Bittersweet loss for Spanish football

La Liga president Javier Tebas has played down the significance of this summer’s departure of many top players from Spain.

Only Barcelona and Real Madrid made notable purchases in the close season, with the champions signing Neymar from Brazil’s Santos for €57 million (Dh282 million) and Gareth Bale joining Real for a world record €100 million from England’s Tottenham Hotspur.

Other La Liga clubs were forced to sell their best players as as they started coming to terms with Spain’s deepening economic crisis.

The likes of Radamel Falcao, who left Atletico Madrid for French league club Monaco for €60 million, Roberto Soldado who moved from Valencia to Tottenham for £26 million, and Alvaro Negredo and Jesus Nevas both of whom left Sevilla for Manchester City for a combined £31.3 million, highlighted an unprecedented drain of talent from Spanish football.

Tebas seemed unperturbed, telling Gulf News he wasn’t concerned by the departures. “Many of the stars still remain. It could be happening at some of the clubs that are adjusting their balance sheets,” he said.

“It’s kind of a bittersweet taste. Some players are leaving and some clubs could be a concern, but at the same time it is one step back and two or three steps forward because in two years those clubs will be in a great situation to be competitive and get the best players again.”

Perhaps, but the reality of Spanish football is that several clubs are struggling to stay afloat. Deportivo La Coruna are in administration and struggling to survive with debts of €150 million, while Malaga have been banned from  Champions League participation — as part of UEFA’s new financial fair play initiative — for failing to balance their books.

Tebas said: “Not only are we concerned but we are doing something about it. Malaga has to be congratulated because in one year they have adjusted their balance sheet in an outstanding manner and we are collaborating with Deportivo to avoid the club disappearing.”

Meanwhile, regarding Barcelona and Real Madrid’s domination of the league, a trend that can only be exacerbated by their  economic strength relative to the rest of Spanish football, Tebas, lifted his head from the sand to reply: “You have to see it in perspective. We’ve witnessed probably one of the best teams in history in Barcelona in recent years. But when they become mortal then we will see the true reality of the situation.”

And of the English Premier League’s claims on Spain’s supposed ‘top league’ league, Tebas said: “In the last UEFA Champions League there were two Spanish sides in the semi-final, so perhaps that’s a question for the other leagues to answer.”

And those teams were?