No Ronaldo, no problem

LaLiga bigger than a single player, says chief as Real struggle to find replacement for star

MADRID • Javier Tebas, the president of LaLiga, said he is not worried about the value of the league's product after Cristiano Ronaldo - one of its most famous players - left Real Madrid to join Serie A champions Juventus.

"At LaLiga, we are above the name of the players, just like Real Madrid is bigger than the brand of Cristiano Ronaldo," Tebas told Spanish daily Marca on Tuesday.

LaLiga is the second most valuable football league in Europe behind the Premier League and ahead of the Bundesliga. Last month, it announced a new domestic broadcasting rights deal worth €3.4 billion (S$5.4 billion) until 2022, a 15 per cent increase on the previous deal.

It still lags behind the value of broadcasting rights in England's top flight, worth £4.46 billion (S$8 billion) until 2022. But Tebas believes the growth of the league's value in recent years means that it can stomach the loss of five-time Ballon d'Or winner Ronaldo, the league's second-highest all-time scorer (311 goals) behind Barcelona's Lionel Messi (383).

"The Premier League is the league that sells its broadcast rights for the biggest value and it doesn't have the best players or the best clubs," he said. "Cristiano is leaving and other players are coming, but everyone has renewed without needing an offer for another player to be on the table."

Indeed, one of the biggest questions now is who will replace Ronaldo at Real. The European champions have not signed a galactico since Gareth Bale in 2013 and will need to replace the 44 goals Ronaldo contributed last season.

Various Spanish and British media outlets have speculated that Paris Saint-Germain stars Neymar and Kylian Mbappe, and Chelsea forward Eden Hazard, are high on Real's wish list. But Spanish football expert and Sky Sports pundit Guillem Balague cannot envision top target Neymar leaving PSG.

"I don't see a galactico available," he told Sky Sports.

"The plan that was designed in the last few months was that Real Madrid's attack would be Neymar, Marco Asensio and Cristiano, but PSG are saying there is no way they will let Neymar go. We will see now, with more money and more pressure involved, how that pans out," added the Spaniard, who also suggested Real are unlikely to sign Tottenham Hotspur striker Harry Kane or Bayern Munich hitman Robert Lewandowski at this stage.

What is certain is that Ronaldo's arrival in Turin will affect Juventus players and Real targets alike.

Former Real manager Fabio Capello expects Juventus striker Gonzalo Higuain to reunite with former Napoli boss Maurizio Sarri at Chelsea, where the Italian is expected to replace compatriot Antonio Conte in the coming days.

"Cristiano Ronaldo's arrival is very important for Italian football, a work of genius for Juventus and for all of Italy," Capello told Sky Sport Italia. "He transformed himself from a winger to a genuine centre-forward and it'll be far easier for him to play at Juve, as they provide plenty of crosses."

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 12, 2018, with the headline 'No Ronaldo, no problem'. Print Edition | Subscribe