Spanish football is at its lowest, it’s Europe’s sick man


There are few shocking results in modern Champions League history that will resonate longer than Sheriff Tiraspol’s victory at the Bernabéu – partly the story of an unpredictable break with tenuous democracy claims including the president favors the abandonment of traditional alliances in favor of union with a much greater power.

For the avoidance of doubt, there is talk of the rogue state of Transnistria, where the sheriff lives, and its ties to Russia, rather than the continued attempts by Real Madrid president Florentino Pérez to portray himself as the modern liberator of his club tyrannies of UEFA. Still, what an evening for European football, even if it is difficult to portray Sheriff as the heroic underdog given his financial dominance of Moldovan football which has won 19 of the last 21 league titles. Pérez will note that this is an even better comeback than the hegemony of Real and Barcelona in 17 of the last 22 La Liga titles.

What the result reveals to Spanish football is that its financial crisis is now having full effect on the pitch, where the declining performances of the country’s two greats in previous years are now yielding seriously embarrassing results. At UEFA, where the governing body had to back down this week by imposing disciplinary measures on escaped members of the European Super League, in the all-out legal war with Pérez, it was the ideal result to show the healthiness of its competition. Even though the mysteriously funded sheriff wasn’t the perfect candidate to be Tuesday night’s story makers.

Barcelona then lost 3-0 to Benfica in Lisbon on Wednesday night after losing by the same score at home to Bayern Munich earlier this month. Serious questions loom over the long-term future of Spanish football and its two biggest clubs who have staked everything on the launch of the Super League.

Wednesday marks the announcement of official salary caps imposed by La Liga, although most of them have already been disclosed. Calculated on projected income, including the dubious science of predicting player sales income, it’s fair to say that La Liga’s financial controls have been even less effective in mitigating overspending than those designed for the English League. of football. Barcelona’s collapse means they have a cap of around € 98m, less than Villarreal and Real Sociedad, and up from € 382m the year before. How are the mighty fallen.

Real’s ceiling rose from € 469m to € 739m, more than Sevilla, Atlético Madrid, Villarreal and Barcelona combined. But it hardly looks like real money. Granted, no one really expects them to spend this with debts of around $ 1.1 billion. The extent of Real’s debt has yet to be revealed this year and there will undoubtedly be plenty of more Kylian Mbappé stories by next summer as a useful distraction.

Either way, the big difference in the official salary budget of the La Liga-sanctioned club – whether or not that represents real purchasing power – compared to the much more limited resources of those clubs which are supposed to be their rivals. makes La Liga absurd. As lopsided as the kind of single-club dominated leagues that people like Sheriff Tiraspol operate in.

Sheriff’s shock defeat came for Los Blancos who lost at home and away in the group stage last season to Shakhtar Donetsk, and two years before they were beaten by CSKA Moscow at the same stadium. The situation is not much better in the general state of Spanish football, where the dispute over the Super League, and now the same over the investment of 2.7 billion euros in La Liga of the private equity firm CVC, divides a fragile financial ecosystem.

For years, Real and Barcelona have taken a much larger share of TV revenue, and the squeeze of those clubs he needs to keep the competition viable and interesting has driven Spanish football at this time. La Liga president Javier Tebas has the backing of 39 of the 42 clubs in the top two divisions for the CVC deal. Only Real, Barcelona and Athletic Bilbao stand against him. While it is far from ideal to sell a percentage of future income, for clubs like Getafe and Levante there is no alternative after the Covid collapse that followed years of income inequality broadcast.

Attendance has fallen again this season, with September records showing that on average only 70% of restricted-capacity stadiums have been filled. For clubs like Sevilla and Villarreal who have survived for years on astute player trading, a more equitable sharing of Premier League broadcast revenue disbursements to clubs remains a lost hope.

For example, in the 2019/20 season Barcelona earned 165 million euros thanks to La Liga broadcast deals, followed by Real Madrid (156 million euros), Atlético (124 million euros). euros) and in fourth place for Sevilla with 79 million euros – less than half of the highest paid club. To put that into perspective for the corresponding Premier League season, champions Liverpool earned £ 175million as a share of broadcast revenue, and fourth club Chelsea only earned £ 14million. less. Even 20th-ranked club that season Norwich City, with £ 94million, won more than half of the biggest share.

Over time, these inequalities have an effect. After destroying the balance of competition in their own league, the Super League was all about Real and Barcelona seeking to harvest a new planet of fresh resources to meet the insatiable demand for growth. Given how far these two have fallen in recent seasons, it still leaves something to be desired that the owners of the Premier League’s biggest clubs were willing to give them that Super League lifeline at the expense of their own home division. .

Sadness is for all those outside Spanish clubs that weren’t part of the spending frenzy of the past two decades. They only had to operate in such an unequal system for the two who benefited the most from trying to abandon them. The long-term future of La Liga will be based on greater equality promoting the competitiveness of all clubs. In the meantime, in Europe it is getting a lot more competitive for Real and Barcelona, ​​although they may not have a lot of fun.


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