Spanish giants among seven La Liga clubs that could have to sell their top stars if EU Commission finds them guilty
Real Madrid could be forced to sell stars like Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale if they are found to have received illegal state aid.
Madrid are one of seven Spanish clubs being investigated by the European Commission over allegations that they have banked billions thanks to favourable tax rates, dubious land deals and cheap loan agreements in conjunction with both central and local government.
Barcelona, Valencia, Athletic Bilbao, Osasuna, Elche and Hercules are also under scrutiny.
And, if it is found that any club benefited from a level of state aid that contravenes European regulations, they face repaying the money in full as well as a heavy rate of interest.
A state-aid expert said that it understood complaints have been lodged with the European Commission by investors and supporters of several clubs from outside Spain – including Tottenham and Borussia Dortmund.
Real Madrid, in particular, could face major financial problems if it is found that the aid they have been receiving from government has “distorted or threatened to distort competition”. That could have dire ‐consequences if they are ordered to pay back money.
Ronaldo’s status as the king of the Bernabeu was illustrated in September, when Real gave him a new five-year contract worth a staggering £76million – before bonuses.
But Bale is the pretender to his crown following his world-record £86million arrival from Tottenham in the summer in a deal that earns him £150,000-a -week.
The two players are the club’s most lucrative liquid assets. The nine-times European champions topped the latest Deloitte football money table after becoming the first club to smash through the €500million (£420million) barrier in annual revenue.
But it is reported in Spain that they have debts of £500million. Real are also being investigated over a land deal which saw them buy a parcel of land off the Madrid council for less than £350,000, which was later sold back to the ‐municipality for almost £20million.
Emily O’Reilly, the European ombudsman, warned last week that, according to the complaints received, the advantages gained by Spanish clubs amounted to several billion euros.
If the complaint is upheld by the investigation, that cash – and heavy interest – becomes repayable immediately without any requirement for the European Commission to take the individual clubs to court.
The Spanish government has promised to fight the allegations and has said that they will resist any attempt by the European ‐Commission to make the clubs pay.
But that would also be contrary to European law and there is growing anger in Brussels that the Spanish government has been granting tax exemptions to football clubs at a time when they have been asking for money from the EC to ease the country’s financial crisis.
Barcelona – along with Real, Valencia, Athletic Bilbao and Osasuna – have benefited from favourable tax rates after being granted special status by the Spanish ‐government.
If the complaint is proven, Barca are not believed to be facing the kind of financial ‐problems which are likely to befall their bitter rivals from the capital.