Spanish financial crisis affecting football

Spain’s economic crisis is having a knock-on effect on the financial situation of football in the country.

Despite being current world and European champions, Spain’s friendly against Belarus in October was not televised for financial reasons.

Budget cuts are occurring everywhere in football and Real Madrid midfielder Xabi Alonso is aware that even as footballers, they are not immune to what is going on around them.

“A lot of clubs are being forced to tighten up with regards to spending and are having to be more clever about how to their invest money,” Alonso said.

“The other day was a clear example of this with the Spanish game not being televised. This was a result of budget cuts for which football is also affected.”

Unaffordable ticket prices and poor scheduling have seen La Liga crowds drop away significantly in recent years.

According to sub-editor of Spanish newspaper Marca, Francisco Justicia, changes need to be made.

“On the one hand it (Spanish football) has been greatly affected by the economic crisis, but there are also other problems in the form of terrible scheduling and excessive prices,” Justicia said.

“In terms of the prices, the average ticket in Spain costs between 25 and 30 pounds more than the average ticket for an (English) Premier League match. Then you have the terrible scheduling. Games aren’t grouped together here like they are in the Premier League.

“Here we have games on Saturday at 4pm, 6pm, 8pm and 10pm. Then on Sunday the rest of the games are played starting at 12pm, followed by another at 4pm, another at 6pm, another at 8pm and another at 10pm. It doesn’t stand to reason.”

Many clubs have been forced to sell their best players and adopt a youth policy due to the financial issues engulfing the country’s football.

But head coach of Spain’s national team, Vicente Del Bosque, is proud of the way the country’s young players have stepped up.

“As Spanish citizens we are aware and concerned about what is going on in our country,” Del Bosque said.

“However, like I have said before in terms of sport, we are very proud that things are working out the way they are.

“Our young players are representing the country very well with their behaviour. That’s all I have to say on the subject. Not only is their behaviour exemplary on the pitch, where they have been winning, but away from it they also transmit a clean and healthy image.”

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Mon 31 December, 2012
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Paciencia targets La Liga survival for Deportivo

New Deportivo La Coruna head coach Domingos Paciencia has set his sights on keeping the struggling club in La Liga.

Paciencia was unveiled as the new man in charge of Deportivo on Monday, with the club currently anchored to the bottom of the table.

Deportivo have won just twice in 17 matches this season but they are just three points away from safety, which is Paciencia’s aim for the remainder of the campaign.

“For me this is an important moment because I finally got to come here,” said Paciencia, who nearly ended up at Deportivo as a player in his 14-year career that was largely spent at Porto.

“I had the chance a few years ago as a player and now destiny brought me here. I’m excited to take the chance and to try what the board, fans and players want.

“Our goal is no other than improving what has been already done so we can stay in the first division one more year.”

Paciencia has stints with Porto B, Uniao Leiria, Academica, Braga and Sporting Lisbon under his belt in Portugal but the move to Spain will present the 43-year-old with a new environment and a new challenge.

His first match in charge of the side will not be easy, with Deportivo – who have not won in their past eight matches – to host the fourth-placed Malaga.

And although Paciencia admits he does not have much time to work with the players before La Liga resumes, he is well-aware of the capabilities of his squad.

“I will not have problems because I already know the most used players, the whole squad,” he said.

“So it won’t be a problem. But yeah, it’s true that we are short in time to prepare our next game against a great team like Malaga.”

Mon 31 December, 2012
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Zimbabwe´s World Cup campaign in doubt

Zimbabwe might have to forego their 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign because their football association is bankrupt.

The warning comes from Zimbabwe Football Association (ZIFA) vice-president Ndumiso Gumede on the back of instructions from FIFA to clear their debts, which now total three million euros.

“FIFA has said to us ‘don’t get yourselves involved in games unless you have a full government guarantee or sponsorship that covers accommodation, match expenses and all incidentals’,” he told reporters.

