La Liga has already lost two of the world’s best players in Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar, and might lose another one in Lionel Messi
but the Spanish football league’s president, Javier Tebas
, is not perturbed by these developments.
“Yes, I would prefer the likes of Messi, Neymar and such great players to play in the La Liga, but it is not a determining factor,” Tebas said in a virtual conference with select journalists in India.
“We have been working for years so that the La Liga is above clubs and players in all aspects.”
Tebas also touched upon various other issues, including the impact of and lessons learnt from the Covid-19 pandemic, Barcelona’s financial crisis, the proposed Super League and the broadcasting strategy for India. Excerpts.
On Fifa threatening players with ban if they join the proposed Super League
We totally agree. We are against this Super League and we have been saying this for years now. It will be harmful for the national leagues. I can talk about this a lot, but I am against it. So, we are very pleased with the Fifa press release where they are against this league. I also think (Fifa president) Gianni Infantino should make some things clear. I have heard that he was also behind this project.
On Messi’s uncertain future and its likely impact on brand La Liga
Well, as the best player in the world, I would like Messi to stay at La Liga. We have had previous examples like these. We had Neymar, he left for France, but I have not seen the French league improve in the international market. (Cristiano) Ronaldo went to Juventus, and I have not seen the international markets change. Yes, I would prefer the likes of Messi, Neymar and such great players to play in the La Liga, but it is not a determining factor. We have been working for years so that the La Liga is above clubs and players in all aspects.
On whether Barcelona could handle the Lionel Messi situation better
It is difficult for me to answer. I need to have more data. I don’t know how many meetings they have had. How many meetings did Messi have with Barcelona? It is very difficult to know all these things. Secondly, you have to remember we are talking about human relationships, people’s characters. We are not talking about machines, but people, their moods at different times. So I really do not know the mood of the chairman of Barcelona, Messi and people around him (during the time)…I am afraid I can’t say any more.
On Barcelona’s financial crisis
We are reading about Barcelona’s financial problems but the situation is not as bad as the headlines say. You need to know that if you have a debt, it needs to be in line with your revenues. I think they have a billion (euros) in debt but they also generate one of the highest revenues in the world. So when the pandemic comes to an end FC Barcelona can change their strategy slightly and easily get through their problems.
In India, there are big multinational companies and if we look at their balance sheets, we find that they have big debts. And that does not mean anything unless you take their revenue into account. Barcelona has said that before the pandemic they had a billion euros in revenue which was equal or more than their debts. They still have 725 million (euros) in revenue and so they need to reduce the salary volume like most companies are doing around the world. Their revenue capacity has not gone down a lot and they will be able to recover when things get back to normal.
On reports of non-payment of December salary
Barcleona, like big clubs, have their own payment methods. And I do not think it is about non-payments. Anyways, in general terms, Barcelona are more worried about… not having a chairman at the moment, their elections getting delayed and it is important for them to have executives and a chairman to make a decision.
On financial control put in place by La Liga
The idea behind it was to make Spanish football healthy. If we look at the figures available, the Spanish clubs, excluding the big clubs like FC Barcelona and Real Madrid, owed three 300 million euro before the control was put in place and now prior to the pandemic they were earning 300 million euros.
The economic control has also meant that the Spanish clubs can adapt to new situations of financial crisis like the one the world is facing now. This means the clubs are more financially sound and can face the crisis when they are having less revenues. This is truly something that other competitions can learn as prior to every season, La Liga determines how much the clubs can spend on the salaries of the players and the technical staff. We do studies on their spending and the revenues and hence this has become quite a successful model.
On how La Liga is helping the Spanish clubs come out of the crisis
We are helping them by making them follow the economic control rules, which put a cap on the salaries of the players and spending of the clubs as a whole.
On lessons learnt during the pandemic
…That you have to make a lot of decisions in different areas. I never thought it would be healthcare-related, competition protocols to be able to play matches etc. Important decisions have to be taken very quickly. We can’t leave them entirely to speculation. We should not be worried about having to make certain decisions depending on the situation. Those are the lessons we have learned. Maybe you should always be ready for such extraordinary circumstances, which can arise.
On La Liga’s broadcast strategy in India
India is a market where we have Facebook and we have worked on a special model for the audio visual. It is a social media (channel) that is broadcasting football matches and now we are looking at the tender. In the Indian market, the priority is not actually the amount of money. I can tell you that. We want to see the treatment and the exposure that we will have with our product. The tender has got a lot of new things and there could be a situation where several people could win the legal rights in India.
On bringing a La Liga club to India for an exhibition match like Gerona in 2017
It is possible. These clubs have a lot of commitments. For example, Barcelona and Real Madrid, had it not been for the pandemic, had their calendar chalked out. You have to take into account the technical issues. We cannot do a lot about that, but yes, we do have the intention and we like to work on these kinds of matches. We would like to go to India. I am sure we will achieve this. We have to see the right time. India is not as far as many other countries, which means it is more viable.
On Indian Super League
The Indian federation has reorganised it well with the ISL, which is very important. One of the factors in football is that you have to be patient with development. It is a 15-20 year project and in that time India will surely grow a lot as far as football is concerned. Your worst enemy is trying to be quickly No. 1 in any sphere of competition.
And to reach that level of excellence India needs to have enough coaches and train the clubs to track and groom talent in an organised manner by having good academies. India is a huge country and I am sure there are many good footballers like the many good cricketers it has. And to do that, you need to find them and that can begin at schools.