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A Weird Transfer Window in Spain

The summer transfer window is stupid and amazing, mainly because no reasonable person can predict its events.

A few years back, when European bigwigs like Real Madrid, Chelsea, and Manchester City were tossing ludicrous amounts of cash at new players — some turned out to be worth it (Didier Drogba, Zinedine Zidane), some not so much (Fernando Torres, Andriy Shevchenko) — football business seemed destined for either monopolistic domination of the human race or a gloriously monumental crash.

Then, as UEFA introduced the uber-misleading “equalizer” known as Financial Fair Play in 2009 (implemented in 2011-12), things died down; gone seemed to be the days of obscene transfer dealings and squad saturations through superior financial clout in favor of smaller overall spending numbers. But that didn’t last long either, as club’s learned to maneuver around players’ wages — the numbers on which FFP is based — to still spend exorbitant fees on new arrivals.

Today, teams are still breaking club and world records with new transfers, and will continue to. It’s not the wild west that it was just ten years ago, but it’s still plenty silly. In fact, the 2015 summer window has been really, really weird. In Spain, particularly, everyone seems to have lost their minds.

In 1st Place of Losing Their Minds is, of course, Real Madrid. First of all, let’s be honest, Real Madrid invented this whole silly season hodgepodge. I don’t mean literally, but spiritually and figuratively; none of it really mattered until Los Merengues started Galacticoing their packages through the halls of European football. Before Florentino Perez convinced Luis Figo to to swap blaugrana for blanco, transfers were just business exchanges. Now they’re global events. Once he realized he could purchase Figo’s soul, Perez proceeded to push until he felt resistance, something that still hasn’t really happened yet. A Zidane, a Beckham, a Ronaldo, an Owen, a Kaka, another Ronaldo, and a Bale later, and here we are. But if Figo was Madrid’s original coup, Sergio Ramos just nearly became their self-castration.

It’s been rumored all summer that Sergio Ramos is leaving Real Madrid. Word had it that Louis van Gaal wanted him at Manchester United and that Ramos wanted out, and that it was a done deal. Nevertheless, even as this bubbling rumor hit its absolute peak, there was still an “I’ll believe it when I see it” quality to it. Those feelings were validated on Wednesday when Marca reported that Ramos and Madrid have agreed on a five-year contract extension, veritably tying him to the club for the remainder of his professional career. We’ll have to wait for Ramos’s post-career autobiography to know how close he was to setting sail for England, if at all.

This whole Ramos kerfuffle comes in the wake of Real Madrid releasing the longstanding pillar of their footballing identity, Iker Casillas. The prospect of losing two loyal, fan-favorite servants in one month was perhaps too much for even Perez to swallow. In the end, he (cough) did the right thing. Simply speaking in footballing terms, Ramos is decisively more crucial to Real Madrid’s current and future title ambitions than Casillas would’ve been. There are other intangible factors such as legacy and public opinion to be considered beyond that truth, but Perez and Madrid aren’t ones to get too mushy on past glories. It’s all about Today for them, and today’s Casillas is an expendable footballer. Today’s Ramos isn’t.

But let’s not be blinded by Perez’s flightiness, because the strange transfer story of the week has nothing to do with Madrid, but with a club typically lauded for their economical business sense. The basic sentiment of the story is easy to follow: Valencia coach Nuno Espirito Santo has revealed that doesn’t want Alvaro Negredo on his team. The problem is, Valencia already broke their club transfer record to buy Negredo earlier this month. Yep, it turns out that the Spanish club, who acquired Negredo via loan last January, had a prearranged €28 million agreement with Manchester City to buy the out-of-form centre-forward at the season’s conclusion. Now, Los Che are stuck trying to offload their most expensive player ever before he even kicks a ball as a permanent employee. Not only does this farce uncover new, somewhat baffling, information regarding the relationship between manager and board at Valencia (surely they discussed this before making such an extreme deal, right?!?), but it puts an emphatic shine to the nature of today’s transfer market; despite the cataclysmic disaster this transfer will end up being, Valencia will probably work its way from underneath it. While in most industries, such a failure would be crippling blunder, in world football, it’s merely a funny headline.

It’s not all incompetence and disloyalty though — at least not traditionally speaking. Sergio Ramos’s move to Manchester may have proved to be nothing more than noise, but Barcelona’s Pedro reported €30 million switch to United feels both imminent and unlikely at the same time. The industrious Barca winger has played second, third, and fourth fiddle over the last few seasons after breaking into Pep Guardiola’s side in 2008. Still, it seems highly unfitting of a club like Barca to let a seasoned, decorated La Masia product like Pedro leave, but word is that the Spaniard is keen to take his talents to Old Trafford. As far as we can tell, this transfer seems pretty straightforward if it does indeed go through, which, in the terms of the 2015 summer transfer window, makes it weird. The deal has yet to be finalized, however, so there’s still plenty of time to add a little crazy to it.

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