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Neymar kicks off summer sprees

Real re-signs Dani Carvajal while Atlético brings in forward Leo Baptistão

FC Barcelona's new player Brazilian Neymar da Silva Santos Junior waves during his presentation at Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona.
FC Barcelona's new player Brazilian Neymar da Silva Santos Junior waves during his presentation at Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona.LLUIS GENE (AFP)

What with international friendlies, transfer activity and pre-season plans being hatched, it is easy to forget the season is not yet over in Spain. Although Elche has been promoted to Primera and is now on a lap of honor of Segunda, the final two golden tickets have not been claimed. Villarreal descended last season on a frantic final day courtesy of Rayo Vallecano's "Tamudazo" - the veteran striker bagging the goal that would keep the Madrid side up a couple of minutes from time, which Michu later admitted came about because Granada had been asked by Rayo's players to look the other way for a tick.

Villarreal will have to do it the hard way again when it hosts Almería on Saturday: both sides are locked on 74 points. The winner will be automatically promoted and covered in gold. The loser will face the lottery of the playoffs and the prospect of gaining nothing for a season's travails. A tie will do for the Yellow Submarine to rise to Primera at the first attempt, but the visitor boasts Segunda's top scorer in Charles Dias.

At the other end of the table, Sunday's results consigned Racing Santander, Murcia and Huesca to Segunda B, the abyss of Spanish soccer that had already sucked Xerez in weeks ago. Girona and one of Villarreal and Almería are assured a playoff place, while Alcorcón, Las Palmas and Ponferradina will battle it out for the final two spots.

The weighty issues of Segunda are all a far cry from the other side of the scales where the top European clubs try each summer to tip the balance in their favor. Barcelona struck early and hard this year, and bloodied Real Madrid's nose, as it swept the Brazilian superstar Neymar to Camp Nou. Not so fresh from an underwhelming performance at the new Maracanã on Sunday night as England and Brazil drew 2-2, Neymar was officially presented as a Barcelona player on Monday.

Mourinho returns

Chelsea has also moved swiftly to snap up José Mourinho: the Portuguese was unemployed for less than 48 hours after overseeing Real's final game of the season on Saturday. On Monday, as was widely expected, he announced he had signed a four-year deal at Stamford Bridge, where he was coach between 2004 and 2007 and delivered two league titles, a fistful of cups and a few good, bad and ugly one-liners.

Mourinho's switch to Chelsea should set the summer transfer market creaking into action but Real has already oiled the cogs a tad by purchasing Dani Carvajal back from Bayer Leverkusen for 6.5 million euros. Carvajal, a former Real canterano, won many plaudits for his performances at right back in the Bundesliga and will provide some much-needed competition for Sunday-league slogger Álvaro Arbeloa.

Atlético has also wasted little time in filling at least a part of the Falcao-shaped void at the Calderón by signing Rayo forward Leo Baptistão, who began his career playing alongside Neymar in a Brazilian youth side.

Recomendaciones EL PAÍS
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