This month of March has been the cotton test for the European teams. With the winter market closed, the time has come to see the profitability of the transfers of the winter market. So after the round of 16 phase of the Champions League, there are only eight teams left in the fight. Three Italians (Milan, Inter and Napoli), two Englishmen (Manchester City and Chelsea), one Spanish (Real Madrid), one German (Bayern) and one Portuguese (Benfica). Chelsea have moved back into the top eight continental teams after a frantic transfer market.
Without a doubt, the Premier was the big winner in the market after investing 643.8 million euros, far from the rest of the championships on the old continent. The French and German leagues complete the podium, with an expense of 117.9 million and 68.3 million in the winter market of 2022-2023. LaLiga, the Spanish national competition, has been the one that has had the most contention. This has reduced its spending on transfers by 64% in the winter market, up to 28.2 million. A figure similar to that of Serie A that only spent 32.7 million on transfers.
Faced with this situation, AS has consulted different Representation Agencies and Sports Directors of Spanish football to understand what has happened in the last transfer market What is the secret so that the Premier can invest so much in signings that it seems that the rest of the Leagues reduce their expenses every season? Especially after the debacle in European competitions, which contrasts with last season in the Champions League. In 2021-2022, three teams reached the quarterfinals, the same as the Premier, however, this season the Spanish competition has had only one representative in the round of 16: the real Madrid. While the English league had all four, although two have been eliminated in this round. The difference is remarkable. Precisely those who have invested the most in the last transfer market.
For the first question about the economic recession that our football is experiencing, Álvaro Torres, Football Director of the You First representation agency, which according to Forbes is one of the 10 most important agencies in the world and quite influentialthe answer is clear: “Formerly we came from a crisis in terms of bankruptcy, defaults and others, which was largely resolved by the necessary regulations for the economic control of LaLiga, which was a success. But we, the representatives and players, are largely unaware of that economic control and we only find out from what the clubs tell us, but we don’t have all the information, and that seems negative to us. That regulation has been excessively strict in recent years, when finances had already been healed. That is drowning the clubs. For example, a club like Sevilla, which has sold for a hundred and a bit of euros and only allows them to spend 25%. If the other 75% is because you have a lot of debt, then there is something that does not add up. So the recession comes because I think that this economic control is suffocating, and I say I think because we lack a lot of information about that regulation, to the clubs. That they do not let external investors who invest in clubs be able to inject money, because of what they inject they can only spend 25%. You talk to clubs that have Mexican or Arab owners… and they want to put money in and LaLiga itself won’t let them. That is something that does not add up to me because I believe that there may be a system to control that income to prevent it from happening as happened with the owner of Racing in his day. There may be a control in which they have to guarantee the money they want to pay into the club and thus have a guarantee. If you talk to the owners, they tell you that they won’t let you invest in their clubs. In the Premier League, however, the Americans invest and put in a lot of money and I have yet to see any bankrupt club. I have heard Thebes say that there is a lot of debt in English football, but I don’t know. At all levels the Premier is going ‘in crescendo’ and we are going down”.
However, Cobeño, Rayo’s sports director, and Mikel Martija, Racing’s sports director, consider that the salary limit and controlling club spending is good.. “It is a good tool to know what each of us can work with. It is a way of controlling the market, we all want to have more”, explained the sports manager of La Franja. For his part, the racinguista also sees the positive side: “You can limit the percentage, but I think it is a great success, the limit tells you not to spend more than that. That’s good for everyone. Before, workers and suppliers did not collect the invoices”.
Also Carmelo del Pozo, another well-known sports director in Spanish football, is clear that “the salary limit is not the cause of this. On the contrary, it is a useful weapon to avoid possible serious errors that could lead Spanish football to serious situations that happened in the past”.
Regarding this situation, Luis Alonso, Director in Spain of the Stellar Group, which is a world leader in attracting young talent and one of the largest agencies in the world, is clear about the reason for this difference between the English and Spanish competition: “The Premier has that purchasing power because it has been working on a project to sell its television rights for a long time. Spain has been negotiating its rights for a very short time, something that it has begun to do thanks to Thebes. Therefore, England is the example in which the other major leagues are setting themselves in order to one day fulfill the dream of having the money that they have. His way of signing is very different too. They always buy highly proven players, except for Brighton, for example, who tries to get ahead of large investments to be able to sell at extremely high prices later. The English, as a general rule, play it safe and prefer to pay 100 million now rather than pay 10 for a player who could be worth those 100 million in a year.