“Unless the government chips in and funds the match against Egypt, we are better off paying a huge fine of about $50,000 to FIFA than accruing another huge debt to fulfill the game.”

Gumede said FIFA’s tough stance had also forced them to review their international obligations with ZIFA now set to withdraw from all games and competitions for which it does not have substantial financial backing.

Zimbabwe are set to travel to Cairo on the weekend of March 22-24 to resume their World Cup qualifying campaign before hosting Egypt in Harare on June 7.

The nation already had to withdraw their under-20 and under-17 teams from the continental championships due to a lack of finances.

“So come January 1, we are not going to take part in any games unless there are tangible financial commitments to cover for everything, including incidentals,” Gumede said.

“It has been FIFA’s observation that the more we commit ourselves to fulfilling a lot of matches, the deeper we are sinking in terms of our debt and when you look at it closely you can see that it is true.”

Mon 31 December, 2012
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Buffon reflects on joyous 2012

Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon is elated with how his year went, and is aiming for even more success in 2013.

The goalkeeper was a crucial member of the Serie A-winning Juve team under Antonio Conte and helped Italy reach the final of Euro 2012, where they were beaten comfortably by Spain.

The 34-year-old wrote on his Facebook page: “2012 gave me a lot of joy.

“Juventus bounced back to win the Scudetto, I had a beautiful European adventure with the national team, I lifted my first trophy as captain and then (Juve had) a really superb beginning to this season.

“This group aims higher in every competition. In 2013 I hope to convey all my determination and confidence so that the team keep being able to fight on every front.”

Juve currently sit top of Serie A on 44 points after 18 matches, seven points clear of second-placed Lazio.

In Europe, Conte’s team have been drawn against Celtic in the last 16 after knocking Champions League title holders Chelsea out at the group stage.

Mon 31 December, 2012
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Berlusconi: Niang better than Balotelli

AC Milan president Silvio Berlusconi believes teenager M’Baye Niang is better than Manchester City striker Mario Balotelli.

The Serie A giants have been heavily linked with the Italy international, whose topsy-turvy temperament and below-par performances have seen him fall out of favour at the Etihad Stadium this season.

The San Siro chief said he had faith in the promising talent at his club, and hopes the team will become a world-class side once more within the next few years.

“We sold (Zlatan) Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva for monetary needs, but the others left for age reasons,” Berlusconi told Radio Mars.

“Our goal is to return as a big team in three years’ time, to start a new cycle with (Stephan) El Shaarawy – who is an extraordinary player – and Mattia De Sciglio, who will become a champion. Niang is better than Balotelli.”

After making the same statement earlier in December, Berlusconi also said he was the greatest president in sport.

“We’re the team who won most international trophies, we are the most successful team in the world,” Berlusconi said.

“I’m the most successful president in the football history, and in second place there is (former Real Madrid president Santiago) Bernabeu, who has a stadium dedicated to him.”

Mon 31 December, 2012
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Walcott excited about Southampton return

Arsenal forward Theo Walcott is relishing the chance to play against former club Southampton on New Year’s Day.



The 23-year-old’s future is still hanging in the balance amid ongoing contractual wrangling with Arsenal, with his current deal set to expire at the end of the season.



Arsene Wenger’s side currently sit in fifth place in the English Premier League with a game in hand over local rivals Tottenham in fourth, and with a trip to Walcott’s old stomping ground St Mary’s up next, the England international feels the club are starting to turn a corner.



”Looking at our Premier League form recently, it has been very strong,” Walcott told the club’s website.



“We are looking to climb the table, take every game as it comes and we have another match on Tuesday.



“It will be a very tough occasion against Southampton, but it is one I am really looking forward to. I am probably going to wrap myself in bubble wrap for the next few days.



“It will be a very special moment for me and Alex (Oxlade-Chamberlain), and also for some of the fans to see us come back to the club.”



Oxlade-Chamberlain is also excited about returning to the South coast.



