Latest from the changing room...
June 2003

Next season's league programme could be delayed over a dispute concerning television money.

Twelve of the Spanish league's 42 members boycotted the recent LFP meeting having already agreed their own fees on an individual basis. The remaining 30, basically made up of the second division teams and the smaller clubs from the first division, negotiate their rights collectively through the LFP, and they are not happy about the offers currently lying on the table from the television companies.

The so called G-30 went ahead with their meeting without the big clubs, and decided that the kick-off to the season, provisionally set for the 31st August, would not take place until a better deal was agreed. Meanwhile the big clubs held their own "G-12" meeting and even talked about setting up their own league away from the LFP organization.

The dispute promises to drag on into the summer, but with this season already coming to a close time is running out. (09.06.03)

Six of the ten pre-candidates made the cut for the presidential elections at Barcelona, and will fight it out for the hot seat when the vote takes place on 15th June.

Liñan (1 vote), Clusells (5), Medina (900) and Casas (1328) all failed to get the 1,529 members' signatures required to stand, and after many of the ballots were ruled out as duplicates or falsifications, Majó (1,671 validated signatures), Minguella (1,889) and Martínez-Rovira (2,416) only just got through.

Although the signatures are only an indication of support, it appears that the race is narrowed down to three candidates. The favourite is still publicist Lluis Bassat, runner up in the last election and the man who got the most support (8,590). As well as some well known local businessmen, politicians and bankers on his ticket, he has signed up ex-Barça icon Pep Guardiola to be his future technical director, a move which has been criticised by the other candidates as populist and a big risk given his lack of experience.

Jaume Lauradó (4,760) is probably the most well known of the candidates, and he has signed up ex-Inter Milan man Giuliano Terraneo as his technical director. The dark horse though is young lawyer Joan Laporta (5,145), an anti-establishment figure who has apparently come to an agreement with David Beckham and who has the verbal support of such heavyweights as Johan Cruyff.

The next eleven days are going to be very interesting, but the campaigns are already starting to get dirty, with accusations and counter-accusations flying around even before the starting gun is fired. (04.06.03)

May 2003

The elections for the new president of Barcelona got under way this week, with no less than 10 pre-candidates registering for the initial selection procedures. All now have a few days to obtain the 1,529 members' signatures they need to be able to stand in the official election, due to take place on 15th June.

The current favourite though must be marketing magnate Luis Bassatt, who stood against Gaspart three years ago and who has popular Barça basketball president Salvador Alemany, banker Carlos Tusquets and ex-politician Miguel Roca on his team. Bassatt wants to appoint Pep Guardiola as his technical director, and could try to tempt Ronaldo Koeman away from Ajax to take over as team coach. Other candidates include footballing agent Josep María Minguella, backed by Hristo Stoichkov and who has Johan Neeskens lined up as his coach, and Josep Martínez-Rovira, another marketing man who is taking a serious, professional approach and has asked for 200,000 voting papers.

Jaume Llauradó is a well know figure locally who is involved with many sporting institutions and who claims to have several top names signed up, although he isn't prepared to say who at the moment, and Joan Laporte is a lawyer who headed up the "Blue Elephant" opposition group and who wants a total shake out at the club. There are three more serious candidates, Medina, Majó and Casas (a lawyer and(two businessmen), all of whom by coincidence are called Jordi, and two jokers who are just in it for the publicity, Joaquín Clusells, a waiter whose only policy it appears is to allow women in the changing rooms, and Francesc Liñán, a man who stood last time round and only got one vote. Acting president Joan Trayter has to sort it all out. (16.05.03)

Apr 2003

We all know that ladies football (soccer, should we say) is popular in the United States, but it hasn't been in Spain... until now that is.

No less than 35,000 fans turned up at Athletic Bilbao's San Mamés stadium to see their club win their first trophy in nineteen years. A pity said some that it could not be "the Lions" this time, but they were happy enough when "the Lionesses" beat Hispalis 5-0 in their last match to pip Levante on goal difference. It was their first season in the "Ladies Super-league", which as reported before is, for the time being at least, an amateur category.

Athletic Feminino

We are sure that you are dying to ask what other clubs take part, so click here for the final league table. (27.04.03)

While Johan and Jordi Cruyff may be the best-known father and son in the world of football, sporting talent often runs in the family and produces prodigious offspring who excel in different sports.

