Are the days of outrageous transfer fees in La Liga on their way out? The top Spanish clubs Barcelona and Real Madrid have recognized the value of free transfers in a move that could see an end to some of the profligate spending that has been witnessed in Spanish football in recent years.
Top players available for free
Barcelona have been able to sign top players on free transfers, such as striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang from Arsenal and Dutch forward Memphis Depay who arrived from French club Lyon. While the club is not averse to big-money signings, it does seem as if the Nou Camp club is being more selective about committing to them. Real Madrid has also got in on the act, signing versatile Austrian defender David Alaba on a free transfer from Bayern Munich.
Barcelona will be hoping the signings help them improve on last season’s second-place finish in La Liga, as bitter rivals Real Madrid won the league. It’s looking like the rivals are set to conquer as betting tips today reveal Real Madrid is the favorite at +120 to retain its title, while Barcelona is priced at +150. But, as we’ve seen many times before, the underdog can always surprise us and come out on top.
Whether Barcelona will make a big name signing or more free transfers remains to be seen, but of course, free signings work both ways. Barcelona lost their Argentinian star Lionel Messi, widely considered to be the best player in the world, to Paris Saint-Germain on a free transfer. However, the Catalan club also loaned out French striker Antoine Griezmann to Atlético Madrid and cashed in an $ 11 million loan fee in the process.
This is a stark contrast with previous seasons when Barcelona spent exorbitant amounts on players such as Bosnian midfielder Miralem Pjanic, a $ 66 million signing from Juventus in 2020, the $ 132 million signing of the aforementioned Griezmann from Atlético Madrid, and over $ 94 million on Frenkie de Jong in 2019. Such signings are behind the huge levels of debt at the club.
Competition from the Premier League and Paris Saint-Germain
Real Madrid and Barcelona also face competition from the English Premier League and one of the new rich kids on the block – Paris Saint-Germain. The Paris club signaled their intentions when they paid a record $ 240 million to sign Brazilian forward Neymar from Barcelona. While this competition has not prevented Real Madrid from paying big money for players, it does mean that some of the best talents in the world are now looking beyond La Liga, for example, this summer, Senegalese forward Sadio Mane has opted to sign for Bayern Munich.
Are the days of exorbitant transfer fees over in La Liga? Perhaps not, but it certainly seems that the Spanish giants are now more selective in their transfer dealings. The competition from cash-rich clubs in the English Premier League and Qatari-owned French club Paris Saint-Germain means that the Spanish clubs are often outbid for world stars and the best option seems to be scouting the transfer market for players available on a free transfer.