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La Liga Returns Without Lionel Messi, Sergio Ramos

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Lionel Messi

La Liga, just three years ago the undisputed monarch of European football, returns for a new season on Friday after a traumatic summer that ended with its crown jewel being given away. 

 

 

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 have been particularly cavalier in racking up debts estimated at 1.2bn euros, Spanish football has money worries

 

 

The pandemic has cost the top-flight clubs some 2bn euros (1.4bn dollars) and the desperation is showing.

 

 

The league is trying to enforce a tough salary cap, while searching for funds.

 

 

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.

 

 

Yet the same two clubs are refusing to give up hope of a giant, and potentially toxic, carrot of their own, even though nine of the other Super League clubs have withdrawn and the source of the $4bn loot, bankers JP Morgan Chase, have apologised to fans.

 

 

 

The Euros and Olympics again displayed the depth of talent in Spanish football and this may be the season for youngsters to break out because, with 20 days left in the transfer window, Spanish cubs are not buying players.

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Real and Barcelona, who between them won every  Champions League final from 2014-18, are living, and dying, by free transfers.

 

 

Like Barcelona, Real Madrid decided they could not afford a new contract for their talismanic captain. Like Messi, Sergio Ramos departed for a late-career jackpot at Paris Saint-Germain.

 

 

Such is the cachet of Real and Barca that they can still attract a high class of free agent.

 

 

Barcelona have picked up Memphis Depay, Eric Garcia and Sergio Aguero.

 

 

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

 

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

Real are under new management, with Carlo Ancelotti returning to replace Zinedine Zidane who, for a second time, quit in frustration.

 

 

The Italian must cope with the consequences of the club’s long shopping addiction and work out what to do with returning loan stars such as Gareth Bale, Martin Odegaard and Dani Ceballos.

 

 

 

– Sensing weakness –

In the financial gale, simply standing still might be an achievement.

Champions Atletico kick off with last season’s stars and coach, Diego Simeone, still in place.

 

 

They have also made by far 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 season, but other clubs could be sniffing weakness.

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Sevilla, under Real reject Julen Lopetegui, finished just behind Barcelona.

 

 

 

They have turned local winger Suso’s loan into a permanent move by paying AC Milan a pre-agreed 20m euros. They also acquired spikey Argentine midfielder Erik Lamela from Tottenham on a free transfer.

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

Real Sociedad  who have shown potential but not top-four consistency, have been involved in a total of 500,000 euros of deals. That’s the sum they paid Bournemouth for Spanish fullback Diego Rico.

 

 

 

If stability builds teams, then, after three-and-half years under coach Imanol Alguacil, the San Sebastian club could be ready to challenge the troubled giants.

 

 

 

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

 

 

They paid 15m for Juan Foyth, a price set the previous year when the Argentine defender joined on loan from Tottenham, and 12m euros for centre forward Boulaye Dia from Reims.

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ALL GONE RON Barcelona fans demand Koeman is sacked after he plays Pique as STRIKER vs Granada and rules out ‘tiki-taka’ football

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Barcelona

BARCELONA fans are calling for boss and club legend Ronald Koeman to be sacked after playing Gerard Pique as a STRIKER.

 

 

The Spanish club are struggling for goals after allowing star forwards Lionel Messi and Antoine Griezmann to leave in the summer.

 

 

Barca needed a 90th-minute equaliser against Granada on Monday evening to secure a 1-1 draw and maintain their unbeaten start in LaLiga.

 

 

A late goal from defender Ronald Araujo spared Koeman’s blushes but the manager was still heavily criticised for the team’s woeful performance.

 

 

#KoemanOUT was trending on Twitter throughout Monday evening and many were perplexed as to why Pique was playing up front.

 

 

The Spanish defender was brought on in the 75th minute and did make an impact, controlling the ball in the box for Gavi, 17, to assist the goal.

And Pique has played as a striker before, with Pep Guardiola shoving him up front in Barca’s Champions League defeat to Inter Milan in 2010.

 

 

But fans were still furious with Barca’s display, leaving Koeman to defend his players and their prospects for this season.

 

 

As quoted by the Daily Mail, Koeman said: “If you see the squad list today do you really think we can play tiki-taka?

“Barca right now is not the Barca of eight years ago.

“We play the Barca way but we don’t have the speed in wide areas because we have Coutinho who cuts inside and Demir who doesn’t reach the byline much.

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“When Ansu Fati and [Ousmane] Dembele come back then we will be different but they are not fit so we have to find alternatives.”

 

 

Monday evening’s result leaves Barcelona seventh in LaLiga, five points behind leaders and rivals Real Madrid with a game in hand.

 

It also comes just six days after Koeman’s team were thrashed 3-0 at home by Bayern Munich in the Champions League.

 

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Tottenham Boss Nuno Espirito Santo Insists He Wouldn’t Swap ‘Amazing’ Harry Kane For Chelsea Hot Shot Lukaku

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Tottenham

The Spurs boss said: “I don’t even consider that option because it’s something that I don’t think about – for me, it doesn’t make sense. Harry is an amazing player.”

 

Nuno hailed Kane’s ability and attitude after the England captain failed to force through a move to Manchester City this summer.

 

 

He said: “I have been impressed with his quality and talent.

 

 

“I think he still can improve. We are in that process of trying to find the best levels of fitness. But his dedication has been huge.”

