With the most expensive manager in world football, a club-record £113m signing and on-going payments for their Wanda Metropolitano stadium, Atletico Madrid may struggle to survive coronavirus lockdown
- Atletico Madrid could struggle to pay Diego Simeone’s wages during lockdown
- The manager, who earns £36million a year, has led Atleti to six European finals
- The club accrued £178m of debt during their move to Wanda Metropolitano
- Meanwhile, Atletico have continued to spend big money in the transfer market
- Los Rojiblancos must adapt to survive financial impact of coronavirus pandemic
- Coronavirus symptoms: what are they and should you see a doctor?
With coach Diego Simeone earning £8.9million (10million euros) more than any of his peers in football management, the spending last summer of a club-record £113m (127m euros) on then-19-year-old Joao Felix, and the on-going payments for their new stadium, it is little wonder that Atletico Madrid are being seen as one of the clubs who could most struggle financially from the coronavirus shut-down.
It is indisputable that Simeone has earned fortunes for the club. Two Champions League final appearances, another semi-final, two Europa League finals and two European Super Cups have brought in well over £268m (300m euros) in prize-money.
But his deal is one of the reasons why the club could be out on a financial limb if the season cannot be finished satisfactorily and television and match-day revenue be salvaged.
Diego Simeone’s massive salary could place Atletico Madrid under financial strain
The club will continue to pay for Wanda Metrolpolitano stadium during coronavirus lockdown
And although recent attempts to sign flair players at great cost (Joao Felix and Thomas Lemar both smashed club transfer records) came from money raised in the transfer market, Atletico still managed to spend big while moving into a new stadium.
Most clubs struggle to do that and the new stadium is still to be paid for. The club went into debt with Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim to pay for the move from the old Vicente Calderon to the out-of-town Metropolitano.
That debt of around £178m (200m euros) owed to Slim’s company Inbursa is not due to be paid off in full until around 2028. The club has stayed competitive in the transfer market through the move but they have done so operating at the limit of their finances that was always going to be tested by any unforeseen circumstances.
After an underwhelming first season, Atletico may regret spending £113million on Joao Felix
Atletico left Vicente Calderon (above) for Wanda Metropolitano after the 2016-17 season
The club have already announced an, as yet unspecified, package of pay-cuts and temporary lay-offs for its entire staff. That will only last for as long as Spain is in lockdown and is therefore unlikely to stretch beyond April 11. What will be more significant is transfer activity next summer.
Atletico’s wage bill stands at £310m (348m euros). When the club announced its budget at the start of the season, projected revenue was set at £459m (515m euros). That figure is in danger of not being reached if remaining games have to be played behind closed doors or even not played at all.
Even if things get back to normal there is a feeling that Atletico Madrid will need to adjust this summer. The club’s Sporting Director Andrea Berta told Tuttosport this week: ‘I think they could get rid of the summer transfer window that now could coincide with the end of the (rearranged) season, and everyone stays with the team they have until January when the market reopens.’
Diario AS reported last week that Atletico will only bring in players if they can sell whenever the next window opens. Lemar is one who could leave.
Debt of around £178m is owed to Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim after the stadium move
Los Rojiblancos will consider selling Thomas Lemar in a bid to alleviate the financial pressure
Thomas Partey is another with a foot out of the door thanks largely to a £45m (50m euros) release clause but the club are confident they can renew the 26-year-old Ghanian international without losing him.
Improving Jan Oblak’s terms looks unavoidable if he is to stay. Unavoidable but desirable after he showed how important he is at Anfield in the Champions Leauge.
And there will be another of the staggered payments for Joao Felix to meet. He is not just the club’s record signing, he is also the third most expensive player in history.
The purchase of the teenager looked daring last summer. Now, after an underwhelming first year and with the financial consequences of football’s shutdown looming large it looks more ill-advised.
Simeone will have to earn his money by managing a squad without any significant new investment. Underling the club’s situation, he wanted Edinson Cavani in January but there was no money to pay the £27m (30m euros) Paris Saint-Germain were asking.
Atletico will struggle to satisfy the wage demands of star goalkeeper Jan Oblak
France Football published the top earners in management last month and it was a reminder of just how much more Simeone is paid at Atletico Madrid than other managers.
His income is still dwarfed by the top players: France Football listed Lionel Messi as receiving £117m (131m euros); Cristiano Ronaldo £105m (118m euros) and Neymar, £85m (95m euros), but in terms of coaches no one comes close.
He topped the list of highest-paid managers grossing £36m (40.5m euros) a season, just under £8.9m (10m euros) more than second-placed Antonio Conte who earns £37m (30m euros) and third-placed Pep Guardiola on £24 (27m euros).
According France Football, Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola earns £24million
Simeone has led Atleti to six European finals, lifting the Europa League trophy in 2018
The club announced Simeone’s last deal on St. Valentines day in 2019, in part as a homage the number 14 shirt he used to wear. They put an ‘in love with Atleti’ headline on their announcement of the deal. He is a symbol of the club, the most important figure in its history and about to rack-up 3,000 days of being in charge.
No one can question these past eight years have been the best in the club’s history but maintaining him as the highest paid coach, plus paying for a new stadium, and breaking transfer records in successive seasons, has come at huge cost.
Now with football teetering on the brink of recession clubs will have to adjust, and Atletico Madrid might have to adjust more than most.
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