Coach: Jose Luis Mendilibar
Key signings: Florian Lejeune, Bebe, Pedro Leon
Key sales: Keko, Saul Berjon, Borja Baston
This season [predicted finish]: 14th
Tiny La Liga club Sociedad Deportiva Eibar continued to defy footballing gravity last season by finishing 14th and keeping their place in Spanish football’s top flight for yet another year.
Given that the club hails from a town of just 27,000 people, many expect Eibar’s fairy tale to come to an end at some point, but sporting director Fran Garagarza continues to recruit well and he appears to have assembled a squad which will be capable of finishing safely outside the bottom three in 2016-17.
Eibar suffer the same problem that many small teams do, which is that their top talents from last season have been noticed by larger clubs, yet they have managed to keep hold of the majority of their key players. Exciting winger Keko was keen to leave last January, but they encouraged him to stay until the summer transfer window before finally selling him to Malaga.
Other than that, the only player Los Armeros lost this summer that they would have liked to keep was 18-goal striker Borja Baston, whose loan deal from Atletico Madrid came to an end. He returned to the Spanish capital only to be sold to Swansea City for €18m, a price tag which highlights what a loss he will be.
The club has recruited well, however, and if anything their squad for this season looks stronger than that of last campaign. Florian Lejeune arrives to shore up the team’s defence and, given that he was the main reason Girona had the Segunda Division’s best defence last season, he could prove to be a bargain at €1.5m. Fellow centre-back Alejandro Galvez arrives for a similar fee from Werder Bremen.
Elsewhere, Bebe could prove be a very exciting addition. He may have been inconsistent throughout his career, but if the Manchester United flop can turn in even half a dozen top class performances over the course of the season then his addition will have been worth it. Other intriguing acquisitions include Ruben Pena, who netted eight times and provided four assists to help Leganes win promotion last season, while the experienced Pedro Leon joins following Getafe’s relegation. He is a La Liga veteran, having played 233 matches in the top flight, scoring 29 goals and providing 48 assists.
Another coup for Eibar is the fact that they have been able to retain their Coach Jose Luis Mendilibar. After his success at Ipurua last season, there was a fear that he might be wanted by larger clubs, but he remains in the Basque Country and should be able to guide Eibar to safety.