Take, for example, the ex-Belgium international Clijsters. His daughter Kim has not only climbed right up to the top five of women's tennis, but also captured the heart of the world number one, Lleyton Hewitt.

This week, a sixteen-year-old Rafael Nadal has been catching everybody's attention on the clay court of Monaco. Rafael is the nephew of Mallorca's ex-Spanish international defender Miguel Angel Nadal and has been discovered by the same coach who also discovered Moyà in their native island. Built like a small ox, he is showing plenty of fighting spirit like his uncle and is only the second player after Michael Chang to reach the world top hundred at that age. A future world number one? (16.04.03)

Mar 2003

Barcelona's stand-in president Enric Reyna seems to be taking a liking to being in power. As the only vice-president who was prepared to take over from Joan Gaspart when he resigned, Reyna was supposedly instated only to coordinate the calling of elections for a new leader, promising at the time not to stand for election himself.

However he surprised everyone recently having his name engraved on the marblestone list of presidents inside the club, and now is making hints that he may decide to stay on a little longer. To do so though he will have to get the approval of the "consocios" meeting, a body made up of season ticket holding members, but the new man is hoping that the recent run of good results will mean he will be hailed as the saviour and asked to stay on by the fans.

In the meantime he is already rumoured to be taking decisions about next season, reportedly offering an extension of contract to Antic and talking about selling Kluivert and Puyol to balance the books. The other presidential pre-candidates are looking on nervously. (14.03.03)

Feb 2003 Diario AS

Atlético Madrid have been thrown into turmoil by the decision by the Spanish courts to sentence club president Jesús Gil to two years' imprisonment for embezzlement and a further eighteen months for fraud, and to hand down lesser sentences to his son Miguel Angel (currently managing director) and vice-president Enrique Cerezo. The three have been under investigation for the last three years for the "caso Atlético", which was first reported in our pages in December 1999 (see details).

Gil will be required to deposit his shares under legal custody and is expected to lose control of the club, although he will appeal to the high court and in the meantime intends to continue as president. The courts may have other ideas. (15.02.03)

Jan 2003

Racing Santander's new president Dmitiri Piterman is putting the cat amongst the pigeons in Spain. The Ukrainian born U.S. businessman has just bailed out the ailing first division club who were on the point of extinction, but the way he is going about it is causing shockwaves amongst the conservative institutions of the game.

Piterman, who came to Spain as an Olympic triple jump hopeful ten years ago and who has made his fortune on the Costa Brava property market, has a reputation for hands-on management. He came to fame first of all at regional club Tossa del Mar and then at Palamos, who he has taken from the third division to the upper reaches of the second division B by taking charge of coaching responsibilities himself, albeit under the guise of assistant as he does not hold a manager's licence himself.

Now he wants to do the same at Racing, and he is meeting some stiff opposition. Manager and technical director Manolo Preciado and Quique Setién preferred to resign rather than work under their flamboyant new boss, and his first attempt to register himself as one of the coaching staff to enable him to sit in the dugout alongside his right hand man Chuchi Cos (the figurehead manager he has brought from Palamos), has been turned down by the league. Piterman is not one to take that lying down. (25.01.03)

Jan 2003

A new scandal is rocking Spanish football. Two television reporters posing as footballing agents recorded telephone conversations and took hidden cameras in to meetings with clubs and players' agents, and uncovered some of the shadier sides of the game.

The programme, produced by El Mundo TV and shown first on local Valencia channel Canal Nou and then repeated on the national channel Telecinco, included confessions of bribes, dealings in black money, underhand commissions and match fixing which appears to be rife in the Spanish game.

The Spanish federation have opened an investigation, and have requested the television company to provide them with all the evidence they have gathered to help them with their enquiries. There have been strong denials though by some of the clubs named, and lawyers of Betis and Barcelona to name but two are considering taking legal action against the television company for misrepresentation and defamation of character. Rayo, Sporting and Poli Ejido may well follow. The fun is just beginning. (24.01.03)

The Fourth Tenor?

Barcelona manager Louis Van Gaal may know a lot about football, but music is clearly not his forte.

Asked at yesterday's press conference what he thought about the music of one of the club's members, Catalan singer/songwriter Joan Manuel Serrat, who had criticised him recently in the local papers, he told reporters that he was not an expert, but that he liked the songs he had recorded with Pavarotti and Carreras, and he had one of their records at home.

