March 28th, 2010

brendan light

Domination by Barcelona and Real Madrid making Spain the new Scotland?


Photograph: Luis Gene/AFP/Getty Images
Article by Sid Lowe

The headline was as alarmist as it was partisan. "The government," declared Spain's best-selling newspaper, "is trying to kill Spanish football." It was November 2009 and the Socialist party prime minister, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, announced an end to "the Beckham Law". The sports daily Marca, part of the right-leaning El Mundo group, was furious. Presidents of the country's biggest clubs threatened to lead a strike. At the Spanish League they were talking as if the four horsemen of the apocalypse had reared into view.

According to article 93 of law 35, originally introduced by the previous Partido Popular government in 2004, foreign executives earning more than €600,000 (£540,000) a year are taxed at 23%, rather than 43%. In theory, the aim was to encourage talent to come to Spain: in practice, following a modification in 2005, it gave Spanish football clubs, already boosted by the collapse of the pound, a huge advantage. Of the 60 people who qualify for the lower rate of tax, 43 are footballers.

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Tebas may even be right, and not only due to the Beckham Law, because beneath the glistening surface Spanish football is in crisis. According to José María Gay, Spain's leading expert on football finance and an adviser to Uefa: "La Liga is dying." The Osasuna president, Patxi Izco, admits: "I fear a financial meltdown." "Football," insists another director, "is seriously ill."

The €455m transfer spend disguises a troubling reality. Last year, despite winning the treble, Barcelona made only €8.8m and have a debt of €350m. Madrid signed €258m worth of players but only after their president, Florentino Pérez, turned to two friends who are both presidents of banks and who loaned Madrid €151.5m.

The argument is that their debts are serviceable. In fact, Pérez insists that high expenditure is necessary to generate money and Madrid have become the first club to take income beyond €400m. But doubts remain; costs outstrip income, shirt sales are lower than those of Liverpool and Chelsea; Bernabéu attendances are down 7%; and the debt stands at €683m. Publicly, Pérez insists: "Madrid must always remain a club owned by its members." Privately, the possibility of becoming a plc has been discussed.

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Cesc Fabregas Story: In Preparation for Arsenal vs Barcelona

Cesc Fabregas and the class of 1987

written by Ian Hawkey

Asier Zengotitabengoa, as tall as his surname was long, picked up the little lad barely half his height and swung him around. Teenagers whooped and giggled. The boys of La Masia, where the aspiring young sportsmen of Barcelona lived and learnt, were letting off steam away from the eyes of trainers and tutors. But when Zengotitabengoa, a promising basketball player, let Leo Messi slip from his grip, they sensed this episode of high jinks had gone a little too far.

Messi, still laughing despite an injured shoulder, needed to keep his fall secret. Friends such as the upright and assured Gerard Pique and the kid from up the coast, Cesc Fabregas, said nothing. Messi duly took the field for the next outing of Barça’s cadet side, only to wince with pain at the first challenge. He was taken off, receiving a stern warning to curb his playtime tomfoolery.

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Thought this was a very interesting and well written article that was worth sharing.
Arsenal vs Barcelona should be amazing this Wednesday!