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Football Thread 2021/2022


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Great Athletic article about the finances at Madrid & Barca, I've been guilty of lobbing how 'they're both financially fucked' into the conversations but this clearly demonstrates how they really aren't equally screwed & Madrid have done a much better job of managing their Euro.



A Zoom call last week between international journalists and La Liga president Javier Tebas was dominated by the issue of whether Barcelona’s troubled finances meant they would not be able to re-register Lionel Messi even if he agreed to a huge pay cut.

For a change, one reporter asked whether the situation at Real Madrid was similar — if they had not been able to keep Sergio Ramos this summer due to comparable economic woes of their own.

“Real Madrid’s situation is very good, after the pandemic, because of what Madrid have done when they reach certain situations,” Tebas responded. “Fernando Hierro, Iker Casillas, Cristiano Ronaldo — and now Ramos. Real Madrid have managed the pandemic extraordinarily well.”

The positive tone of Tebas’ response was a little surprising, given he had earlier admitted to a difficult relationship with Madrid president Florentino Perez, but the admiration in his voice for how the construction magnate has managed to protect his club was clear.

This is not to say Madrid’s finances have not been seriously stressed through the last two years. Perez himself said at December’s AGM that the pandemic “was ruining us”, and he regularly stated how awful Madrid’s finances were during April’s completely mishandled push to start a European Super League. 

The COVID-19 pandemic arrived just as Madrid were taking on a €600 million renovation of their Santiago Bernabeu stadium. The loss of ticketing, sponsorship and match-day revenue put a €300 million hole in their finances for the 2020-21 season and there is uncertainty over when their revamped stadium will be ready to use.

“Barcelona’s situation is so chaotic that Madrid’s has not been noticed as much,” says a source. “But it is not much better. Florentino said it openly when he announced the Super League. The pandemic has done a lot of damage to Real Madrid.”

Ramos’ glittering Real Madrid career has ended with a free agent move to Paris Saint-Germain (Photo: Stuart Franklin – UEFA/UEFA via Getty Images)

So both of La Liga’s big two were very badly hit when all match-day revenues dried up completely. However, the underlying situations at each was very different, as were their reactions and potential for manoeuvre and cutting costs. Barcelona, under now-former president Josep Maria Bartomeu, had allowed their finances to get out of control due to overspending on transfer fees and especially wages. Madrid, under Perez, had run a tighter ship. 

This means they are in very different situations this summer.

The constant speculation that Madrid might offer €150 million-plus for Paris Saint-Germain striker Kylian Mbappe remains far-fetched — but, unlike their arch-rivals at the Nou Camp, there is no need for a fire-sale of assets.

La Liga’s salary cap is why Barcelona are currently unable to either register their four new signings or re-sign Messi, even on much reduced terms. Madrid, of course, also have to comply with these strict financial controls, which have caused significant pain over the last few years.

Before the pandemic, the two clubs had very similar wage limits — in 2019-20, Barcelona’s was just slightly higher (€671 million to €641 million). While Barcelona’s was almost halved to €347 million for last season, Madrid’s fell significantly too, although not so far, to €473 million. 

This is because Perez and his board were better able to adapt to the circumstances. Madrid’s budget for 2019-20 was to be €822 million but ended up as €715 million due to the pandemic. The official figure in the club’s budgeted accounts for 2020-21 was €617 million — a further blow but again, the situation was not nearly as dramatic as at Barcelona.

While Bartomeu’s board were indulging in accounting tricks such as the Arthur Melo/Miralem Pjanic swap deal with Juventus last summer, Madrid raised around €100 million by unsentimentally cashing in on very promising young talents including Achraf Hakimi, Sergio Reguilon and Oscar Rodriguez. They also lowered their wage bill by getting Gareth Bale back to Tottenham Hotspuron loan, and allowing James Rodriguez to join Everton on a free transfer. In January, they cut costs again by loaning out two more little-used squad players in Martin Odegaard and Luka Jovic. 

The Bernabeu board have also been much more successful than their Catalan counterparts in ‘persuading’ their club’s players to help deal with the financial situation.

Antipathy towards Bartomeu and his board meant any negotiations over money were difficult. Although the relationship between Perez and senior dressing room figures at Madrid has not always been very friendly, the club’s director general Jose Angel Sanchez played a key role in negotiating pay-cuts of around 15 per cent across the squad. 

