It's just over two months into the domestic league season in Europe and the lasting feeling is one of complete change. In Spain, Real Madrid has yet another new coach and its latest annual prize player purchase, while Atletico Madrid, shorn of Colombian hitman Radamel Falcao, tries to remain the biggest threat to the big two. Real's season has begun under Carlo Ancelotti as he continues his whistlestop tour around Europe. After eight years at Milan, the old warhorse did a two year stint at each of Chelsea and most recently PSG, collecting a league and cup double with former and a Ligue 1 medal with the latter. It would appear that moneybags clubs are his thing, with Real spending a world record 100 million Euros on Tottenham's Welsh winger, Gareth Bale. Still, they trail both arch rivals Barcelona and crosstown rival Atletico respectively. The latter have replaced Falcao with Diego Costa, a Brazilian born striker who, having become a naturalised Spaniard, has been allowed to switch allegiance by FIFA after the Spanish FA made an official request. Interesting trivia note - he made his Brazil debut against Italy in March and if he does play for Spain this year, would have turned out for both teams in the same calendar year. Barcelona themselves have a new coach, as Argentine, Gerardo ‘Tata’ Martino takes the helm, with new superstar Neymar in tow. The Blaugrana remain the team to beat in Spain and are that much more ominous with both Lionel Messi and Neymar part of the attack.
In Italy, Napoli, under new manager Rafael Benitez continue to be one of the favourites for the Serie A crown, continuing their rejuvenation over the past few years, but find themselves trailing a resurgent Roma, who are top of the table with 8 wins out of 8, under a new Allenatore of their own, Rudi Garcia. Garcia is well known to followers of the European game as the man who took Lille to a league and Cup double in France in 2010-11, building one of Ligue 1's most exciting squads on a relative budget. At time of writing, Roma were five points clear of second place with 22 goals scored and only one against. For a team whose two biggest signings this off season were PSV’s Dutch midfielder Kevin Strootman and Serb winger Adem Ljalic from Fiorentina, this is some achievement. It's only a fifth of the way in but the Scudetto appears to be a three way contest between Roma, Napoli and Juventus, who have won it two years in a row.
Germany sees Borussia Dortmund renew their rivalry with Bayern Munich. Having won the Bundesliga twice in a row before being overwhelmed by Bayern last year, as well as losing to the latter in the Champion's League final, Dortmund's attention continues to be focussed on their rivals from Bavaria. While Jurgen Klopp is still very much in charge at Dortmund, despite summer speculation linking him elsewhere, his opposite number at Bayern is another new appointment, although Pep Guardiola, needs no introduction on these pages. Bayern's epic treble winning season last year, where they simply annihilated everyone in Germany and Europe, including Pep's former all-conquering Barcelona side, was a perfect send-off to manager Juup Heynckes, who retired at age 67, having participating in more than 1000 games as either a player or manager in Germany. Pep's new side are not performing at full speed yet but are unbeaten and atop the table, when we went to press, a point ahead of Dortmund. Despite Bayer Leverkusen, in third, being tied on points with Dortmund, it's hard to see beyond the two finalists of the 2012-13 Champions' League domestic glory.
The most changed landscape surely has to be in the English Premier League with Chelsea (Jose Mourinho's second stint), Manchester United (David Moyes) and Manchester City (Manuel Pellegrini) all under new management. What's more, famously parsimonious Arsenal broke the bank to spend 42.5m Euros on German attacking midfielder Mesut Ozil. The latter is probably the most astounding of all the new developments as the London club are notoriously for spending next to nothing on transfers for over a decade. Despite a good start by the Gunners, their league leading position is sure to change as the tricker part of an easy opening schedule begins to appear. Currently on top, they are trailed by six teams, all within four points of each other. While financially supercharged City and Chelsea are the favourites for the title, the latter's familiarity with Mourinho may prove decisive over the season.
Finally, in France it appears that there's a new financial bully in town. PSG, who were threatening to make a mockery of Ligue 1, have a new challenger. Monaco, promoted back after a season in the second division, are powered by new majority owner Dimitry Rybolovlev, another Russian billionaire. His consortium's cash infusion has allowed the principality club to spend heavily on the likes of Falcao, Colombian winger James Rodriguez, Portuguese midfielder Joao Moutinho and French midfielder Geoffrey Kondogbia for a grand total of 150m Euros. They currently sit in second spot in Ligue 1, a brace behind with PSG. Everyone else is playing for 3rd place and the spot in the Champions League Playoff Round.
An interesting season awaits.