There might have been two clubs toasting Athletic Bilbao signing Ibai Gomez from Alaves on Thursday – Athletic for one, but also Real Madrid.
Few would expect the team that has won the Champions League three times in a row to be buoyed by a star player leaving Alaves, whose stadium holds just over 19 000 and who, five years ago, finished 18th in the second tier.
But currently it is Alaves who stand between Madrid and La Liga’s top four. Real missing out seems unthinkable, and for now it remains unlikely, but as their title hopes fade, priorities will adjust too.
The expectation is Alaves’ remarkable form will at some point drift, particularly now Gomez has gone, his departure to a team placed 17th suggesting he too believed the surge may not last. Read more