Sun, Aug 09, 2009 - Page 18 News List

Argentine clubs still buying despite debt

AP , BUENOS AIRES

Argentina’s most famous clubs continue to shop for players despite massive debts that have put the start of the season on hold in one of the world’s most fanatical soccer countries.

Many of Argentina’s biggest clubs — Boca Juniors, Independiente, Racing Club, San Lorenzo and River Plate — have recently signed new players, or expressed interest in doing so.

That is despite estimates that Argentina’s first division clubs have combined debts of 700 million pesos (US$182 million), including back taxes, player salaries and payments owed to the Argentine Football Association (AFA).

“This is incredible. It’s like a science fiction film,” said Sergio Marchi, secretary general of the players union Futbolistas Argentinos Agremiados. “The clubs have a rotting corpse in the room and they’re out shopping.”

AFA officials have gone begging for a solution after the start of the season, set for Aug. 14, was postponed indefinitely last week.

There have been suggestions that TV rights holders should pay more, with the added income to help defray the debts. AFA president Julio Grondona has proposed making cable TV subscribers pay an additional 12 pesos per month. He said the extra income would go to the teams, but TV rights holders quickly turned down the idea.

Grondona has also asked the government to legalize Internet betting, another idea that seems to have little traction.

Meanwhile, Boca Juniors on Friday signed midfielder Ariel Rosada from Spanish club Celta Vigo for an undisclosed amount. They also signed two midfielders earlier — Gary Medel from Universidad Catolica and Federico Insua from America of Mexico.

Reports suggest Boca has a debt of 10 million pesos.

Independiente paid US$650,000 to San Lorenzo for striker Andres Silvera. The club said it also offered US$2 million for Sporting Lisbon midfielder Leandro Romagnoli.

Racing has recently spent about US$4 million on player signings.

“They [the clubs] shouldn’t do whatever they want,” Argentina national team coach Diego Maradona said on Friday on radio station Del Plata. “If you buy players, you have to be responsible [to pay them] and not blame others.”

The global economic crisis has hurt Argentine clubs. European clubs are buying fewer players from Argentina and paying less. In the past, clubs have avoided financial meltdown by selling top players to wealthier European clubs.

On Wednesday, the clubs said they turned down a proposal by TV rights holders to give teams an advance of about 40 million pesos as a short-term solution to their financial difficulties.

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