Fourth-tier Becerril were so impressed by what they had witnessed first-hand that they decided to sample Real Sociedad again—this time as spectators rather than participants on the end of an 8-0 Copa del Rey thrashing. And so, after suffering humiliation at the hands of Imanol Alguacil’s side, Becerril visited the Anoeta as a team to watch La Real put on another show.
The lower league outfit certainly weren’t the only ones to note Real Sociedad as Spanish soccer’s great entertainers last season. Indeed, Alguacil’s side became La Liga’s must-watch team, but they came up just short in their efforts to finish in the top four and qualify for the Champions League.
Sociedad faltered badly after lockdown, winning just two of their final 11 league fixtures to ultimately finish sixth. In the end, the Basque side weren’t able to translate their eye-catching performances into cold, hard results. They have, however, given themselves a platform to build upon and one summer signing in particular suggests they will indeed build something bigger.
David Silva has been one of the best playmakers in the European game over the last decade-and-a-half and so it was unsurprising that a whole host of clubs lined up to make their sales pitch to the 34-year-old following his decision to leave Manchester City at the end of last season. Few expected Silva to pitch up at the Anoeta, though.
Lazio thought they’d won the race to sign Silva, with the Serie A club even scheduling a medical for the player having conceded negotiations. They were caught cold just like everyone else when Real Sociedad announced the capture of the playmaker, with Silva going back on his word. “I have great respect for the player, but not for the man,” Lazio sporting director Igli Tare said in light of the news.
The prospect of Silva as a Real Sociedad player is an exciting one. Alguacil needed a playmaker of the 34-year-old’s mould following Real Madrid’s decision to cut short Martin Odegaard’s two-year loan spell at the Anoeta, with the Norwegian one of the stars of the 2019/20 La Liga season. La Real couldn’t have hoped to find a better replacement.
There are some slightly positional and stylistic differences between Silva and Odegaard. The latter is more likely to pick up the ball and drive it forward on his own, while the former prefers to pick a pass. Silva is also capable of playing in a wide position, whereas Odegaard is most effective in a central role.
But Alguacil should still be able to harness Silva. The veteran is joining a club packed with young talent. Odegaard wasn’t the only one to shine last season, with Mikel Merino also enjoying an exceptional campaign as one half of La Real’s double pivot. The 24-year-old’s form was enough to thrust him into the national team reckoning - Merino made his Spain debut in last week’s 1-1 UEFA Nations League draw against Germany.
Igor Zubeldia was the other half of Sociedad’s double pivot, with the 23-year-old also considered among Spain’s best midfield ball players. The central pairing of Merino and Zubeldia will provide Silva with the perfect basis to operate from this season. At 34, he can no longer cover the ground like he used to, but La Real are well equipped to compensate for that.
Mikel Oyarzabal is surely excited at the prospect of learning from one of Spain’s best ever players. The 23-year-old continues to grow and develop with every season he plays and Silva could prove to be the perfect mentor. Then there’s Alexander Isak, the young Swedish striker who got after the turn of the year last season.
Isak has the potential to grow into one of the best centre forwards in the sport. The move to Borussia Dortmund in 2017 came too early for the Swede, naturally compared to Zlatan Ibrahimovic, but at Real Sociedad he has flourished. His match-winning performance against Real Madrid in last season’s Copa del Rey was a showcase of just how good Isak could be.
Silva as a supply line should get the best out of Isak, with Willian Jose and Portu also almost certain to benefit from the former Manchester City midfielder’s arrival at Sociedad this summer. Alguacil’s side might still be La Liga’s great entertainers, but Silva’s signing could give them an edge of efficiency they previously lacked. It could be the difference between more of the same and a top four finish.
Real Sociedad Schedule
Real Sociedad open the season against Real Valladolid, a club that finished nine points behind La Real in last year's La Liga campaign.
The very next weekend, Sociedad will host La Liga champions Real Madrid at the Anoeta, making Silva's smooth insertion into the squad a critical early endeavour.
Sunday, September 12 vs Real Valladolid
10 a.m. ET, beIN Sports, streaming on fuboTV
Sunday, September 20 vs Real Madrid
3 p.m. ET, beIN Sports, streaming on fuboTV
Sunday, September 27 vs Elche
Wednesday, September 30 vs Valencia
Sunday, October 4 vs Getafe
Sunday, October 18 vs Real Betis
Sunday, October 25 vs Huesca
Sunday, November 1 vs Celta Vigo
Sunday, November 8 vs Granada
Sunday, November 22 vs Cadiz
Sunday, November 29 vs Villarreal
Sunday, December 6 vs Alaves
Sunday, December 13 vs Eibar
Sunday, December 20 vs Levante
Wednesday, December 23 vs Atletico Madrid
Wednesday, December 30 vs Athletic Club