Six games into the new La Liga campaign sees four points separate the top five teams, with the usual heavyweights right in the mix.
However, following yesterday’s action, an unlikely leader headed to the Primera División summit, with Villarreal now leading the way on 16 points.
The El Madrigal outfit beat fellow high-flyers Atlético Madrid 1-0 at home to ensure that they remain unbeaten, while the defeated side find themselves in fifth.
The result may well have been the most important thing for both sides, but the game had a number of interesting sub-plots that also pose a generic question over loan regulations.
A number of the players on show were familiar to the other team, with the most evident returning star Luciano Vietto.
The rising Argentine starlet captivated Spanish audiences last season for El Submarino Amarillo, scorching his way through opposition rearguards in his first campaign in European football.
Compatriot Diego Simeone had started Vietto’s footballing journey during the pair’s mutual time together at Racing Club and once the young striker had proven he had what it took to excel in Spain, it appeared to be when rather than if the South American would end up reunited with the manager at Atlético.
Things haven’t quite gone to plan for Vietto since moving to the capital, with the striker said to be struggling with the renowned intensity of the Atleti training sessions and not showing his best form on the pitch for his new employers as yet.
With Simeone’s men reinforcing their attacking options over the summer, the Argentine has received less than 100 La Liga minutes so far this season, starting just one game and is yet to hit the back of the net for Los Colchoneros.
With the visitors trailing 1-0 at half-time, Vietto was introduced from the bench along with Fernando Torres, but could not inspire the away team to a comeback upon his return to El Madrigal.
On the other side of the divide, the eventual match-winner Léo Baptistão scored the only goal of the game early in the piece to further his reputation as a player that is able at this level.
Ironically, the 23-year-old Brazilian is on loan from Atlético to Villarreal and as such was clearly motivated to show his parent club just what they were missing by farming him out.
The Santos-born forward has been on Atlético’s books for two years but has only been handed five La Liga appearances for the club in that time, instead spending his time on loan at former club Rayo Vallecano, Real Betis and now with the Castilians.
Baptistão’s goal throws up an interesting question over the use of loan players and the contrasting regulations between differing European countries.
Over most of the continent, and certainly in Spain, it is the norm for the loaned player to be eligible to face the team that he is contracted with.
In the British game however, it is more commonplace for a clause to be written into the deal preventing the player from featuring against the parent club.
Arsène Wenger has been a vocal advocate of following the European way of conducting temporary deals, as the parent club are perceived as gaining an advantage by allowing a player to feature against all the other teams, but not themselves – something that the FA would be advised at revisiting.
In this case, Atleti will be scorning their luck that Baptistão has come back to haunt them, while Villarreal are certainly not missing last season’s attacking talisman Vietto as they sit on top of La Liga.
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