Playing cards

Barcelona´s Antoine Griezmann celebrates scoring a goal.
Barcelona´s Antoine Griezmann celebrates scoring a goal. / ALBERT GEA
  • La Liga is starting to resemble the American sports league where there are no transfer fees and clubs trade players

It really hit home just where football sits right now when Real Madrid staged the unveiling of their biggest signing of the summer - a centre-half on a free transfer.

It's absolutely no disrespect to David Alaba who is one of the most accomplished in the world in his position and an ideal replacement for the legendary Sergio Ramos.

However, historically, July is the month when the world's media is invited to Madrid or Barcelona to be introduced to the latest Galácticos.

We'd have David Beckham staging a photo with a selected schoolboy, Ronaldinho flashing a smile at the cameras, Luis Figo caught evading awkward questions as he did tackles, Zinedine Zidane ball-juggling or Antoine Griezmann posing for centre stage in the centre circle.

In 2021, it a case of which club can brag about the best free transfer of the summer.

As they go, Alaba is quite a coup. He still in his peak years at the age of 29 and leaves a huge hole in the Bayern Munich defence. He brings medals from all the major tournaments from his decade in the Bundesliga.

Barcelona are still to register Memphis Depay, Eric Garcia and Sergio Agüero. These are three very decent free transfers who will freshen up their squad. The issue remains about who will depart to fund their wages?

La Liga is starting to resemble the American sports league where there are no transfer fees and clubs trade players like playing cards.

Barcelona would ideally like to get Antione Griezmann off the payroll. His wages are really upsetting the balance books and the accountants have more of a say in who comes and goes than the coach these days. They don't want to totally write off the €120 million fee paid just two years ago so they need to make a swap.

Many names have been banded about. The most frequent is Saul Ñíguez of Atletico Madrid.

The athletic Spain international would be welcomed at most top clubs. He's been a driving force in Atletico's midfield for almost a decade and is still only 26.

Ironically, the champions are the only club to have invested heavily in a player this summer.

Rodrigo de Paul arrived from Udinese for €35 million and that could mean that Saúl is surplus. It's no reflection on his talent, just his market value.

The only other big money transfer is expected to be an outgoing at Real Madrid. Raphael Varane is reportedly in negotiations with Manchester United who would love his world-class talent. He'd leave a gap in the team but fill a €50 million gap in the Bernabéu bank balance.

Once it was the club with the best coach and players who would claim the title, this season the most important person in any football organisation is the number cruncher.

No longer is it the tapping of words into a laptop that created the headlines; now, it's a tapping of figures into a calculator.