Whilst Barcelona sit at the top of the La Liga table, their Catalan rivals Espanyol have had a less than impressive start to the season.
Under boss Mauricio Pochettino, Espanyol are rooted in the drop zone on just six points after five defeats from the opening nine games. There are some signs of recovery though, as they are unbeaten in their last three games.
Whilst things on the pitch are slowly coming good, one situation off the field began this season as a dream but looks to be ending as a nightmare.
Eager to improve his attacking options, Pochettino and the club made an ambitious move for former Portuguese international Simao Sabrosa. Having left Turkish club Besiktas at the end of the season, Simao decided to make his third trip to Spain and signed on with Espanyol – an exciting arrival for the fans, even at 32.
This wasn’t Simao's first venture into the land of La Liga. After just two years in Sporting Lisbon's first team, Simao was snapped up by Barcelona in 1999. At the age of 19, he had been bought by one of the world's premier clubs for €15m.
Unfortunately, the move didn’t work for either party and Simao’s spell with the Catalan giants is most remembered for an altercation involving Valencia defender Roberto Ayala, who elbowed and studded the Portuguese international, for which the Argentine was given a three-match ban.
So just two years into his spell at Camp Nou, Simao was crossing the border back to Portugal, with Benfica ensuring that Barca at least recouped €12m through his sale. In his six years at Estadio da Luz, Simao rebuilt his reputation, scoring double figures in every season with The Eagles, and established himself as a key player for his national team.
Again though, Spain came calling for his services. This time it was Atletico Madrid, who paid €20m to bring him to Estadio Vicente Calderon. His reputation continued to grow as he became a vital cog in the Atletico line-up and it’s fair to say that Simao silenced some of his doubters in Spain by turning in great performances for the club.
But, after a two-year stint in Turkey, Simao returned this summer and seemingly so have the doubters. Appearing just three times for Espanyol, the exit door is already looming, with rumours all week suggesting that Simao would be heading back to Portugal in January – rumours which weren't denied in any way by Pochettino.
“I don't know if he will leave the club, I am not in his head. Everyone takes decisions thinking about their personal situation and he has not communicated anything to me,” commented the tactician, who almost every week has faced questions on why the veteran isn’t playing.
“In the four years I have been here I have always said the same thing. If someone doesn't like it here or doesn't want to belong to the dynamic or the discipline of the group then the doors are open, no matter what you are called.”
Pochettino has reportedly been particularly disappointed with Simao's physical condition as the winger struggles with his fitness and, coupled with rumoured attitude problems, has resulted in his omission from the team’s past three games.
Consequently, Simao is understood to have told his representatives to find him a new club ahead of the January transfer window, but with it not yet November, he could be set for a miserable spell on the sidelines unless he’s able to buy into Pochettino’s methods.
Whatever the reason for Simao’s discontent and whether or not his current Coach has ever previously had to deal with this situation in an otherwise young team remains to be seen. However, it certainly seems that the player’s time with Espanyol is over almost as soon as it started.