Madrid’s players also ‘voluntarily’ gave up their bonuses for winning the 2019-20 La Liga title and Spanish Supercopa, saving the club around €30 million. The club’s directors and senior executives also took similar pay cuts, while several well-remunerated executives left for other jobs. Madrid’s ratio of salaries to income was also kept at 57 per cent — well below the 70 per cent figure recommended by UEFA, while Barcelona’s was spiralling well over 100 per cent.

It was pretty outstanding work in the circumstances and meant that the accounts presented at last December’s AGM showed a modest profit of €300,000. 

“Real Madrid have suffered two very tough years,” Perez said on Spanish radio last month. “In two years we have not brought in €500 million (that we otherwise would have). The generosity of the players has allowed us to be in a satisfactory position, considering what we have been through.” 

Such belt-tightening has, of course, affected the competitive level of the team.

Their last big splash on signings came pre-pandemic, in the summer of 2019, when over €250 million was spent on Jovic, Eden Hazard, Eder Militao and Ferland Mendy. The following January, another €30 million was invested in Brazilian teenager Reinier Jesus, but since then nothing has been spent on transfers, through three blank transfer windows when the only ‘new signings’ were players returning from loans.

This lack of strengthening led directly to shortcomings in Madrid’s squad, shown clearly during 2020-21, especially during a mid-season injury crisis.

Coach Zinedine Zidane arguably did a phenomenal job in reaching the Champions League semi-finals and keeping them in the running for La Liga until the final day.

A reckoning with the former galactico was coming however and he made it clear when he said in a public letter in newspaper AS that he was leaving as he did not feel he had “the support to build something in the medium or long term”. This can be translated into Zidane thinking that the spending required to rebuild a squad whose key players were all into their 30s, and keep competing at the very top, was not going to be forthcoming.

Coach Zidane threw in the towel when it was clear Madrid couldn’t financially back the overhaul he felt was needed (Photo: Gabriel Bouys/AFP via Getty Images)

Perez’s insistence on maintaining business fundamentals is perhaps a surprise to those who still remember the spendthrift days of his six-year first spell as club president two decades ago. But the fact he has always seen players as mere assets was shown again by this week’s leaking of a tape from 2006 in which he referred to much-loved club servants Casillas and Raul Gonzalez as “scam artists” whose sky-high reputations and wage packets were underserved.

Such realism (or cynicism) was seen again with how Ramos was eased out of the club this summer in a manner that drew such admiration from league chief Tebas.

It also means that while Madrid have suffered a lot due to the pandemic, they are now not faced with nearly as many difficult decisions as Barcelona’s new president Joan Laporta.

Barcelona’s salary cap for the coming seasons is projected to drop to an almost unimaginable €160 million (unless Laporta can raise around €200 million by selling players and cutting wages). Madrid’s cap will likely fall too, but again, will be within a much more manageable frame. They are still likely to be able to pay double what their arch-rivals can — something like €300 million for the coming season. For context, Manchester City’s wage bill last season was around €410 million.

Which is not to say that lots of tough decisions aren’t currently being considered by Perez, director general Sanchez and Carlo Ancelotti, back at the club for a second spell as coach after quitting Everton.

The primary objective at Madrid for this transfer window is to deal with what the Spanish call ‘overbooking’ — to cut what is currently a 35-man first-team squad down to a manageable size for Ancelotti, and to lessen pressure on the wage bill. 

The Italian was very careful not to throw out any hostages to fortune at his unveiling last month. He knew from conversations with Sanchez before leaving Everton to return to the Spanish capital that he would have to work in a very different financial reality to the one he experienced in his first spell from 2013-15.

“We have a very big squad, and the first thing we have to do is evaluate the players we have, and reduce it a bit,” Ancelotti said. “We’ll have to see how we do that. I know the squad very well, the young players too, and those coming back from loans. We have many options in the squad, (and) need to calmly evaluate everything.”

Among the most pressing issues is with senior players Ancelotti knows from 2013-15 whose performances in recent years have not been up to the level of salaries negotiated when they were winning Madrid four Champions Leagues in five years from 2014 to 2018. These include a 33-year-old Marcelo, Isco, 29, and the returning Bale, who turns 32 this week. 

