 100th match with the club and, at 29 years of age, he brings experience and maturity to a squad looking to consolidate its position in Spain’s top division. Above all, Wu Lei’s opportunism and directness on the pitch are attributes worth getting excited about.

Takefusa Kubo: The Japanese talent who gives RCD Mallorca an edge

After already playing for RCD Mallorca in 2019/20, when he was just 18, Takefusa Kubo has returned to the island club at the age of 20. As he did the last time, the Japanese winger is playing for RCD Mallorca on loan from Real Madrid, but this time he has even more top-flight experience after also spending time at Villarreal CF and Getafe CF last campaign, helping the former get off to a great start in their triumphant Europa League campaign and scoring the goal that secured survival for the latter. The Japan international is at the level where he can start matches for the Bermellones and give them an edge.

After coming through the academy at FC Barcelona, Kubo has the potential to become a world-class star, as he recently proved at the Olympic Games as he led his national team to the semi-finals and fourth place with three goals and an assist in six matches. This season, after just turning 20, he’ll aim to put on a show by demonstrating his quality.

Kang-in Lee: The South Korean wonder kid swapping Valencia for Mallorca

One of the top transfers of the 2021 summer window was RCD Mallorca’s acquisition of Kang-in Lee. After arriving at Valencia CF at 10 years of age and working his way to the senior squad over the following decade, the South Korean midfielder has left Mestalla in search of more opportunities to show LaLiga Santander fans exactly what he can do.

With great tactical awareness, he is the kind of player all coaches would love to have and RCD Mallorca fans are excited to see what kind of partnership he can strike up with Kubo. The Japanese and South Korean players are two of the best young talents in LaLiga Santander and now they’re on the same team.

Gaku Shibasaki: The ‘Japanese Iniesta’ who’ll fight for promotion with CD Leganés

There is also an Asian presence in LaLiga SmartBank, Spain’s second division. One of the standout players at this level is Gaku Shibasaki, who first hit the headlines in Spain by scoring two goals in the 2016 Club World Cup final when he was playing for Kashima Antlers, forcing extra time in that match against Real Madrid, even if Los Blancos ultimately won that title.

The midfielder has been labelled ‘the Japanese Iniesta’ and he even went in the opposite direction of the Spanish legend. Shibasaki has now played for CD Tenerife, Getafe CF, RC Deportivo and CD Leganés in Spain, now staying with Lega for another season as they aim to win promotion back to LaLiga Santander, after coming so close last year. With over 100 matches in Spanish football, he is already experienced at this level.

Shinji Okazaki: A Premier League champion at FC Cartagena

When Leicester City won their shock Premier League title in 2016, Shinji Okazaki was a part of that success. After leaving the English club in 2019, the veteran Japanese forward moved to Spain and joined SD Huesca, spending two years there as they won promotion in 2019/20 and as they then competed at LaLiga Santander level in 2020/21.

Now, the Japanese legend has joined FC Cartagena, returning to LaLiga SmartBank. Aged 35 and with experience of playing in Spain, England and Germany, Okazaki should be a veteran presence in the FC Cartagena dressing room.

Mat Ryan: The only Australian in Spanish football

Mat Ryan has come from the other side of the world to play in LaLiga Santander. The Australian goalkeeper has signed with Real Sociedad, ready for a second stint in Spanish football after forming part of Valencia CF’s squad between 2015 and 2017.

After spending time with Genk, Brighton & Hove Albion and Arsenal, Ryan has returned to Spain and has signed with Real Sociedad to become the new backup to starting goalkeeper Álex Remiro. Having been at two World Cups and two Asian Cups, Ryan is an experienced shot-stopper.

David Alaba and other players of Asian origin

As well as the footballers mentioned above, there are some other players with links to Asia. That includes new Real Madrid player David Alaba, whose mother is from the Philippines, even if he is an international player for Austria. His move to Los Blancos was clearly one of the signings of the summer. 

Another interesting story is that of Taichi Hara, a Japanese forward on Deportivo Alavés’ books who has gone out on loan to Sint-Truidense in Belgium. The 22-year-old will hope to return to the Spanish side after gaining experience abroad. Then there’s Wadi Ibrahim Suzuki, an 18-year-old Japanese forward who has recently signed for Valencia CF’s youth teams, with his arrival creating quite a buzz.

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LaLiga presents new ElClasico brand identity

The world’s most iconic club match will now have its own logo and visual identity

Rivalry, strength, passion, technology, innovation, dynamism, entertainment and globality are among this new image’s main attributes

Madrid, 13 September 2021.- LaLiga has created a logo and brand identity for ElClasico, the match that pits FC Barcelona and Real Madrid against each other each season, with the aim of giving one of the most iconic and popular sporting showdowns on the planet a unique and highly recognisable visual identity.

The branding project’s aim is to reflect the DNA of what this legendary encounter symbolises: rivalry, strength, passion, technology, innovation, dynamism, entertainment and globality.

Always at the cutting edge of innovation and entertainment, this new image will be yet another asset in LaLiga’s bid to enhance the brand value of its competition and its clubs, which can be featured at all international events and activations held around this match as part of LaLiga’s internationalisation strategy.

This initiative shows LaLiga to be looking to the future once again, working more closely with clubs to promote the competition and its most iconic matches, including not only ElClasico but also El Gran Derbi, El Derbi de Madrid, El Derbi Vasco, among others.