It turned out that he had confused the popular entertainer with opera singer Placido Domingo, well know for his recordings with the Three Tenors. He should have known better. Although one of the tenors Josep Carreras is in fact a Barcelona fan, Domingo is a mad keen supporter of arch-rivals Real Madrid, and only last month sang the new Real Madrid anthem at the centenary celebrations in the Santiago Bernabeu stadium. Oops! (18.01.03)

In most households in Spain the cry of "Gol" usually means that somebody's favourite player, such as Deportivo La Coruña's Luque, has just scored. In Luque's house though it just means they are looking for the dog. The young striker decided to give the unusual name to his three year old cocker spaniel, who moved with him to Gallicia when he was transferred from Mallorca in the summer. With a high number of goals scored each week in the Spanish leagues and television commentators notorious for their animated cries, the poor creature must get very confused watching the football round up. (13.01.03)

The recent run of bad results at Barcelona has left controversial club president Joan Gaspart without support from many of his co-directors. When the ex vice-president won the elections a couple of years ago, he did so after merging his campaign with those of several of his opponents, offering them vice-presidents posts in exchange for their votes. However the last three, Ángel Fernández, Gabriel Masfurroll and Joan Castells, have all recently resigned in protest against their chief executive's management style and refusal to call new presidential elections, leaving the hotel magnate alone facing his own particular "High Noon".

Although reportedly depressed and under doctor's orders, Gaspart has not waited long in naming their successors, with his own men taking their places. Local press report a plan to hand over to his new first vice-president Sixte Cambra (an ex presidential candidate himself) and take a back seat, a move which would now take place without elections and which, some critics say, would be a better solution for the president than allowing an unfriendly face to take over and pry into the club's recent books and records.

The whole thing is due to go before an extraordinary meeting of members in the next few weeks. In the meantime, opposition groups are preparing a vote of censure which, if enough signatures are obtained, will upset all the plans. Bonfire night is expected to arrive early in Catalunya this year. (03.01.03)

Dec 2002

It was a performance that even Fernando Torres did not want to miss. Atlético Madrid keeper Mono Burgos was making his first live appearance in Spain with his rock band "The Garb" to promote his third album, "Líneas Calientes", which has just been released. The 400 or so fans in the audience at a venue near Madrid were clearly delighted, although wisely Burgos has decided not to give up his day job for now. (26.12.02)

Any similarities between these two men are purely coincidental - or are they?

One of the quaint traditions in Spain around Christmas time is the "belén", the nativity scene made up of tiny model figures around the crib which are displayed in many houses and public places.

A strange addition to this scene in Catalonia is the "caganer", a figure squatting in a lavatorial position with his trousers around his ankles. Although an outsider would consider this rude, it is intended to represent nature, or the fertilization of the land at this time of rebirth.

In recent times the "caganer" is based on a famous, and usually unpopular public figure, and this year one well-known chocolate manufacturer has used Barcelona manager Louis Van Gaal as his model. The same fate has befallen Johann Cruyff and club president Joan Gaspart in the past, and two years ago the chosen victim was Luis Figo shortly after his controversial move to Real Madrid. Of course that time the manufacturer made his figure out of white chocolate! (30.11.02)

Nov 2002

FIFA are starting to find out what Goliath felt like. Spanish second division B side Gimnastic de Tarragona ("Nàstic" to their friends) have decided to take on one of the giant organization's rulings that clubs are not allowed to challenge any decision by the local federations in the ordinary courts of law.

Nàstic's ground was closed for six games at the end of last season following crowd trouble, a decision which the club felt was unfair. When the federation tried to impose the sanction at the start of this season though, the Catalan club appealed to the local court to have the sentence overruled, and won. However the RFEF responded by postponing their home match with Castellón until further notice.

The battle is only just warming up, but other clubs much bigger than Nàstic (for example Deportivo La Coruña, Olimpia de Asunción) backed down under threat of being thrown out of all competitions. Will "David" hold his ground? The sling is ready, but the monster looks pretty big from here. (11.11.02)

Oct 2002

If you stop by at any southern coastal town in Spain, the overwhelming impression you get is that half of the population of northern Europe are here. And some of them are here to stay, such is the attraction of better climate and the Spanish way of life.

