• Sunday, Dec 06, 2020
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La Liga boss: Clasico biggest game in world

  • Published at 03:50 pm October 23rd, 2020
Messi
Barcelona’s Lionel Messi in action during their La Liga match against Real Madrid in Barcelona last December Reuters

La Liga usually estimates a potential Clasico audience of 650m worldwide and predicts greater numbers this weekend

Saturday, Barcelona and Real Madrid go face to face in the biggest football stadium in the world too, but almost all of the 99,000 seats at Camp Nou will be empty. 

In sporting terms, it would be hard to find a more dramatic event reduced so dramatically, as clear a demonstration as there could be of the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. 

La Liga usually estimates a potential Clasico audience of 650m worldwide and predicts greater numbers this weekend, given other sports in many countries remain suspended. 

Yet it is those fans that bring emotion and meaning, with their absence perhaps felt even more keenly at a time when the allure of these teams on the pitch is not what it once was. 

The decline began before the crisis but it has also been exacerbated by it. 

The transfer window was an exercise in cutting costs as Real went without a single new signing for the first time in 40 years and although Barca bought, they were more desperate to sell, allowing Luis Suarez to join title rival Atletico Madrid. 

Lionel Messi remains the crown jewels for the Clasico and La Liga, and it was no surprise when the Spanish league sided with Barca in the dispute over his contract in August.

If Messi leaves next summer when his contract expires, it will most likely be to Manchester City and the Premier League, another boost for La Liga's rival that has been seemingly immune to the pandemic. 

But there is concern about the might of the Premier League, whose spending reached 1.4bn euros in the summer, dwarfing the 412m spent by clubs in La Liga. 

Liverpool and Manchester United were also reported Tuesday to be leading discussions over a new European Premier League, which would involve 18 of the continent's biggest clubs playing each other. 

The more immediate challenge for Tebas is to keep La Liga float, as coronavirus infections continue to rise across Spain. 

For the first time since March, limited numbers of Spanish fans returned last weekend to some lower division games, where protocol depends on local health authorities rather than central government. 

But a return in the top two tiers is not close. 

Yet there will be pressure from La Liga clubs, who Tebas estimates lost 600m euros last season and will lose another billion euros if this season ends without fans.

And there is no back-up plan for another suspension.

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