Most starkly, Bale and Hazard alone make up 13 per cent of Madrid’s salary budget between them.

Bale’s Madrid future will again be in question when he returns after Euros duty with Wales (Photo: Burak Akbulut/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

In an ideal world, both would be moved out — similar to how Barcelona would like to get rid of Philippe Coutinho, Ousmane Dembele and Antoine Griezmann — but finding clubs willing to pay any fees for them and then match such wages is basically impossible at the moment. So Ancelotti, always pragmatic, plans to speak to Bale and Hazard once they return from post-Euro 2020 holidays, and is already thinking about how he might get the best out of them, with the help of fitness coach Antonio Pintus, who is also returning to the club after two seasons working at Inter Milan. 

“You cannot just say, ‘We’ll sell Hazard for €60 million and bring someone else instead’,” a source says. “That is the reality at the moment of Real Madrid — of Spanish football in general. Bale is into the last year of his contract, we really do not know what will happen. But we also do not know what will happen with Raphael Varane.” 

Varane’s situation is maybe the most interesting, as both the Madrid hierarchy and the player weigh up whether a transfer away now would make sense.

The 28-year-old France international centre-back, who has won three La Liga titles and four Champions Leagues during a decade in the Spanish capital, has 12 months left on his contract. He and his people are looking for what could be the last big contract of his career, and there has been informal interest from Chelsea and both Manchester City and neighbours United, without any firm offers being made to either player or club. The feeling remains though that both Varane and Madrid would be happy if he could get a new bumper payday in England, and they could bank a transfer fee of around €60 million.

Other long-serving squad members have fewer options.

Isco was almost completely discarded by Zidane, starting only five league games in 2021. He has been linked with AC Milan, but would need to accept a significant wage cut to move there. Marcelo has inherited the club captaincy from Ramos and looks keen to carry the honour through the last year of his contract. 

Two further sensitive cases are the young midfielders returning from loans at Arsenal — Odegaard and Dani Ceballos.

Both are ‘projects’ the club would like to see succeed, although Madrid’s hierarchy would listen to any significant offers made for either. Odegaard is already back for pre-season training under Ancelotti, who gave him his Madrid debut as a 16-year-old in what he later called a “PR operation”. Ceballos told AS before flying out on Tuesday to play for Spain in the Olympic Games that he would not be deciding his future until after he returns from Japan next month (the men’s Olympic football final is on August 7).

“The club has some financial requirements, and maybe they need to sell a certain player to be able to sign someone else who we want more for another position,” says a source. “And if Madrid are selling players, they have to be players who have value in the market. It will be a long and complex summer window.”

Mbappe’s shadow hangs over everything.

Madrid’s financial situation makes it almost impossible to find the transfer fee and wages required to satisfy the player and PSG this summer but still, local media and club figures continue to keep the possibility alive. The latest thinking around the Bernabeu is that if Barcelona’s woes were to push free-agent Messi to sign for the French club, it might make it easier for them to prise Mbappe out of there at some point before August 31.

“It is no secret that Mbappe is an objective of the club,” a source says. “The market will be very long and will depend a lot on what happens with Mbappe. If Mbappe is to come, some players will have to leave. If they know for sure at some point that Mbappe will not come this summer, they might have to make other decisions. But until the last day of the market, we might not know.”

Signing top target Mbappe this summer would require Madrid to do lots of wheeling and dealing (Photo: Aurelien Meunier – PSG/PSG via Getty Images)

Those other decisions include whether it might be possible to add another goalscorer.

The back-up strikers behind Karim Benzema are Jovic and Mariano Diaz — two players whose wages and sunk transfer fees make them very difficult to move on. So the challenge for Ancelotti is to try to rebuild their confidence and find a tactical system that will get them firing again.

The same goes for Marco Asensio, Vinicius Junior, Rodrygo, Brahim Diaz and Takefusa Kubo — more investments by the club which have not yet provided regular returns for the first team. Brahim Diaz (Milan) and Kubo (Villarreal, then Getafe) will likely be loaned out again as they were last season, unless others are sold and space opens up in Ancelotti’s squad.

