Every year, the gap in finances between the top flights in England and Spain respectively grows ever greater. The level of TV money pumped into the Premier League has bloated club budgets while the equivalent media deals for La Liga have left those outside of the nation’s elite lagging behind.
However, the knock-on impact of this scenario is the increased volume of players joining the English top flight from their Spanish equivalents with transfer fees suitably inflated to highlight the financial disparity. Chelsea’s €80m deal for Athletic Club’s Kepa Arrizabalaga while Bournemouth’s €28m signing of Levante midfielder Jefferson Lerma represented a record buy and sale for the respective clubs.
Indeed, the Valencia-based club only have an operating budget of around €50m per season, meaning the influx of cash provided from the Colombian international’s departure is of particular significance.
Lerma was not the only La Liga player to depart for the Cherries, with Leganes full-back Diego Rico also moving to England’s south coast in a €12m deal. Rico, like Lerma, had joined their clubs in the summer of 2016 for a combined fee of €1.6m while their departures were a combined €40m. Quite a hike in valuation.
Spain’s top flight is turning into the primary hunting ground for many English top-flight clubs, who see value with the combination of (mostly affordable) release clauses alongside high technical ability. Deportivo have been raided – two years after making their record sale of Lucas Perez joining Arsenal – with Romanian striker Florin Andone and Switzerland defender Fabian Schar joining Brighton and Newcastle respectively.
Many loan deals are also being completed. Atletico Madrid signed Celta Vigo’s Jonny Castro before loaning him to Fulham, where Sevilla shot-stopper Sergio Rico is also set to join on a temporary basis. Real Madrid have sent Mateo Kovacic to Chelsea without a purchase option while a similar arrangement is in place for Victor Camarasa’s move from Real Betis to Cardiff City.
Barcelona have viewed the Premier League in a slightly different light, seeing it as a location to send many of their fringe players who are outside of the budget of most Spanish clubs. Yerry Mina and Andre Gomes are two such names, while Gerard Deulofeu was sold permanently to Watford while Lucas Digne joined Everton. In a similar vein, Real Madrid’s record sale is offloading back-up striker Alvaro Morata (pictured) to Chelsea last summer.
There are risks with English clubs signing Spanish-based players. The struggles of Lucas Perez and Sandro Ramirez are evidence of how footballers face the same barriers as any other humans in overcoming cultural and language barriers. The Premier League bubble may not burst but it will almost certainly flatten out while La Liga is striving to increase its stake in the global television market. But for now, it appears to be a setup which benefits both divisions.
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