It's not all one way traffic though, it seems, as there are more Spanish football players playing abroad than ever, and nearly 80 of them are trying to make their mark in various European leagues this season. What's surprising however is their choice of destination. After Portugal, the most popular country apparently is Scotland - the country synonymous with blustery showers and perpetual snowdrifts, whose culinary delights include stuffed sheep's stomach and bashed neap (that's boiled turnip).

Archibald took with him six Spanish youngsters to Airdrie when he became the manager of then the Scottish First Division club. After Airdrie went into liquidation, most of them decided to stay on in Scotland and joined other clubs, in particular last year's revelation side Livingston.

There are currently 16 Spanish players playing in the Scottish league. The English league is their third choice with 11 players, including such well known names as Chelsea's Ferrer and De Lucas, Bolton's Iván Campo and Manchester United's new goalkeeper Ricardo. (27.10.02)

Sept 2002
It's the same the whole world over, it's the poor what gets the blame, It's the rich what gets the pleasure, ain't it all a bl**dy shame.....

An old song, but so often true. The rich get all the choice pickings and the poor are left with the crumbs. And so it is in football too. High fliers Real Madrid have made all the big signings in recent seasons, Roberto Carlos, Helguera, McManaman, Figo, Zidane etc, whilst their poor but honest neighbours Rayo Vallecano have had to watch all this with envy.

And so it was with this season, with Real Madrid snapping up Ronaldo and Rayo getting left with....Ronaldo's wife Ronaldinha! Actually she prefers to be known by her own name Milene Domingues rather than the one the press rather unkindly have lumbered her with, but Mrs. Ronaldo is quite a star in her own right. As well as her good looks she can turn a pretty leg on the playing field, and Rayo have taken her on to bolster their ladies football team (and also to promote Yoghurts Dhul, the brand name owned by the president's husband).

Milene was persuaded to join Rayo by the fact that they are the only club in Spain with a lady president, although she will only be able to play friendly games as the amateur league does not allow foreigners to play official games. Knowing Rayo's traditionally poor attendances, they may get more spectators for ladies' matches than for mens! (27.09.02)

UD Las Palmas' new signing Gustavo Reggi stepped off his plane at his destination expecting to find a host of fans and press reporters waiting to welcome him. But there was nobody there, not even a sausage. So he sat quietly in a chair waiting for someone to turn up. Meanwhile the same host of fans and press reporters waiting at the island airport were wondering where the Argentine striker had got to.

A quick phone call from his agent cleared the matter up. Reggi had booked a flight to Parma, which as every good geography student knows is on the island of Mallorca, off the east coast of Spain, rather than Las Palmas, which is in the Canary Islands, 1,150km off the coast of Africa. The player is apparently now making his way back, and with a bit of luck should arrive in time for their second match in ten days time. Shouldn't he? (05.09.02)

It's a sign of the times we suppose. The lack of movement on this summer's transfer market, and the overbooking in squads, has probably for the first time in living memory left some of the top footballers on the dole.

Top internationals such as Roberto Rios, Rafa Alkorta and Guillermo Amor will be signing on in Spain, hoping in the meantime for something to come along. Several others have found themselves left out of the 25 man squads, but having an existing contract will continue to train and be paid by their club at least until the end of December, when the transfer window opens up again. Deportivo for example have three players, Changui, Iván Pérez and Manel in that situation. (02.09.02)

Aug 2002

Spain's young footballers may be amongst the best in the world, but they are not going to win any prizes for intellectual prowess.

Barcelona's young keeper Víctor Valdés was on tour in Switzerland with his club when the team coach passed along the shores of lake Leman. "Is that the sea of Nyon?", he asked. One of his team mates gently pointed out that Switzerland was land-locked and that the nearest sea was over 500 kilometres away.

Betis star Joaquín fared no better. First of all he almost got on board the Real Madrid team coach instead of his own when the two sides arrived at the same time at the airport for their recent friendly in Cartagena (wishful thinking said some). Then when told that the game against Hungary was a testimonial to Puskas, he commented that someone told him that he had been a great player in his time at Barcelona. As Spanish football fans will surely know, Puskas was one of the best players ever to play.....for Real Madrid!