There are also plenty of decisions to be made elsewhere. David Alaba, signed as a free agent after leaving Bayern Munich, has taken Ramos’ place in both Madrid’s salary scale and their defence. If Varane does go, Eder Militao can be the Austrian’s regular partner at the centre of the back four. Nacho Fernandez has renewed his contract and provides reliable and versatile cover, while Jesus Vallejo could return from his latest loan, at Granada, to be the squad’s fourth central defender.

Lucas Vazquez signing a new deal also gives options at both right-back and right wing. Dani Carvajal is another homegrown player to have extended his deal, which means the always underwhelming Alvaro Odriozola will be sold if a buyer could be found. On the other side of the defence, homegrown prospect Miguel Gutierrez, who turns 20 this month, might be loaned out to play regularly and gain experience — although last summer’s cases of Hakimi and Reguilon show Madrid will sell their best youngsters if the price is right.

The staggered returns of many squad members — whether from the European Championship, Copa America or Olympics — also makes it more difficult for Ancelotti to assess exactly what he has and decide who will stay or go.

Whatever happens, it is likely to be late August before the final make-up of Madrid’s 25-man squad for La Liga and the Champions League is confirmed.

Ancelotti’s first game back in charge was a behind closed doors friendly with second-division neighbours Fuenlabrada at the training ground on Sunday. Odegaard, Mariano Diaz and 21-year-old centre-back Victor Chust scored in a 3-1 victory that saw other youngsters Sergio Arribas, Antonio Blanco and Marvin Park, once of Tranmere Rovers, also get run-outs.

Perez had been at the training ground on Friday morning and spoke to Ancelotti to find out how he was settling back in. During a recent interview on Spanish radio, the president pointed out Madrid’s excellent defence through their most recent Champions League triumphs — Carvajal, Varane, Ramos and Marcelo — had all been signed when they were teenagers.

“We currently have a great team, with many young players who we should be valuing,” he said. “The defence of the last years was Carvajal, who arrived at 18, Ramos at 19, Varane at 18 and Marcelo at 18, and it was one of the best in history. You have to bring young players, you have to look after them, and you have to work with them.” 

The message was pretty clear: many of the players who won so much at Madrid over the last decade came to the club young, took a while to establish themselves, then went on to win multiple trophies.

At his presentation in early June, Ancelotti also talked about enjoying working with youngsters such as Casemiro, Alvaro Morata and Nacho during his first term as Madrid coach. 

This time, the onus will be on the kids Perez has been investing in for years already, from Odegaard, through Valverde, Asensio and Ceballos to Militao, Vinicius and Rodrygo. The financial reality, including COVID-19 and the cost of the Bernabeu renovations, dictates there is no other option. 

Again, Madrid’s situation is not as dire as Barcelona’s, and their transfer window this summer is unlikely to be quite so dramatic. But that does not mean that difficult decisions won’t have to be made this summer, and finalising a squad that can be competitive at the very top level in the coming season is a very big challenge.


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8 hours ago, deerokus said:

Arsenal lost to Hibs. Farmer's league etc. 


This goal is amusing. 


It's not an Arsenal pre-season if a full back doesn't fuck up a back pass

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1 hour ago, Mike1812 said:

Just when you thought the EFL couldn't get any shitter.  What a decision. Fucking hell. 






Risdale and his agent son were involved in our club during admin as advisers. Yannick Bolasie was sold to Bristol City for £20k. He was worth at least £1m. 

I cannot stand the guy. He also helped Leeds into the third tier. 

What a scumbag he is.

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For anybody that likes watching the money side of football Barca are amazing at the moment - having paid €120m for Griezman only 2y ago they are now trying to swap him out to Athleti for Saul purely to get his €25m+ wages off the books.


It's spectacular financial mismanagement and whilst Laporte didn't cause it must be a nightmare to try and sort out

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9 hours ago, the_debaser said:

Messi plus 10 youth team players in the first team starting line up for match day 1. 

All they need when it comes to La Liga right? What will happen when Messi finally calls it a day, which is nearer than they probably want to think about?


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14 hours ago, Mike1812 said:

Just when you thought the EFL couldn't get any shitter.  What a decision. Fucking hell. 






