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Five Stars of La Liga Who Need to Kick-Start Their Season After the International Break

Gareth-Bale-Kick-Start

Jackson Martínez – Atlético Madrid

Signed for €30 million in the summer, Atlético’s lust for the Colombian was hinged on the fact that they felt they had a ‘guaranteed’ striker; one who could come in from day one and add the striking firepower necessary for them to challenge for the title again.

After Mario Mandzukic failed to adequately replace Diego Costa in the previous season, the 29-year-old was seen as a safer option in that regard. “Simeone doesn’t want any surprises with his [number] nine this time, and so Jackson has arrived,” wrote Marca’s Alberto Polo, ahead of the season’s initiation.

Except, the ex-Porto man hasn’t been such a safe bet so far. He has scored just three times in 15 appearances for Atlético, and displayed few remnants of the dominance that typified his time in Portugal. But perhaps more pertinently, Jackson has struggled to adapt to the individual demands of Diego Simeone.

The situation isn’t so critical yet, given the recent history of stars taking their time to embrace such ways – namely Antoine Griezmann. But Jackson will have to make a more profound mark before the turn of the New Year, if he’s to stave off the encroaching pressure of Atlético’s other forward options.

Steven N’Zonzi – Sevilla

In a summer where Sevilla spent more money than ever before, Steven N’Zonzi represented one of the key members of their record outlay. Arriving from Stoke City for seven million euros, the 26-year-old appeared an ideal replacement for the departed Stéphane Mbia, and an effective foil to the combative Grzegorz Krychowiak.

But like most of Sevilla’s summer recruits not named Yehven Konoplyanka, the Frenchman is yet to make a defined mark in Andalucia. And what’s more, N’Zonzi has been the team’s most used summer signing in La Liga; starting seven of their 11 games to date, and receiving opportunities that a host of others are vying for.

In the all-encompassing rotation that Unai Emery and Sevilla rely on, particularly in midfield, those flattering to deceive won’t be persisted with for too long. Though the potential for N’Zonzi in the current team still seems exciting, Emery won’t be afraid to go a different route if the former Stoke man doesn’t up the stakes between now and the second half of the campaign.

Gareth Bale – Real Madrid

In a season where Real Madrid’s record signing has barely featured, the Welshman has still unintentionally found himself in the capital’s headlines. Though the reason for Bale’s stop-start campaign is due to injury, some high-profile figures in Madrid have put the blame on the player himself for his lack of fitness; while unfairly questioning his commitment to the club.

“You cost 100m euros Gareth, but you preferred to play 90 minutes against Andorra than play for Madrid,” wrote AS’ Tomas Roncero, after Bale’s participation for Wales prevented him from playing in los Blancos’ forthcoming game. 

In essence, it only serves to underline the fact that Bale still has plenty of work to do to win over the Madridismo. And now he’s healthy again, it’s time for the 26-year-old to become a key contributor in Real Madrid’s quest for honours.

With Cristiano Ronaldo’s form floundering on a rare occasion, the calls for Bale to step up – which seemingly will never go away as long as the Welshman is at the club – would be best served as soon as possible, for his own sake.

Rafael Van Der Vaart – Real Betis

Despite being made one of the highest earners at the time of his summer signing, Rafael Van Der Vaart’s assistance to a Real Betis team fighting to avoid relegation has been almost negligible so far. Through eleven games of the campaign, the Dutchman has appeared in just two of those, without completing ninety minutes in either.

Ahead of his move to Spain, the reports from the Bundesliga indicated the Van Der Vaart was struggling for form and ostensibly on the wane. But even still, followers of the Andalucian outfit are within their rights to expect a little more from a man with 100 international caps to his name, and one who is still only in his early 30’s.

“Betis is the perfect club for me to recover my level of playing,” Van Der Vaart told Marca earlier this month. Now he needs to show it, while letting his performances take pride over the bravado of the high-profile move. Otherwise, the Betis faithful won’t hesitate to retract their hospitality.

 Jonathas – Real Sociedad 

Much like Atlético and Jackson Martínez, the pitting together of Real Sociedad and Jonathas was supposed to give the Basque club a much-needed guarantee in the forward line. He had been prolific in a doomed Elche team last season, while the perceived upgrade in talent around him seemed to point towards a healthy link-up between player and club.

However, the Brazilian quickly fell out of favour under David Moyes, after only a handful of opportunities as the starting striker. In his place, the form of Imanol Aggiretxe has sentenced him to the bench. Or at least, it did.

With Moyes now relieved of his duties, there is a new sheriff in town. Eusebio Sacristán, most recently of Barcelona B, is the new coach at Anoeta, and for Jonathas in particular, it means a new opportunity to revive his campaign before it’s too late.

He might not be able to displace Agirretxe in the starting spot completely, should Eusebio continue the lone forward system, but he can certainly put pressure on the manager in regards to extending his participation.

About the author – Jamie Kemp

Jamie is a freelance sportswriter, who writes on English and Spanish varieties of football in the main. He is also the creator of the popular blog El Rondo; a spot where you can find regular musings on the world of La Liga.

twitter: @jamiekemp

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