As the 90th season of the Spanish league begins on Friday, four of the most recognised teams in LaLiga will be sitting out matchday one.
Defending champions Real Madrid, runners-up Barcelona, Europa Champions Sevilla and Atlético Madrid have all been given an extra week to recover after their respective European competitions’ run. Getafe and promotion side Elche are set to benefit from this.
In fact, of the top four only Madrid will feature in the second matchday as they open their season against Real Sociedad away on September 20.
While the cathedral of glory, the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu, is still under construction, Madrid are expected to play their first home game there on September 30 against Real Valladolid.
Real played their home games at the Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano in Valdebebas at the tail-end of last season.
Construction at the Bernabéu will be on-going, however, no fans are expected into the various stadiums across Spain until at least late December or early January due to the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic, Javier Tebas, president of LaLiga, confirmed on Monday.
“Based on recent news from government, maybe just after the vaccination [for the virus] – maybe December and January next year... but it all depends on government and vaccine.”
Madrid will also become the second team after Barcelona to wear the special badge created by LaLiga for the reigning Spanish champions on their shirts.
This forms part of LaLiga’s major push to try and maintain the supremacy of its league – which has been rated as Europe’s top league by Uefa since the 2012/2013 season.
Another concern that Tebas admitted to this week was the news that Barcelona’s Lionel Messi wants to leave club. LaLiga took the unusual step two weeks ago to clarify that Messi’s release clause, which some say is around €700 million (R13.8 billion), must be paid if he wishes “to be deregistered from the Spanish Football Federation” to which the Messi camp refuted. This prompted a second statement by LaLiga stating that it stands by its original statement.
“Of course I was worried, but not that worried,” Tebas said at the global launch of LaLiga 2020/2021. “We always want Leo to be with us, I’ve said many times he is the best player in history and as president of LaLiga, I would like him to finish his career in this competition.”
Tebas said LaLiga has been molding its brand to be above players and clubs in terms of global prestige and marketability. He added that the league has many players “and clubs so the value [of commercial deals] is not affected by one or two players”.
“The broadcast deals have 90% been signed for the next few years, so no, [Messi leaving] would not have affected those,” Tebas emphasised. This was in response to whether the television rights – which is reported to be in excess of €4.48 billion until 2023/2024 – will be affected if Messi leaves at the end of the season.
With ambassadors such as Fernando Morientes, Samuel Eto’o, Diego Forlán, Gaizka Mendieta, Luis García, Iker Casillas and Andrés Iniesta all weighing-in on the new season, most tried to steer clear of the Messi situation with platitudes like “we are glad he is staying” or “he is the best in the world”.
They group did agree that 17-year-old Barcelona wonderkid Ansu Fati can become the face of Spanish football, but were also relishing the hard-fought battles between the top four – when they eventually get going.
Forlán, who ended his first season as a manager by being let go by Uruguayan side Penarol after 11 matches, said: “LaLiga is the best league, has the best players and that competition makes one battle harder [for wins]”.
LaLiga has also said it will incorporate real-time augmented reality as it tries to enhance the TV product and continues innovating to try and bring as much information to viewers as possible.
The first match of LaLiga kicks off on Friday at 9pm with Granada hosting Athletic Club.
All the weekend matches will be screened on SuperSport LaLiga (Channel 204). This includes Monday night’s clash between Deportivo Alavés and Real Betis.