“Really looking forward to going back to where it all began for me tomorrow,” he tweeted.

“So many amazing memories there.” 



Walcott capped an impressive run of form in his preferred central striking position with a brilliant hat-trick in his side’s 7-3 home victory over Newcastle, and said he was delighted with his performance.



”It was just end to end and that played into our hands,” he said.

“When we conceded a few sloppy goals you thought we may not be able to do it.



“If someone said beforehand that it would be 7-3 I would have just laughed, but it was an unbelievable spectacle and for it to be the last game of this year is something special.



“I am delighted (to get another hat trick). For the first goal I managed to stay onside and Lukas (Podolski) played a great ball, and I opened up for the sort of finish that I am used to.



“The second one was a bit different. Out of all of the goals, that was probably the one I am most pleased with, as I had to turn in a short amount of time, not panic and put it into the top corner.



“The third was just like Chelsea (last season) what with falling over, getting up and chipping the ‘keeper from such a tight angle. It was great, and me and Gibbo (Kieran Gibbs) did something special (in celebration) after that.”

Mon 31 December, 2012
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Lennon ´on another level´, says Villas-Boas

Tottenham manager Andre Villas-Boas has described winger Aaron Lennon’s recent form as being on ‘another level’.

Villas-Boas’ men came from a goal behind to beat Sunderland 2-1 at the Stadium of Light on Saturday, with Lennon grabbing the winner in the 51st minute after a fine run and composed finish.


Villas-Boas believes the England international’s goal was simply the latest example of his growing maturity this season, insisting he deserves all the praise that comes his way.



“It was a beautiful goal. It was a moment of magic from Lennon, a player who is a credit,” Villas-Boas told the club’s website.

“This season he’s showing that he’s on another level.

“He signed his contract with us, he’s committed and always gives everything for the team. It was a great goal.

“It was a very important win for us and the players have been immense, both in their desire and ability.”

Tottenham sit fourth in the English Premier League and take on Reading at White Hart Lane on New Year’s Day.

Mon 31 December, 2012
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Wenger hails Walcott´s versatility

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has lauded Theo Walcott’s ability to play in different roles for the benefit of the side.

The 23-year-old started his third successive game in a central striking position against Newcastle and finished the game with three goals after an impressive performance in the 7-3 win.



But Wenger insists Walcott’s magnificent individual display will have no bearing on the player’s contract negotiations with the club, saying he has always been a valued member of the squad.



“He likes it (in that position), but I believe Theo is just happy to play, even if he is on the wing because he still knows he can score,” Wenger told the club’s website.



”I like the fact he can play through the middle because it gives us more opportunities to do that and more possibilities to change from game to game. I will do it again.



“I have worked with Theo for seven years and the fact that he had an exceptional game will not influence me more or less.



“If he’d had a disastrous game, I would still have wanted him to sign with the same intensity. It is good that he gets rewarded for his effort. That, for me, is more important.”



The victory over Newcastle saw Arsenal move up to fifth in the league table and within three points of local rivals Tottenham in fourth.

Wenger is drawing comfort ahead of the second half of the campaign from the fighting spirit shown by his players throughout the game.



“I enjoyed (this match) very much because there was everything in there,” he said.

“We played against a good team, it was not a 7-3 because we played against a poor team.



“They kept going – three times we were in front and three times they came back, but it didn’t look to affect the team. That was positive for me, and I think it will boost the confidence of the team.



“My hope is that this win will give even more confidence, desire and ambition to our team, and that in 2013 will confirm we are a great side.”

Mon 31 December, 2012
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Van Persie the difference so far, says Mancini

Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini believes Robin van Persie has been the difference between his side and Manchester United this season.

Mancini said he was very close to signing the former Arsenal striker last off-season before the Dutchman decided to move to Old Trafford.

Van Persie has taken little time settling in at United, with his 14 English Premier League goals helping Sir Alex Ferguson’s side move seven points clear at the top.

