LaLiga: A new season begins amid financial cloud, but without Lionel Messi

On Tuesday, the free transfer of Lionel Messi from Madrid Saint-Germain highlighted the financial turmoil that is undermining Spanish football’s power.

After a difficult summer, LaLiga, three years ago, was the undisputed champion of European football.

The free transfer of Lionel Messi to Paris Saint-Germain on Tuesday drove home the financial turmoil that is eroding the power of Spanish football.

While Messi is the biggest star to leave, and his former club Barcelona has been particularly cavalier in racking up debts estimated at 1.2 billion euros, Spanish football has money worries.

The pandemic has already cost top-flight clubs around 2 billion euros (1.4 million dollars), and the desperation is starting to show.

While the league is looking for funding, it is trying to enforce a strict salary cap.

Its assembly on Thursday will vote on the sale of 10 per cent of commercial rights for 50 years to private equity firm CVC in exchange for 2.7 billion euros.

Real Madrid and Barcelona are fighting the deal, saying it is selling their futures.

The same clubs refuse to let go of a huge, potentially toxic carrot, despite nine other Super League clubs withdrawing and JP Morgan Chase, the source of $4 billion, apologising to fans.

Spanish players are still being bought by Spanish cubs, despite the Olympics and Euros displaying their talent.

Real and Barcelona, who together won every Champions League final between 2014-18, are still alive and well, thanks to free transfers.

Real Madrid, like Barcelona, decided that they couldn’t afford to renew their contract for their talismanic captain. Sergio Ramos, like Messi, left for Paris Saint-Germain to win a late-career lottery.

Real and Barca have such a strong reputation that they are still able to attract high-ranking free agents.

Barcelona has signed Eric Garcia, Memphis Depay and Sergio Aguero.

While Real are, once again, being linked to Kylian Mbappe of PSG, the biggest fee either club has spent the 9m euros Barcelona gave Betis for Brazilian fullback Emerson Royal.

Real have replaced the hard edge of Ramos with the all-around defensive quality of another trophy magnet David Alaba.

Real is under new management with Carlo Ancelotti replacing Zinedine Zidane, who quit frustration for the second time.

It is up to the Italian to deal with the effects of their long-standing shopping addiction and figure out how to handle loan return stars like Gareth Bale and Martin Odegaard.

Sensing weakness

Even in a financial storm, it might be possible to stand still.

Champions Atletico will kick off with the stars and coach Diego Simeone still in place.

They have also made the biggest outlay of the Spanish summer, buying Argentine midfielder Rodrigo de Paul from Udinese for a reported 35m euros.

Real and Barcelona followed Atletico home last year, but other clubs may be looking for weakness.

Sevilla finished second behind Barcelona, according to Julen Lopetegui (Real reject).

AC Milan paid a pre-agreed amount of 20m euros to turn Suso’s loan from the local winger into a permanent deal. On a free transfer, they also bought Argentine midfielder Erik Lamela (from Tottenham).

The club’s wheeler-dealer director of football, Monchi, is dangling his most saleable asset, defender Jules Kunde, in front of English clubs. Monchi will most likely buy if he sells.

Real Sociedad, who have shown potential but have not been top-four consistent, has been involved in a total amount of 500,000 euros worth of deals. This is the amount Bournemouth paid for Spanish fullback Diego Rico.

Stability builds teams. The San Sebastian club could then challenge troubled giants after three-and-a-half years of coach Imanol Aguacil.

Villarreal, fresh from another European exploit as they brought a trophy back to Spain by winning the Europa League, has seemed the most buoyant of Liga clubs this summer, making two of the four eight-figure signings far.

They paid 15m to Juan Foyth (a price they set when the Argentine defender was on loan from Tottenham) and 12m euros to Boulaye Dia, the centre forward from Reims, for their Juan Foyth.


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