Coach: Lucas Alcaraz
Key signings: Deyverson, Zouhair Feddal, Nabil Ghilas
Key sales: David Barral, Momo Sissoko, Loukas Vyntra
This season [predicted finish]: 16th
Predicted finish is the average prediction of the Football Espana team.
Although Levante eventually finished in 14th place last year the two-point gap to the relegation zone was too close to comfort, with safety only being assured with two games to spare, so Los Granotas will not want a repeat. Lucas Alcaraz – appointed last October in place of the axed Jose Luis Mendilibar with the Valencians second from bottom – was retained as the club’s Coach for the 2015-16 campaign and has had some major rebuilding work to do.
Experienced striker David Barral has left to try his hand in the United Arab Emirates with Al-Dhafra, while fellow frontman Kalu Uche was allowed to leave despite netting some crucial goals last term, including strikes in wins over Eibar and Malaga. Alcaraz has replaced them with Brazilian hitman Deyverson, a €2m signing from Portuguese side Belenenses who spent the latter part of last season on loan at Cologne, and Nabil Ghilas.
Algeria international Ghilas scored seven goals from 27 appearances last year whilst on a season-long loan at relegated Cordoba from Porto, and comes to the Ciutat de Valencia on a similar arrangement.
In midfield, Alcaraz has brought in Verza from Almeria and youngster Jefferson Lerma, signed from Colombian outfit Atletico Huila. However, the loss of former Valencia, Liverpool, Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain star Momo Sissoko to Shanghai Shenhua and Pape Diop’s exit, along with Austrian international Andreas Ivanschitz’s departure to Seattle Sounders, appears to have weakened this department.
Levante conceded 67 League goals last season – only Rayo Vallecano and Cordoba let in more – and while Loukas Vyntra and Ivan Ramis have gone to Hapoel Tel Aviv and Eibar respectively, the defence has been strengthened by the capture of central defenders Angel Trujillo for €1m from Almeria and free transfer Zouhair Feddal from freshly-bankrupt Parma.
Feddal, who has 10 caps for Morocco and can also function as a left-back or holding midfielder, has plenty of experience in Spanish football, having previously represented the likes of Espanyol B, Terrassa and San Roque. Behind them, the number of arrivals from Almeria was brought to three with the signing of goalkeeper Ruben.
Levante are into their sixth consecutive Primera season and a mid-table finish would probably constitute a measure of success, ensuring the continuity and stability that has been their hallmark since the financial troubles of five years ago. Indeed, the Levante Foundation, the club’s largest shareholder, recently voted against a proposed €55m takeover by American businessman Robert Sarver.
President Quico Catalan said that only 14 of the 33 members of the board of trustees voted in favour of selling 72 per cent of the club to Sarver and that a vote in favour of the proposal would have been ‘cowardly’.
It is a philosophy that has served Levante well, yet with a budget that is still under strict control and no unnecessary expenditure undertaken without proper justification, it is becoming even more difficult to survive year-on-year.