While many of Barça’s players are off on international duty (as summarized yesterday), the folks who remained in Barcelona had an intense day of training today, but will get Wednesday off while their teammates are playing internationals. Sounds like a fair deal.
Because it’s internationals, we’re stuck with absurd drivel about transfers, so let’s quickly cover all that is happening in that realm:
-Valencia striker David Villa is once again rumored to be so in love with the blaugrana that he’ll give up just about anything for it. He’ll play left wing for us and deputize for Zlatan Ibrahimovic when the giant Swede needs rest or is injured. What I love about this particular rumor is that the attached price tag is anywhere between “A handful of €20 notes and some nudie mags” cause Valencia is in such dire financial straits to a whopping €50million just to be able to talk to the guy. Whatever the price, I’m against this signing simply because it would merely replicate the problem we have with Thierry Henry.
-Then there’s Bayern Munich winger Franck Ribery, whose supposed price tag of €80m is driving away potential suitors like he’s got the Herp, but obvious Sport and EMD just can’t help themselves despite the risks. The latest pure speculation about what we’ll do is throw in Alexander Hleb to minimize the number of euros changing hands. That Hleb is, well, Hleb and is valued at €10m means that Ribery would still be the most expensive footballer in Barça history, something that doesn’t sit well with me. Given that Ibra was ~€40m + Samuel Eto’o, it strikes me as completely unreasonable to even consider €70m + Hleb for any player on earth. And yes, there are myriad jokes available to us here about how we should be paying €90m + Hleb or €80 without him…Yet there are reports that both Manchester City and Aston Villa are interested in Hleb’s services, which could certainly change the dynamic of any negotiations with Bayern Munich and could potentially drive his value up.
Naturally Ribery’s price would plummet if he were to not accept a contract renewal from Bayern, so if you’re a huge fan of his and want to see him in Barcelona, I would suggest you hope he plays extreme hardball with Bayern in his contract negotiations. That would mean his price would fall to somewhere in the €30m range, meaning that the €80m price tag is probably not the real price tag and that putting Hleb into the deal could very well be worth it. Would you be opposed to €25-30m + Hleb for Ribery?
-It wouldn’t be international week without reports of Barça pushing to sign Javier Mascherano away from Liverpool and Rafa Benitez looking to hold on to his Argentine midfielder by offering him a higher salary. Reports coming out of England appear to be centered on the number £5m (~€6m) as the annual salary being offered on the extension, which would last until 2014 and effectively keep Mascherano in England until then. I have to assume the same €30-35m price as last year is what it would take to nab him from Liverpool and make Ramzi the giddiest kid on the block.
That’s all the time we have today for random transfer crap, so let’s get to some other, more interesting news:
-Everyone and their mother is currently reporting that Real Madrid are the greatest, richest, bested company in the world because a British-American accounting firm, Deloitte, has released their yearly “Deloitte Football Money League” rankings. The rankings put Real Madrid first, with €401.4m in revenue, Barça second with €365.9m, and Manchester United third with €327.0m. What I find fascinating about this is that no one seems to be making a big deal out of the actual numbers involved. What I mean is, Marca is naturally crowing about how Florentino Perez is the greatest human being on earth, Sport isn’t reporting anything at all, and The Guardian talks mostly about ManU.
A snippet, though, from The Guardian that I think is extremely important in this (emphasis mine):
Protests over the details of Manchester United’s business model under the Glazers, as illuminated by the prospectus issued to prospective investors in the club’s £504m bond scheme, has raised questions over whether overall revenues are the best gauge of financial strength. But Deloitte argues that it is still the most transparent and relevant measure.
Really, this is only logical because if you earn €401.4m, but have serious debts, then you are not as financially strong or stable as a business that has €365.9m in revenue and no debt. Now, before you run off and try to track down actual debt numbers (I did that for you, rest assured), remember that there is a difference between stating something as fact and showing it as fact through sources. I’m not the least bit concerned if Real Madrid is the richest, best run club in the world. Given their obvious financial firepower, it is usually surprising how badly they are run, but what’s absurd is that in order to “compete with Barça”, FloPer and Marca feel the need to trumpet anything and everything that is in their favor the highest level without regard for its actual merits.
I’m under the impression that because of some potentially shady maneuvering with their land-holdings, Real Madrid have been able to get enough bonds and cash on hand to basically clear their debts. I say shady because of quotes like this from Wikipedia: “The city had rezoned the training grounds for development, a move which in turn increased their value, and then bought the site.” That increased value meant the city of Madrid paid Real Madrid €480m for their land holdings that had previously been worth far less. The EU even investigated the deal, but whether or not they found any payments above market value, I’m not actually sure (a cursory look around the tubes of this here interwebs shows nothing, which is suggestive that no improprieties were found), but what is definitely true is that Real Madrid still have staggering debts they don’t have to really “clear” in order to remain a financially solvent company. Why? Read this article. It basically details the financial shenanigans that are possible in Spain (and no doubt taken advantage of by our own club). To claim that Real Madrid is a money machine is correct in one sense, but it is also rather misleading in another. If you’re going to claim brilliant revenue streams, you should also discuss horrible debt structure. END RANT.
-So far, the club and the players have yet to reach an agreement concerning their bonuses if they’re to win the two competitions we’re still involved in (La Liga and Champions League). Last year, the squad received bonuses totaling €50m, which the board is currently balking at repeating. The breakdown is as follows: €16m for the Champions League, €14m for the league title, and the remaining €20m split between the Copa del Rey, UEFA and Spanish Super Cups, and the Club World Cup (one assumes €5m per, but it’s not clear from this article). Obviously the income generated from these wins was well worth the bonus money doled out to the players who actually won the titles themselves so, to put it as I think Kevin might: Put up or shut up, Barça. Pay the men.
–Pedro has scored 16 goals so far this season in all competitions, meaning it’s by far his best ever run at any major level at Barça. It also puts him second overall behind Lionel Messi (24) and one ahead of Ibra (15). He’s actually the most efficient player in the squad, scoring a goal every 120 minutes 11 seconds compared to Messi’s goal every 121 minutes 35 seconds. Obviously Messi just does it on a much more regular basis and in the league scores once ever 103 minutes 21 seconds to Pedro’s 165 minutes 17 seconds.
-Our sad little goalie, Victor Valdes, has been shunned once again by Vicente del Bosque in favor of Diego Lopez of Villarreal and Pepe Reina of Liverpool, saying that there’s simply a lot of competition for the spot. True enough, but doesn’t he deserve a call up and a bench spot at some point? He’s obviously an excellent shot stopper. Just ask Didier Drogba.