Express News Service
KOCHI: Arguably, the biggest story of the recently shut transfer window was the departure of Lionel Messi from Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain. But there was another phenomenon rarely witnessed in football industry that largely went unnoticed amidst the drama surrounding one of the sport’s global superstars.
The Argentine legend who was the face of Barcelona for close to two decades ended up leaving on a free transfer as the Spanish giants lost their greatest ever player due to a financial crisis of their own making.
Much of the narrative since then has been about how the La Liga has lost its last big superstar after the likes of Neymar and Cristiano Ronaldo left the league in previous seasons.
However, the news of a few senior players at Barcelona taking pay cuts from their lucrative contracts in order to register new players and help steady the club after Messi’s departure has gone against most recent trends in the transfer business.
And Fernando Morientes, who has worn the jersey of Barcelona’s eternal rivals Real Madrid, is in admiration of the gesture made by players like Gerard Piqué, Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba. Their decision allowed the club to register the likes of Memphis Depay, Eric Garcia and Sergio Aguero for the new season.
“We should applaud these players because talking about players like Jordi Alba and Pique, they have been at Barcelona for many years. And they feel that Barcelona is really their club and it’s a way that they can help their club,” said the La Liga ambassador during a virtual media interaction on Tuesday.
The former striker, who has played for major clubs like Madrid and Liverpool, admitted that it was indeed an unusual sight in football.
“They didn’t have to accept this. They’ve got contracts they signed. But they saw that Barcelona was having very important financial difficulties following the economic management of the club in recent years and this meant that Messi was not able to stay. And they’ve had to make financial efforts to reduce their salary. They didn’t have to do that as contracts are there to be fulfilled right through to the end. These are the ones (players) that fans would see as part of their club,” he said.
Morientes played for the Madrid club at a time when the club shifted to a policy of signing high profile players at record fees and became popularly known as the Galacticos. The likes of Ronaldo, Luis Figo, Zinedine Zidane were all signed during Morientes’ playing days. The club kept flexing their muscles in the following years with the arrival of Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale. However, in recent seasons, they have shifted to a policy of signing young players like Vinicius Junior and Rodrygo as the Los Blancos have also been navigating financial difficulties.
There was an ambitious €180m bid for Kylian Mbappé which was turned down by PSG but most signings have been low key and player sales have captured headlines.
“It is difficult to compete with the so-called state-run clubs like PSG. But it’s true that it has become difficult for everyone, particularly after the pandemic. And I believe the clubs had problems generating income particularly with fans not being able to go to stadiums. The positive thing is that in recent years, La Liga is working very very well and positively in terms of maintaining economic controls to ensure that clubs don’t go into debt and clubs are able to maintain a healthy financial situation and adapt,” said the former Spain international.
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