The imminent signing of Real Sociedad’s Spain Under-21 international midfielder Asier Illaramendi for Real Madrid has once again thrown into the spotlight the worrying imbalance in Spain’s La Liga.
Illaramendi is expected to sign a 30 million Euro deal with Real Madrid before this Thursday. The midfielder is set to become Madrid’s third signing this summer, along with his Under-21 companion Isco — who joined for a similar fee from Malaga — and full back Javier Carvajal, reports Xinhua.
These transfers, along with Madrid’s decision to pay six million Euros to retain the services of Brazilian loanee Casimiro, amount to a 72 million Euros spending by the team so far.
La Liga champions FC Barcelona have so far only made one signing, spending around 50-70 million Euros to bring Brazilian ace Neymar to Camp Nou. More signings for the team are sure to happen in the coming weeks.
This contrasts sharply with the experience of the remaining 18 clubs in Spain’s top flight. Third-placed Atletico Madrid, have sold top-scorer Radamel Falcao to Monaco for 60 million Euros. Real Sociedad, currently placed fourth, are on the point of losing Asier Illaramendi — their best player — to Real Madrid.
Last season almost bucked a trend of Barcelona and Madrid running away with the league, given that Atletico Madrid finished just nine points behind second-placed Real Madrid, and 24 behind Barcelona. Valencia finished fifth in the league, but debts of over 400 million Euros mean virtually their entire squad is up for sale.
Malaga, who finished sixth, have seen their squad dismantled with Joaquin, Martin Demichelis, Roque Santa Cruz, Javier Saviola, and coach Manuel Pellegrini leaving the team. Seventh-placed Betis have seen an exodus as well, with key players Benat Etxebarria and Jose Canas among the departures.
Rayo Vallecano produced a heroic season to finish eighth, but half of their squad — including top scorers Leo Baptistao and Piti — have left for better pastures. Ninth-placed Sevilla have been forced to sell star winger Jesus Navas to Manchester City, and striker Alvaro Negredo is likely to follow him to England.
The only club apart from Barca and Madrid to spend over five million Euros on a player is Athletic Club Bilbao. The team spent between 8-11 million Euros for buying Benat from Betis, and four million Euros on former Osasuna striker Kike Sola. Bilbao’s funding comes from the last season transfer of midfielder Javi Martinez to Bayern Munich for 40 million euros. Striker Fernando Llorente left for free this season, after deciding against signing a new deal.
It seems almost certain that the gap between the two footballing giants and the rest of the league will be at least 20 points, if not more, this coming season. The fact that the two teams have for the past few years earned over 50 percent of the money paid for TV rights in La Liga is a major factor in this imbalance. The country’s economic crisis has also contributed to this skew, as attendances have dropped in almost all of Spain’s grounds.
Last year saw Spain’s Congress confirm that clubs owe 752 million Euros to the treasury, and although that has probably fallen over the past year, it has done so at the expense most clubs losing their best players.
Valencia were crowned the 2003-04 league champions, and the title has been shared between Barca and Madrid ever since. In the context of the current situation, the same may happen this year too.