Real Madrid say they have wrapped up their mega pre-season spending spree, which critics say will inflate football wages at a time of dwindling revenues, with the transfer of Xabi Alonso from Liverpool.
“With this signing, the chapter is now closed on transfers,” the club’s technical director Jorge Valdano said late on Tuesday after Liverpool announced it had agreed an undisclosed transfer fee with Real for the 27-year-old midfielder.
“Before the start of the pre-season, the coach (Manuel Pellegrini) told us it was necessary to strengthen two positions: the defence and the midfield, and that is what we have done,” he added.
Spanish media reported that the four-year contract which Alonso signed with the club on Wednesday after passing a medical is worth 30 million euros (43 million dollars).
Real has spent over 250 million euros, by far the largest amount of any club in Europe, to sign eight players: Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaka, Karim Benzema, Raul Albiol, Esteban Granero, Alvaro Arbeloa, Alvaro Negredo and Alonso.
Real paid a record fee of 94 million euros to sign Portuguese winger Ronaldo, the current FIFA world player of the year, from Manchester United and 67 million euros to bring Kaka from AC Milan.
The spending spree followed the return in June of construction magnate Florentino Perez to the presidency of the club, the world’s richest football club by revenues.
During his previous stint as president of Real, from 2000 to 2006, the club won the Primera Liga twice and the European Champions League with such stars as Zinedine Zidane, Ronaldo, Luis Figo and David Beckham.
But just before Perez quit in 2006 mid-way through a second four-year term, he was sharply criticized for not having recruited enough defenders and for only having signed one Spanish player.
The arrival of Albiol, Arbeloa and Alonso means Real now have five members of the Spain squad which won the Euro 2008 championship. The others are keeper Iker Casillas and defender Sergio Ramos.
UEFA president Michel Platini has called the huge amounts doled out by Real for players “a serious challenge to the idea of fairplay and the concept of financial balance in our competitions” and said the European football governing body was developing new rules to end football’s excesses.
The Vatican newspaper Osservatore Romano has also weighed in on the debate, saying Real’s spending spree risked pushing football clubs towards bankrupcy by inflating transfer fees.
The recruitment drive has left Real with a crowded dressing room. Pelligrini wants the squad to be pared down to 25 which would mean the departure of four or five players.
“Now we have to find an exit route for those professionals who will not be with us next season,” said Valdano.
According to Spain’s sports media, Real is looking to offload four Dutch players - Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, Arjen Robben, Rafael van der Vaart, Wesley Sneijder - along with Alvaro Negredo.
Valdano said Real was unable to recruit French midfield star Franck Ribery from Bayern Munich because the German side were not interested in selling the player.
“Bayern were too demanding from the beginning. They did not want to sell the player and Madrid decided to wait for another opportunity,” he said.