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Why La Liga clubs are spending so little during this transfer window

124 million euros. This is more or less the price of a top player today, but also the total amount spent by the Spanish teams this summer at the time of writing these few lines. This is much less than the Premier League (€550m, and it should continue to rise significantly), the Bundesliga (€293m), Serie A (€271m) and even Ligue 1 (€237m). ). Clearly, La Liga had not accustomed us to this inactivity in the summer period. For example, there were only three transfers exceeding ten million euros this summer: Rodrigo de Paul to Atlético for 35 million euros, the purchase option exercised by Villarreal for Juan Foyth (15 M €) and the transfer of Boulaye Dia to the Yellow Submarine (€12m). A fairly bleak transfer window financially which has many explanations, the first being quite obvious, namely the covid. Even if the virus did not only affect Spain, it put in extreme difficulty an FC Barcelona already in the hard base, and calmed the galactic plans of Real Madrid. When the two locomotives of the championship cannot splurge, of course, it shows.

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Basically, non-elite Spanish clubs have never really been big spenders in recent years. While some of them like Villarreal, Sevilla or Real Sociedad have acquired a slightly higher purchasing power than they were used to historically, the trend has always been quite clear: sell before you buy. Since the crisis of the late 2000s, to which we will return later, it was very rare to have clubs outside the top three with a negative transfer balance of several tens of millions of euros. The increase in TV rights and a little smarter financial management at many clubs had made it possible to cross a financial threshold, with several clubs which had broken transfer records before the epidemic. But the evaporation or reduction of many sources of income has sent them back to the starting point more or less. Concretely, the La Liga clubs were already not necessarily rolling in gold and are even more vulnerable at the moment.

Economic control, relentless

Then comes the legislation specific to the Spanish championship, which in the eyes of many observers represents a definite disadvantage this summer. This has not gone unnoticed, for several years, President Javier Tebas has set up a similar body equivalent to the French DNCG to ensure the good financial health of clubs. The payroll of each team is controlled so that it is in agreement with the income generated by the club in question. In recent years, the clubs had done it rather well, and this measure had also been one of the few points that had earned praise from the sulphurous boss of the Iberian championship. It must be said that the latter had succeeded in his bet, significantly reducing debts, and with clubs ending almost all seasons with profits. But in times of crisis, he decided to maintain the criteria already established, not relaxing the rules (as UEFA fair play did for example).

And inevitably, with less income but the same rules to respect and the same expenses from a salary point of view, the room for maneuver is less. Without going so far as to take the example of Barça, which is an extreme case and whose situation is more linked to poor management than anything else, others are in trouble without necessarily having much to blame themselves for. A club like Levante, for example, which was a management reference before the crisis with profits of 12 million euros for the 2019-2020 financial year and a record turnover over this same period, must sell bankable players like José Campaña to register its few recruits and validate the extension of José Luis Morales. Suffice to say that under these conditions, it is difficult to align the millions at all costs, and only the clubs which were really wide last season or have reached a level (going from not playing Europe to qualifying for the EL or the LDC for example) can display a somewhat interesting purchasing power.

Traumas from the past

If we rely on the financial balance sheets of the clubs – apart from a few critical cases like that of Barça – the consequences of the covid have not been catastrophic either. Some clubs like Betis, Elche, Real Sociedad, among others, even made a profit in the 2019/2020 financial year, waiting for the results of this year, where we already know that Sevilla also finished. in the green for example. Even Real Madrid, which is often presented as a club hit hard by the consequences of covid, ended with profits. Meager of course – €874,000 – but it’s not given to everyone to finish in the green in the current period. We cannot therefore necessarily say that the Merengues are in a financial crisis.

If many of these clubs which are however in a normal or even optimal situation do not recruit, in addition to the constraints of La Liga mentioned above, it is therefore out of prudence and not necessarily because of major financial concerns. During the 90s and 2000s, especially after the compulsory transition to SAD (sports limited company) for Spanish professional clubs, many of them lived well beyond their means. And it paid dearly in the late 2000s and early 2010s, with clubs with colossal debts, unable to pay their players for some, even going so far as to force La Liga to relegate some administratively. Some, like the club of Xerez or Salamanca, have even disappeared… Traumatized by a recent past, the leaders of the Spanish formations call for caution and prefer to ignore an expensive transfer window so as not to put their club in the hard .

Very little help

Certain legal statuses specific to Spain are also a bit handicapping for the two monsters of La Liga, since with Osasuna and Athletic, they had managed to escape this obligation to become SADs, retaining this model of socios. An advantageous situation on several points, whether fiscal or social, but which here are detrimental to them. Impossible for Merengues and Barcelonians to see shareholders inject money to cover losses, for example, as Frank McCourt did at OM to cite an example well known to all. Atlético de Madrid, which is a SAD, was also able to carry out a capital increase via the entry of a new investor group (belonging to the leaders in place) and therefore have a little more room for maneuver on this transfer window. , in addition to not having the obligation to degrease. The Colchoneros should also recruit again in the coming weeks.

Another important point: La Liga clubs have received little help from the Spanish government. Many still benefited from general measures such as partial unemployment, but the loans were quite meager, with a total of twelve La Liga clubs and three from the second division which were able to obtain credit, validated by the government, of 347 million euros. euros. A significant portion of the pie has come into the pockets of Real and Barça, with Atlético, Sevilla and Valencia in the back row. But if we look elsewhere, this total amount to be shared between fifteen clubs remains a fairly meager contribution compared to what can be done elsewhere. By comparison, Tottenham alone received a €195m loan from the Bank of England as part of a UK government program to help businesses in times of crisis. Many have therefore had to manage on their side, for example asking their player for wage cuts, or having to multiply the search for sponsorship contracts.

The end of the transfer window should be livelier

So should we really worry about La Liga? Not necessarily, some will say, especially since the national product, namely players trained in Spain, are quite efficient. A positive point since the clubs can count on their young shoots to strengthen the teams (Villarreal and Real Sociedad are good examples of this after their good season with a squad full of players trained at home), but also negative, insofar as where the big stables of the Old Continent will not hesitate to come and dig in the lands of Cervantes. Like Tottenham did with Sevilla prodigy Bryan Gil a few days ago, or like Manchester City did with Ferran Torres a year ago. If La Liga clubs were already having a hard time fighting to retain their players against the English monsters, this phenomenon is even more accentuated now.

The end of the transfer window, where negotiations are generally more accelerated with selling and buying clubs a little pressed for time and often obliged to accept the offer made by the camp opposite, should all the same be a little livelier. Many clubs are still eagerly awaited and rumors continue to fly in all directions across the Pyrenees. If there will a priori be no big transfer with millions if Pérez does not attract Mbappé to Real Madrid, there will still be several operations around or exceeding 20 million euros, with a Rafa Mir that practically all the European clubs in the championship are competing for, or even the Parisian Pablo Sarabia, announced on the return to Spain in an insistent way. In any case, we should expect to see a lot of loans with an option to buy, already trends last summer, with transfers that will be concluded once the situation improves. But no doubt, the Spanish clubs are likely to be much less competitive on the European scene this season, just as La Liga is likely to be a little less spectacular, it which is already coming out of a very sluggish season in terms of content and of the game offered to the spectators…

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