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On the move: Mo Salah has hinted his future may be away from Anfield but a switch to La Liga seems unlikely given Barca and Real’s financial plight. Photo: Getty Images

On the move: Mo Salah has hinted his future may be away from Anfield but a switch to La Liga seems unlikely given Barca and Real’s financial plight. Photo: Getty Images

On the move: Mo Salah has hinted his future may be away from Anfield but a switch to La Liga seems unlikely given Barca and Real’s financial plight. Photo: Getty Images

There are different rules for players at the very pinnacle of the game - the small knot of the elite atop the long list encompassing the mediocre, the good and the excellent. It is an exclusive grouping that Mohamed Salah now finds himself in.

The Liverpool striker is approaching the great financial reckoning of his career holding most of the aces.

He is 28, with two years left on his Liverpool contract come the summer, and the time has come to grasp what will be the most lucrative contract of his career - be it at Anfield or, as he intimated with the lightest of brushstrokes, perhaps elsewhere.

Ingrained

A move to Spain was, for so long, the final page of the negotiation playbook for the Premier League's best players - some of whom went and some of whom stayed with improved deals. So ingrained did it become that it must be hard to accept it has now gone.

Real Madrid and Barcelona are drowning in the sort of debt that makes their finances precarious and in no shape to accomplish the kind of cash-mountain, hostile buy required to prise a player such as Salah away from a club such as Liverpool.

But old tactics die hard, and so pre-Christmas came Salah's interview with 'Diario AS'. The act of granting an audience to a Spanish paper was enough to get a message across, regardless of what little he actually said.

There was a conciliatory tone this week when he spoke to the Norwegian channel TV2 as part of a club-arranged run of interviews. "I do not know," he said of his future. " . . . it is in the hands of the club."

The pressure from Spain's two biggest clubs is no longer there and English clubs know it. Years of debt accumulation and poor financial management by Real and Barcelona, now accelerated by Covid-19, have left them struggling.

When it comes to Salah's future, who might Liverpool be bidding against other than themselves? Paris St-Germain and Manchester City might still be able to afford him, but for the cost financially and otherwise, it is hard to make the case.

No wonder Real Madrid's president, Florentino Perez, was widely reported in Spain this week to be meeting with the European super league apostle Andrea Agnelli, chairman of Juventus. It cannot come soon enough for Perez's club, where the next great problem is their six-monthly wage bill on June 30. Their debt has been swollen by a €575m bond scheme to rebuild the Bernabeu, with added costs of €160m.

They have State-backed loans of €205m, which got them through the summer wage payments. They are €140m in arrears on salaries. There is a loan of around €130m from the US hedge fund Providence, along with other bank debts and payments on transfers that would take their debt to more than €1bn.

It is just as dire at Barcelona, where the players joined the club's list of creditors this month by deferring €172m in salaries from the half-year payment wage bill.

© Telegraph Media Group Limited 2021

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