Last season's surprise package, Real Sociedad, suffered a major blow in the summer when the influential Asier Illarramendi was sold to Real Madrid for a staggering €32.2 million, paying the 23-year-old's buyout clause.
His departure served as a monumental blow to new Coach Jagoba Arrasate, who had to navigate his way past Lyon in the Champions League upon replacing the Rennese-bound Phillippe Montanier without his star man. In Illarramendi's place came former Real Madrid playmaker Esteban Granero, on a season long loan from QPR.
Granero's time in England was an unhappy one, scoring just once as he tasted relegation to the Championship under Mark Hughes and Harry Redknapp. Despite being linked with Swansea – managed by his former Getafe boss Michael Laudrup – Granero returned to Spain in a bid to recapture the form that saw Madrid exercise a buy-out clause in his contract in 2009.
Unfortunately though, the 26-year-old won't get that opportunity. In the final seconds of La Real’s 2-0 defeat at home to Shakhtar Donetsk in the Champions League, Granero twisted his knee with doctors later confirming a torn anterior cruciate ligament, meaning he will miss six months of the season.
Not only has Arrasate had to adjust to life without Illarramendi, he now has to contend with his replacement missing the majority of the season. After their 0-0 draw with Malaga, The Coach admitted that his side are struggling at the moment, and also lamented Granero's injury, particularly as options for a replacement are limited.
“We are streaky, but we have kept a clean sheet in five games. We signed Granero this summer because we felt it was necessary. It is a very difficult situation. We have to look for a player but the possibilities in the market are scarce.”
FIFA have granted the Basque side permission to sign an emergency loan player, and Catalan press are suggesting that Jonathan dos Santos is on the verge of completing a season long-loan move to Estadio Anoeta.
A summer target for Arrasate, Dos Santos is now 23 years old and with first team opportunities at a premium for the Mexican international, a loan move where he is likely to be a key player will benefit all parties.
Despite the departure of Illarramendi and the loss of Granero, the San Sebastian side do still have options in the midfield, as 20-year-old Ruben Pardo continues to impress, whilst David Zurutuza displays have had him linked with an international call-up with the France squad. Adding a talent like dos Santos – who is desperate for an opportunity to impress – could make the fans forget about the losses.