12 hours ago, neoELITE said:


Risdale and his agent son were involved in our club during admin as advisers. Yannick Bolasie was sold to Bristol City for £20k. He was worth at least £1m. 

I cannot stand the guy. He also helped Leeds into the third tier. 

What a scumbag he is.


Peter Risdale is STILL around?  He's a total asshole.

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35 minutes ago, Gotters said:

For anybody that likes watching the money side of football Barca are amazing at the moment - having paid €120m for Griezman only 2y ago they are now trying to swap him out to Athleti for Saul purely to get his €25m+ wages off the books.


It's spectacular financial mismanagement and whilst Laporte didn't cause it must be a nightmare to try and sort out


It does feel this whole Barca is going to end with someone going to a lot of jail.

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On 14/07/2021 at 07:17, Azrael said:

Patricio leaves Wolves, thats a big loss for them and for the (fantasy) league. 


I'm actually okay with this - we've got a good fee for a keeper approaching the final year of his contract who has given us 3 years' service, 2 of which were outstanding, and we're about to sign Jose Sa as his replacement for a much lower fee.  He's a decent replacement and I wouldn't be surprised to see him making the Portugal squad if he performs well for us.


Rui has been an absolute gent during his time here - at his best, he's the best keeper I've seen in a Wolves shirt.  But last season his standards were well below those he set in his first 2 years.


I hope he does well at Roma - a proper gent and a great pro. 


I'm expecting Neves to leave before the start of the season - now that would be devastating, not that I'd begrudge him a move.  I absolutely love the guy but he deserves Champions League football.

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2 hours ago, davidcotton said:

All they need when it comes to La Liga right? What will happen when Messi finally calls it a day, which is nearer than they probably want to think about?


That they just signed him to a 5 year contract at the age of 34 does rather suggest they're doing their best not to think about it.

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Ajer from Celtic to Brentford. 13.5m with add ons it seems. 


Very good money for us for a guy in the last year of his contract. Still seems wild to me that Brentford have so much money. 


Ajer should do well in England, he's not nearly as good a talent as Van Dijk or Tierney but he's a good centre back with decent passing who always gives his all. 

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Don't Brentford generate their budget from smart buys and big sales themselves, like Ollie Watkins and Benrahma.


Aren't they owned by some tech sports/gambling data guy and they use this to evaluate players and pick up underrated talent with big upside when it comes good. 

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just put in the research as this is important stuff.


44005 days from 22nd Jan 1901 when Queen Vic croaked it


17th April 1961 when Spurs won title (on a Monday !) by beating Sheff Weds 2-1 at home


22,000 days between those 2 dates.



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11 hours ago, SeanR said:

Is this true?



Why are they so hated then? Im not from London or the south but ive gathered Chelsea, Arsenal, West Ham fans maybe other teams in London hate Tottenham the most, why?

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27 minutes ago, JamesTW said:

Why are they so hated then? Im not from London or the south but ive gathered Chelsea, Arsenal, West Ham fans maybe other teams in London hate Tottenham the most, why?


The fans (or I should say a large majority of the fans) have serious delusions of grandeur. I'm a West Ham fan and I know we're shit but as long as the team tries and we give it a good go with the occasional cup run I'm happy. Most Arsenal fans know they're underachieving but accept they're not in the best place right now. Chelsea are a bit of an anomaly in that they have the money and the team but a good portion of the fans don't expect constant success (I could be wrong, I think we only have @Dudley here as a Chelsea fan?) Palace fans are a bit like West Ham fans in that they want to see some good football and a team that tries (they may actually get the good football now Roy has gone) and last and definitely least are the mighty Spurs; biggest team in London beginning with T with the fans who think they should be conquering Europe every season and giving an annual shoeing to Barcelona and Madrid, while pitying their North London neighbours and calling West Ham derogatory names.


(I know I've missed a few London clubs but Spurs fans have contempt for their London Premier rivals* so jeebus knows what they think of the Championship and lower clubs) 


*aware Brentford are not listed! They're new boys and I'm happy to see them in the top div.

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On 15/07/2021 at 15:52, deerokus said:

Still seems wild to me that Brentford have so much money. 

We do OK in the transfer market.


(again, special thanks to Villa for paying for our new Stadium :lol: )

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