Not being able to compete with the Premier League, at this time due to financial reasons, Luis Alonso is clear about another point that explains this difference between the two competitions: “There is a serious crisis in Spanish football in terms of detecting young talent. The youngsters are from here, or it is practically impossible for a club to bet on players from other countries such as the Netherlands, Belgium, Portugal… who are ahead of the Spanish in imagination, recruitment and commitment. Spanish football needs to travel and learn much more about international football. Spanish football has lost value. The Spanish soccer player is no longer so valued abroad, with few exceptions, due to his player profile. Spanish football needs to generate talent, value in grassroots football and get ahead of other countries to attract young footballers from other markets. Clubs must travel more to meet live footballers from other leagues such as Ecuador, Colombia, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Norway, Denmark, Sweden… What happens is that Spanish clubs have never had the need to go abroad. The Spanish sports director finds it very difficult to bet on young players from other countries, because they don’t know them. One thing is to risk and another is to bet. If you know the player, the risk is lower. A club risks when it does not see the footballer live. Traveling to meet soccer players and markets is not an expense, it is an investment. Clubs must invest in training sports directors and in knowing the market. In Spain you watch a lot of football on the internet and the ingenuity of sports management has been limited and people have stopped traveling to see the footballer in person. There are exceptions, but Spanish clubs have allowed Spanish coaches to make their squads with players they have had at other clubs or know from other teams. It is very difficult for the teams to make a profit with these players because they are usually veteran footballers. The sports management and the presidency of the clubs must realize that value must be generated ”
Bearing in mind that the Stellar Group is number 1 in talent detection in the countries where it has an office, Alonso provides a solution for Spanish clubs to improve in the sporting and economic field: “The good thing would be for Spanish clubs to realize that there are many high-level players who don’t quite make it to the first team at Chelsea, Tottenham, United… and that player could come to Spanish football. So if you have a British player in your club and he is doing well, the English clubs are going to buy him the following year and we all know that they don’t buy for three million, but for 50. In Spanish football we have never had the need to go to sign out. We need to sharpen our ingenuity because we have never had the need for it”.
Queco Huerta, president of the Association of Spanish Sports Directors (ADDE) and Vice President of the International Federation of Sports Directors (FIDS), it also delves into the deepening of the knowledge of the players to detect talent: “We must capture as much information as possible from each player, information is power and it is the only way and the real job to make a market successful in the shortcomings and needs of our team, where we can obtain a market with better results and solutions ”.
What can be changed in Spanish football?
In this way, after detecting the differences between the Premier and LaLiga, in the latest transfer markets, the missing question is clear: What can be done to change in order to once again be ultra-competitive in the transfer markets and that football Spaniards will again have more representatives in the final rounds of European competitions?
Luis Alonso, from Stellar Group, is clear about it: “You have to help change the methodology and mentality of the clubs. Lack of creativity. Everything is very short-term, there are very few long-term projects. All clubs depend on television. LaLiga wants the clubs to generate other income. That is why it is necessary to try that the first or second income is the transfer of players, not rely only on television rights. Everything that is entered is practically from there. Why does Real sell Isak for 70 million? Because Real has a plan, a project for the future that has no financial need, their accounts are clean, it is a club with value and they can demand that they pay that amount for their player. Other teams have to give away their players to be able to balance accounts”.
Sports directors also see things that could improve Spanish football and they also believe that it is important to bet on players with projection. This is how Martija puts it: “We can grow in value. You have to risk a little more investing in players who can grow, there are times when that limits you, but you have to be able to invest in future promises”. A line that Cobeño also supports, but with the importance of the economic resources of each club: “Money is fine if you know how to take advantage of it, with little you have to do a lot and with a lot, the maximum possible” and also highlights that LaLiga is very attractive for footballers who want to play in it. Also Queco Huerta is committed to talent, although he highlights the importance of youth academies. “They are a key project within the clubs and the work that is being done is important for them to play an important role”.
And while Spanish soccer seems to have a lot of work ahead of it this season to catch up with the Premier, Serie A has made a silent leap into the Champions League. Despite its discreet spending in the last winter market, it is the competition with the most representatives in the next round of the highest continental competition: three. Alfonso Morrone, president of the Italian Sports Directors Association (ADICOSP) and the International Federation of Sports Directors (FIDS), explained to AS that a sports director has to have a good ideawhen the economic resources are not great and he gave an example to Naples and the discovery of Kvaratskhelia.