This March was the cotton test for the European teams. With the winter market closed, it’s time to look at the profitability of winter market transfers. Thus, after the round of 16 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 Spaniard (Real Madrid), one German (Bayern) and one Portuguese (Benfica). Chelsea are back in the top eight continental teams after a frantic transfer market.
Undoubtedly, the Premier was the big winner of the market by investing 643.8 million euros, far from the other championships of the old continent. The French and German leagues complete the podium, with an expenditure of 117.9 million and 68.3 million in the 2022-2023 winter market. LaLiga, the Spanish national competition, has been the most disputed. This reduced his transfer spending by 64% in the winter market to €28.2m. An amount similar to that of Serie A which spent only 32.7 million on transfers.
Faced with this situation, AS consulted different Representation Agencies and Sports Directorates of Spanish football to understand what happened in the last transfer market What is the secret for the Premier to be able to invest so much in signings that it seems that the other Leagues reduce their expenses each season? Especially after the defeat 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 had only one representative in the round of 16: the real madrid. While the English championship had all four, although two were eliminated in this round. The difference is remarkable. Precisely those who invested the most in the last transfer market.
For the first question about the economic recession that our football is going through, Álvaro Torres, Director of Football at the representation agency You First, which according to Forbes is one of the 10 most important agencies in the world and very influentialthe answer is clear: “Before, we came from a crisis of bankruptcies, defaults and others, which was largely resolved by the necessary regulation for the economic control of LaLiga, which was a success. But we, representatives and players, are largely unaware of this 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. This regulation was excessively rigid in recent years, when finances were already healthy. This is drowning the clubs. For example, a club like Sevilla, which sold for a hundred and a few euros and only allows you to spend 25%. If the other 75% is because you have a lot of debt, then there’s something that doesn’t add up. So the recession comes because I think this economic control is suffocating, and I say I think so because there is a lack of information about this regulation, for clubs. That they do not allow external investors who invest in clubs 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. This is something that doesn’t work for me because I believe that there may be a system to control this performance to prevent it from happening like what happened to Racing’s owner at the time. There may be a control where he has to guarantee the money he wants to pay to the club and thus have a guarantee. If you talk to the owners they say they won’t let you invest in their clubs. In the Premier League, however, Americans invest and put in a lot of money and I haven’t seen any bankrupt clubs yet. I’ve heard Tebas say there’s a lot of debt in English football, but I don’t know. At all levels the Premier goes ‘increasing’ and we go down”.
However, Cobeño, sporting director of Rayo, and Mikel Martija, sporting director of Racing, consider the salary cap and the control of the club’s expenses to be good.. “It’s a good tool to know what each of us can work with. It’s a way of controlling the market, we all want to have more”, explained La Franja’s sports manager. For his part, the racer also sees the positive side: “You can limit the percentage, but I think it’s 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 invoices”.
Also Carmelo del Pozo, another well-known sporting director of Spanish football, makes it clear that “the salary cap is not the cause of this. On the contrary, it is a useful weapon to avoid possible serious mistakes that could lead Spanish football to the serious situations that happened in the past”.
Regarding this situation, Luis Alonso, director in Spain of Stellar Group, a world leader in attracting young talent and one of the largest agencies in the world, makes clear the reason for this difference between the English and Spanish competition: “Premier has this 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 it started to do thanks to Thebes. Therefore, England is the example that the other big leagues are setting for one day to fulfill their dream of having the money they have. Their way of signing is also very different. They always buy highly proven players, except for Brighton, for example, who try to anticipate large investments in order to be able to sell at very high prices later. The English, as a rule, play it safe and would rather pay 100 million now than pay 10 for a player who could be worth that 100 million a year from now.
Not being able to compete with the Premier League at this time for financial reasons, Luis Alonso makes another point clear that explains this difference between the two competitions: “There is a serious crisis in Spanish football in terms of detecting young talent. Young people are from here, or it is practically impossible for a club to bet on players from other countries like Holland, Belgium, Portugal… who are ahead of the Spanish in imagination, recruitment and commitment. Spanish football needs to travel and learn a lot more about international football. Spanish football lost value. The Spanish footballer is no longer so valued abroad, with few exceptions, due to his player profile. Spanish football needs to generate talent, value grassroots football and get ahead of other countries to attract young footballers from other markets. Clubs must travel more to find live players from other leagues such as Ecuador, Colombia, Slovakia, 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 he doesn’t know them. It is one thing to risk and another to bet. If you know the player, the risk is lower. A club takes a risk when it doesn’t see the player live. Traveling to meet football players and markets is not an expense, it is an investment. Clubs should invest in the training of sports leaders and knowledge of 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 player in person. There are exceptions, but Spanish clubs have allowed Spanish coaches to make their teams with players they have had at other clubs or know from other teams. It is very difficult for teams to profit from these players because they are usually veteran players. Sports management must realize what value must be generated”
Bearing in mind that Stellar Group is number 1 in talent detection in the countries where it has offices, Alonso offers a solution for Spanish clubs to improve in the sporting and economic field: “It would be good for Spanish clubs to realize that there are many English players who fail to make the first team at Chelsea, Tottenham, United… and that player can come to Spanish football. So, if you have an English player at Getafe, Villarreal, Osasuna… and he’s doing well, English clubs will buy him the following year and we all know that they don’t buy him for three million, but for 50. In football Spanish, they never had the need to go 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 Sporting Directors (FIDS), also digs deeper into players’ knowledge to detect talents: “We must capture as much information as possible from each player, information is power and it is the only way and the true work of making a successful market 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 last transfer markets, the missing question is clear: What to do to change to be ultra-competitive in the transfer markets and that the Spanish football has returned to more representatives in the final stages of European competitions?
Luis Alonso of Stellar Group is clear: “You have to help change the methodology and mindset 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 clubs to generate other income. That’s why it is necessary to try that the first or second income is the transfer of players, not just relying on television rights. Everything that enters 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, has clean accounts, is a club with value and can demand that they pay that amount for their player. Other teams have to give up their players in order to balance the books”.
Sporting directors also see things that can improve Spanish football and 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 know how to invest in future promises”. A line that Cobeño also defends, but with the importance of the economic resources of each club: “Money is good if you know how to take advantage of it, with little you have to do a lot and with a lot, as much as possible” and he also points out that LaLiga it is very attractive for football players who want to play on it. Also Queco Huerta bets on talent, although he emphasizes the importance of the base categories. “They are a key project within the clubs and the work being done is important for them to play an important role.”
And while Spanish football looks to have a lot of work to do this season to reach the Premier League, Serie A has made a silent leap into the Champions League. Despite the discreet spending in the last winter market, it is the competition with the most representatives in the next round of the biggest continental competition: three. Alfonso Morrone, president of the Italian Association of Sports Directors (ADICOSP) and the International Federation of Sports Directors (FIDS), explained to AS that a sports director must have a good ideawhen economic resources are not large and he set an example for Naples and the discovery of Kvaratskhelia.