Watched in every corner of the planet, ElClasico is LaLiga’s blockbuster par excellence that puts life on hold; it is the most watched club match globally. An encounter that everybody watches, that brings everybody together, whether they like football or not, and a cultural touch point that transcends borders.

LaLiga is preparing a major launch of this new visual identity to coincide with the next ElClasico, set to be played in October. It will be implemented across all media outlets and actions that LaLiga rolls out, both nationally and internationally, through promotions, digital and media campaigns, international media activations, press conferences, and international events.

Just last week, LaLiga won the International Creativity Award at this year’s Sports Industry Awards for its unique ElClasico campaign, highlighting its diverse and highly adaptable events in all four corners of the world during the pandemic. The award was also a reflection of LaLiga’s wider work in promoting ElClasico in recent years.

The design of ElClasico’s identity

This is a groundbreaking, young, exciting, football-loving, and visual image that will connect with a global audience and especially among a young demographic. Its style is reminiscent of the digital environments popular among younger audiences and their passion for eSports, TV shows and urban culture. A visual identity that conveys not only the today, but also the tomorrow of a great sporting and entertainment show that brings the world to a standstill for 90 minutes.

ElClasico’s new logo draws its inspiration from the shared emotion that exists between footballers and fans the world over. It is an inclusive brand that does not set a distance between the stars and their supporters, but rather brings them closer together and helps fans feel that they are very much an integral part of the game.

Custom typography has been used to create this new identity, with an energetic style, sharp angles and verticality to express movement, dynamism, and its digital essence.

The symbol that separates Real Madrid and FC Barcelona will replace the usual “vs.” and will be the icon that best represents ElClasico. It represents rivalry, strength, and confrontation, evoking the competitive spirit of both teams.

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LaLiga Santander Matchday 4 preview: The weekend of Real Madrid’s return to the Bernabéu and Griezmann’s second Atlético debut

LaLiga Santander returns this weekend with Matchday 4 of the 2021/22 season. There are eight fixtures taking place over those three days -from Saturday to Monday-, while two of the round’s matches have been postponed to a later date (Sevilla FC vs FC Barcelona and Villarreal CF vs D Alaves), and there are several storylines to look out for. From Real Madrid’s return to the Bernabéu after a 560-day absence to the debuts of several summer signings, this promises to be a thrilling weekend of Spanish football.

The first fixture is a Saturday evening meeting of two teams who score and concede a lot of goals, with UD Levante hosting Rayo Vallecano. So far this season, UD Levante’s matches have produced 3.0 goals per game on average and the capital city side’s games have produced 2.67. That places both these teams’ matches in the top third for total goals, so there could be fireworks in the city that just celebrated the famous Falles Festival.

Later on Saturday night comes a showdown between two of the youngest squads of LaLiga Santander, as Athletic Club take on RCD Mallorca. Both sides have several rising stars who’ll be on show, such as Jon Morcillo, Dani Vivian and Oihan Sancet in the home team and Takefusa Kubo, Kang-in Lee and Fer Niño for the visitors.

After the two matches on Saturday, there are four more games on Sunday, starting with RCD Espanyol vs Atlético Madrid at 14:00 CEST. Antoine Griezmann could make his re-debut in this away trip, after re-joining Los Rojiblancos on deadline day. Having already scored 131 goals in 257 appearances for Atleti, the Frenchman will be looking to add to that in his first match back, as he takes on RCD Espanyol in Barcelona, the city he has called home for the past two years.

Later on Sunday afternoon, CA Osasuna welcome Valencia CF to El Sadar for a battle between two sides who have started the new season undefeated. In Pamplona, there is great excitement at the attacking resources CA Osasuna have put together for this season, with Chimy Ávila, Ante Budimir, Kike García and Rubén García all available to coach Jagoba Arrasate. At Valencia CF, they’ve started the season well too and summer signing Marcos André could earn his first start, while Carlos Soler will hope to keep up his good form after starting the season in scintillating form for both Los Che and the Spanish national team.

Next, Real Sociedad make the trip to the other side of the Iberian Peninsula to take on Cádiz CF. In this match, we might see the birth of La Real’s new Scandinavian strike partnership, as Swede Alexander Isak and Norwegian Alexander Sørloth return from international duty to lead the Basque side’s attack.

At 21:00 CEST on Sunday night, there will be an emotional return to the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu for Real Madrid. With the pandemic and with redevelopment work having taken place over the past year and a half, Los Blancos haven’t played there since 1st March 2020. They’ll take on RC Celta in front of a limited number of fans and, even if there is a lot of focus on the setting, the match promises to be a fun one too, as the past 10 meetings between these teams have produced an average of 4.1 goals per match.

Monday brings two more LaLiga Santander matches, starting with Getafe CF vs Elche CF. These are two teams who only just avoided relegation last season and two teams who made some late summer signings. In this fixture, they’ll hope the new arrivals can make an immediate impression, such as Jorge Cuenca and Jonathan Silva for Getafe CF and Javier Pastore and Lucas Pérez for the visitors.

An Andalusian derby then concludes the weekend’s action, as Granada CF host Real Betis on Monday night at 22:00 CEST. Real Betis won their last meeting 2-1, but the Nazaríes had gone undefeated over the previous five clashes. There’s always a special atmosphere when there’s a regional derby, making this a great way to cap this weekend’s slate of fixtures.

Watch LaLiga Santander live this weekend on BeINSports

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