Mancini said the 29-year-old was all that was separating City and United, and the Italian knew the quality van Persie possessed after considering signing him.

“At this moment in time, van Persie is an important player for United because he’s scored 13 or 14 goals,” he said.

“It’s clear he’s changed this situation and at the moment he is the difference.

“We wanted van Persie because we knew he could be an important player for us and was different to all our other strikers.

“We wanted to improve our team for the Champions League and the Premier League. We were close and we were sure he was good for us, but it didn’t happen and now we can’t do anything about it.”

Mancini is preparing to lose midfielder Yaya Toure in January, with the Ivory Coast star set to leave for the Africa Cup of Nations.

Losing three players for the tournament throughout January is a ‘big problem’ for City, Mancini said.

“For us it’s a big problem – to lose Yaya, Kolo (Toure) and also Abdul (Razak),” Mancini said.

“He (Razak) didn’t play a lot of games but he is also important. He could have been important in January when you lose these players.

“I don’t understand why we can lose three players to the African Cup. I think we are the only club that lose three players for the African Cup.

“We don’t have a chance to play them against Watford (in the FA Cup) because they have a meeting on the fifth of January and at 12 o’clock they would leave us. This is incredible.”

Mon 31 December, 2012
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Liverpool submit £9.5m bid for Sneijder; Saints eye Astori and Butland

Liverpool have stepped up their interest in Inter Milan playmaker Wesley Sneijder ahead of the January transfer window, with reports suggesting the Reds have tabled a £9.5 million bid for the out-of-favour No. 10, the Daily Mail understands.

Sneijder, 28, has been relegated to the bench by Nerazzurri boss Andrea Stramaccioni since September.

More recently, the Holland international refused to take an annual pay cut of £1.6 million, fueling speculation that Inter Milan would shop him during the winter transfer window.

The 28-year-old Dutchman seems to have come to terms with his likely exit from the San Siro, insisting that it is best for both parties to seek pastures new in January.

“Clearly it’s best for everyone concerned that in January I am transferred,” revealed Sneijder.

“If that doesn’t happen then I will stay. I have a contract with Inter until 2015.”

The attacking midfielder is making about £200,000-a-week in wages, surely limiting the numbers of clubs that would be able to take on his salary.

Subsequently, the bookmakers have determined nine potential destinations for Sneijder in January.

Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester United, Liverpool and Paris Saint-Germain are the Dutchman’s most likely destinations, in that order, while Manchester City, Bayern Munich, Chelsea, Anzhi Makhachkala and Zenit Saint Petersburg round out the top nine destinations for the in-demand midfield maestro.

Sneijder had previously been linked with £40 million move to Manchester United, but his £10 million-a-year wages halted the move, thankfully for United.

Saints eye Astori and Butland

English Premier League newcomers Southampton Football Club are preparing a £13 million double offer for Birmingham City goalkeeper Jack Butland and Cagliari Calcio defender Davide Astori to boost their hopes of staying in England’s top flight, according to the Mirror.

The Saints are reportedly willing to offer £5 million for 19-year-old England international shot-stopper Jack Butland and £8 million for Azzurri centre-back Davide Astori.

Butland is also attracting interest from Everton, Liverpool and Manchester City, but Southampton are the only club in pursuit of the Englishman in desperate need of a No. 1 goalkeeper.

In addition, Southampton face competition from Italian champions Juventus and Napoli for the signature of Astori.

Once again, the Saints, who have conceded 37 goals in 19 games in the Premier League this season, need Astori much more than the likes of Juve and Napoli, but a rising transfer fee would surely prevent a move to the St Mary’s Stadium for the Italy international defender.

Not only must the price be right, but Southampton must also ward off competition from ‘bigger’ clubs in order to lure Astori and Butland to the south coast of England.

That may just be too much to ask for, especially when considering the club dished out a record £12 million to sign Gaston Ramirez from Bologna F.C. 1909 in the summer.

Mon 31 December, 2012
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