 

 

Striker Son Heung-min, defender Eric Dier and midfielder Ryan Sessegnon are all injured and set to miss tomorrow’s home clash with Lukaku’s Chelsea.

 

Attackers Steven Bergwijn and Lucas Moura are also big doubts after picking up knocks in the 2-2 Europa Conference League draw at Rennes on Thursday.

 

 

But Tottenham could be boosted by the return of Argentina duo Giovani Lo Celso and Cristian Romero, plus Colombia centre-back Davinson Sanchez.

 

 

The trio have been training in Croatia where they have been self-isolating, after travelling to South America on international duty without the club’s permission.

 

 

Nuno said: “They arrive back Saturday and will have a training session in the afternoon. If they are available and fit, they will be in the squad.

 

 

“They are working hard in Croatia with the sports science department. We’ll assess them properly.”

 

 

Nuno is not surprised by how quickly Thomas Tuchel has turned things around at Stamford Bridge.

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The German guided the Blues to Champions League glory in May, just four months after taking over.

 

 

Nuno said: “Chelsea are a very good team and Thomas is doing an amazing job.

 

 

“They have lots of strengths, talented players, they play good football, they are organised and intense.

 

 

“They are European champions so we must value that. But we will compete, that’s a promise.”

 

Tottenham won all three of their opening top-flight fixtures, before the wheels came off in a 3-0 loss at Crystal Palace last week.

 

 

But defender Matt Doherty – who played under Nuno at Wolves – is backing his gaffer to get it right.

 

 

He said: “He is only at the start of his reign, it takes time. You see what he did at Wolves, it takes a few seasons to master it.”

 

 

 

SUN

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The Micro-Economy Spinning Around Messi’s Paris Adventure

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MESSI

For Paris photographer Olivier Sanchez, there is only one story in town: the new life of Lionel Messi.

Newspapers and magazines around the world harangue his Crystal Pictures agency for images of the Argentine footballer, his wife and children settling into the French capital a month after arriving.

“Today, for me, it is Messi and no one else,” he said. “Everybody wants a piece of him. He is king. Simple.”

When Messi’s childhood club FC Barcelona announced they could not afford to keep the six-times Ballon d’Or winner, French club Paris St Germain (PSG) swooped.

PSG agreed a staggering net salary of 71 million euros ($84 million) over two years, according to media, but club chairman Nasser al-Khelaifi said bluntly that people would be “shocked” by the revenue he would fetch.

The money train extends far beyond the club.

From luxury real estate agents to Argentine restaurant owners, paparazzi to private concierge, Messi represents a financial opportunity.

Sanchez said he had at least two photographers collecting tips and following Messi and PSG for the first shots of the family when they finally break cover from their hotel.

In Barcelona, he won the admiration of locals for his down-to-earth lifestyle, waving at neighbours, enjoying seafront meals and taking his children to bouncy castles.

“If we can get them in a park, or strolling in town, or out at Disneyland Paris, the newspapers will lap it up,” Sanchez said.

Luxury real estate agent Susie Hollands, meanwhile, is scouring the market for a property worthy of a man listed by Forbes as the world’s second highest-paid athlete in 2021. Hollands, founder of boutique real estate group Vingt Paris, has collaborated with PSG before and is familiar with players’ demands.

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“Typically, they’re going to want 1,000 square metres – that barely exists in central Paris – and parking for their cars,” Hollands said.

Top-notch security and privacy are also important.

One PSG player, whose housing Hollands worked on, was paying 35,000 euros ($30,000) per month, she said, adding that such a rental contract would earn her 50,000-60,000 euros in fees.

“We’re taking a look to see if we can find something. But you either have it or you don’t,” Hollands said, adding that she was one of a select group of agents the club worked with.

MESSI BOUNCE

For several years after the Emir of Qatar bought PSG in 2011, Yves Abitbol’s concierge company helped settle some of its highest-profile players, organising the house hunt, dealing with banking and insurance paperwork, and finding house staff.

Sometimes he catered for a player’s fancier needs, including visits to sports car dealerships and luxury watch boutiques.

Abitbol said his firm MyConcierge had worked closely with PSG until it created its own internal team several years ago, cutting the likes of him out.

Nonetheless, Abitbol’s upmarket travel agency has seen a Messi bounce. “I’ve got people around the world asking us to organise three days in Paris with seats for match day to watch Messi,” he said.

The red-hot demand to see Messi in person – even when he was just watching from the stands rather than playing – saw tickets for PSG’s first game after his signing, at home to Strasbourg, sell secondhand for over 800 euros.

On Wednesday night, he was set to join fellow superstars Neymar and Kylian Mbappe in a frightening attacking trio away to Brugge in the Champions League.

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His number 30 jersey, which retails at 108 euros, has sold faster than any other, PSG said. Activity tracker Talkwalker said that from the Friday Messi was first linked to the club in early August to the following Tuesday when he signed, PSG gained 3 million followers across social media platforms.

Again, the club was not alone

“We saw a jump on social media,” said Enrique Tirigall, co-founder of Volver, an upmarket Argentine restaurant chain in Paris. Reservations for his flagship steakhouse, a popular haunt for PSG stars including Messi compatriot Angel Di Maria, flooded in after the Argentine sealed his deal.

“Everybody want to eat what he eats,” Tirigall said.

($1 = 1.1814 euros)

Reuters

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