Players leaving La Liga for more money
15 August ~ It began with Radamel Falcao passing up Champions League football at Atlético Madrid for a huge tax-free salary at nouveau riche Monaco in early June. The exodus of players from La Liga has since continued all summer. More than 50 players have been sold by Primera División teams to clubs in other countries, while few exciting names have been attracted to Spanish clubs. Current Spain internationals Álvaro Negredo, Jesús Navas, Roberto Soldado, Thiago Alcântara, Fernando Llorente and Raúl Albiol all packed their bags.
Big names Gonzalo Higuaín, Jérémy Toulalan and Joaquín Sánchez also left, as did youngsters Marc Muniesa, Alejandro Pozuelo and Joel Robles, and experienced old heads Andrés Palop and Éric Abidal.
Just as worrying is the second- and even third-tier players who were tempted away. Liverpool outbid Valencia for Iago Aspas. Betis qualified for the Europa League but were unable to match the terms on offer for last year's first-choice goalkeeper Adrián, who joined West Ham, or midfielder Jose Canas, who chose Swansea. Fulham offered Fernando Amorebieta a salary Athletic Bilbao would not or could not match. Sevilla raised cash by selling third-choice left-back Antonio Luna to Aston Villa for €2 million (£1.7m) and taking Cardiff for a reported €13m for combustible midfielder Gary Medel.
It could be that canny Spanish teams and agents have suckered a few English clubs keen to get some of the "Michu effect" for themselves – and the fees Napoli paid look questionable – but generally the point stands. If it comes down to a bidding war, any Spanish team not called Real Madrid or Barcelona have no chance. None of Spain's chasing pack, apart from maybe Athletic Bilbao, can really say they have strengthened their squad this summer. The rest have mainly been scrabbling around for free transfers or loan deals. Even "big" clubs such as Valencia and Sevilla are taking a punt on young unproven South American or eastern European talent, or someone whose career has stalled elsewhere.
Mid-size clubs who over-achieved last season have been cherry-picked by others and had to totally rebuild their teams. Real Betis (13 new players, few fees paid) and Rayo Vallecano (nine signings, all frees and loans) are both pretty typical. The few teams relatively flush with cash this summer such as Athletic Bilbao, Villarreal, Elche and Granada should be able to benefit.
Not that anybody will be worrying at the Bernabéu or Nou Camp, where it has been business as usual. Barcelona paid Santos – and sundry other parties – €57m for Neymar while Real Madrid shelled out a combined €70m or so on Spanish Under-21 European Champions Isco and Asier Illarramendi. Both clubs could also spend big again before the window shuts, which might be fun for their fans. Meanwhile supporters of the "other 18" are bracing themselves for further painful exits. Dermot Corrigan