Finally no less than three of the current squad, Valerón, Sergio and Marchena, turned up for the trip to Hungary without their passports and had to have emergency ones made at the airport. It's a wonder they can find their way to goal! (18.08.02)

Remember Camachín? The famous Spanish team mascot who was saved from the cooking pot by Antena 3 television crew during the World Cup, and was named after the manager Camacho?

For those of you who have been rather concerned about what might have happened to him, we can at last bring some good news.

In the end they could not obtain the necessary licence for Camachín to come to Spain. However he has been taken in by the family of the interpreter who was working with the Spanish press at the World Cup. And, by happy coincidence, she is a vegetarian!

Shares in the Spanish banks rose yesterday, probably because of the flow of funds as all of the second division clubs finally opened their tight wallets to pay the outstanding debts to their players. Cash, bank guarantees and fax messages were flying all over the place as the hard-up clubs managed to settle all the accounts by the 31st July deadline.

Oviedo were finally given backing by the Principality of Asturias in return for the sale of future publicity rights, and they were able to pay off the €4.3 million owing. Las Palmas were also helped by their local authorities, the "Cabildo" of Gran Canaria, and that together with support from local businessmen in return for rights to boxes and top seats in the planned new stadium enabled them to settle the €5.9 million in claims from players.

Compostela's controversial president (aren't they all?) José María Caneda was able to persuade 16 players that the promissory notes he had given them were valid, and that they will collect on 2nd September once the new season ticket sales are under way. Tenerife and Sporting Gijon also paid up, as did struggling second division B sides Granada, Cartagonova and Jaén and third division side San Fernando, the clubs from the lower divisions with most problems.

The news came as a disappointment for Gimnastic Tarragona, who were next in line to be reinstated in the second division A if anybody failed to pay up. The team above them Levante have already been given a reprieve after Burgos failed to raise the capital to convert to a limited company within the stipulated timeframe, and were relegated to the second division B. (01.08.02)

July 2002

Time is running out for those second division A clubs who have not yet settled their debts with their players. Footballers from no less than seven clubs have registered complaints with the players' association AFE, and under federation rules, those clubs who have not reached an agreement by 31st July will be automatically relegated.

Four of them, Elche, Sporting, Tenerife and Xerez should have no problems as the amounts outstanding are relatively minor. Others such as Córdoba have avoided the situation entirely by issuing promissory notes guaranteeing payment of back debts in the future.

However Oviedo, newly promoted Compostela and to a lesser extent Las Palmas are not out of the woods yet, and it is touch and go whether they will make it. All three are hoping that the local authorities will throw them a lifeline, although in the cases of Oviedo and Compostela disputes between club management and the local councils make that less and less likely every day.

Burgos are another 2A club in difficulties, as they have to convert to a "sporting limited company" (S.A.D.) by the 26th July and have to find the minimum capital of €3.5 million. They too have gone to their town hall for assistance.

In the lower divisions, claims of over half a million Euros from players of relegated Jaén could see them drop to the third division, and struggling Logronés are due to lose all their squad as failure to meet salary payments mean the contracts tying them to the club are considered void. The crisis is starting to hit hard. (22.07.02)

Things are not always what they seem in the twisted world of Spanish football. Ex Espanyol midfielder Quique De Lucas seemed to be getting himself into a real pickle with his new contract at Chelsea.

The midfielder and part-time male model seemed to have landed a dream job in the heart of London's fashion land, where he could combine his skills on the field of play and on the catwalk. However the problem was that he had already signed a pre-contract with the very un-fashion conscious Alavés, and they stated publicly that they were not prepared to let the rising star slip through their grasp, at least without 2 or 3 million euros compensation from the Brad Pitt look-alike or his new club.

Espanyol were also unhappy about the whole thing, as although they had failed to reach an agreement to renew when his contract ran out, they would have been due a couple of million or so as well from Alavés for training rights under Spanish regulations. However the transfer overseas meant they would not see a peseta of this.

It now appears however that Alavés were being economical with the truth, and that they and Chelsea were probably in cahoots all along. The Vitoria based side have admitted that the pre-contract allows De Lucas to play for a foreign side in the first year of his agreement, and then return to Spain to serve out the last two or three seasons with them. Espanyol see this as a set up to avoid paying the training rights, and will be taking legal action. Episode two of this summer soap will be coming to your screens shortly. (05.07.02)