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Ukrainian Andriy Lunin. SUR
Problems, problems everywhere

Problems, problems everywhere

Controversy, stretched budgets, adherence to rules, players needing surgery... where will it end?

Rob Palmer Commentator, ESPN

Friday, 11 August 2023, 19:54

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It wouldn't be the opening weekend of La Liga's season if there wasn't a cloud of controversy - but this season it's an absolute storm of uncertainty.

Every single Spanish club appears to be facing a crisis of some kind on the eve of the big kick-off.

Budgets are so stretched: collectively, Spanish clubs have spent €252 million on transfers this summer compared to €1.5 billion in the English Premier League. In fact, Arsenal have invested as much as all the Liga clubs combined.

The insistence of the authorities to adhere to "Financial Fair Play" stipulations means that clubs are having to balance the books and it's having knock-on effects.

Barcelona only had 13 players registered in the lead-up to the defence of their crown. Real Betis have similar issues for a second successive season - despite cutting costs. Valencia are having to pad out their team list with graduates from the academy.

In the short term, it is creating chaos. In the long term, it should make the clubs self-sufficient with more youngsters given an opportunity and fewer transfer gambles.

Eleven clubs are in profit this summer, Villarreal have made €97 million in their dealings. Only Real Madrid have gone on a spending spree. They have spent €124 million, almost as much as all of the other 19 clubs combined.

Real Madrid were dealt their own dilemma just after I started writing this column when it was announced that Thibaut Courtois will miss the season as he needs knee surgery. Most would agree that he was the club's stand-out player last season and the rock on which their team is built.

The Ukraine international Andriy Lunin proved to be a capable back-up last season, but it would be unfair for him to shoulder the responsibility of replacing one of the world's best goalkeepers.

There is one obvious world class replacement in David De Gea. He's a free agent after parting ways with Manchester United and there's the legendary tale of him almost joining Real in 2015 if it hadn't been for a fax faux pas. Would he sign for just one season, would Real want two expensive goalkeepers on the payroll?

Kepa is another candidate, but Chelsea would want to recoup some of the world-record fee for a keeper shelled out to Athletic Bilbao. That would dip into the reserve fund for Kylian Mbappé - should a deal ever be arranged. The other suggestion is Keylor Navas who won 11 trophies in his Madrid days. The problem would be negotiating with Paris Saint Germain and that has been a long-standing issue.

Problems, problems everywhere! Even the opening night brought its own issues. Sevilla versus Valencia was scheduled for 9.30pm - but there were concerns about the heat, so it will now kick off at 10pm. I'm not sure the extra half hour will make any difference, but it should be a little cooler when the fans make their way home at midnight.

Enjoy the forthcoming season; it promises to be chaotic entertainment.

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