Michu: Swansea City Got Themselves A Real Bargain At La Liga's Expense

The Spanish midfielder has started his Premier League adventure with a bang, but his €3m departure from Real Vallecano has exposed some of the real problems in Spanish football.
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The Spanish midfielder has started his Premier League adventure with a bang, but his €3m departure from Real Vallecano has exposed some of the real problems in Spanish football.

Twelve months ago hardly anyone in England or Spain knew who Miguel Pérez Cuesta was. In fact, if you were to ask anyone now, they probably still wouldn’t recognise the name but that is because he is commonly known by his nickname; a nickname that is in every conversation lately and a player that some are already classing as the bargain of the season. Michu has started his debut season in England for Swansea City like he ended his last season in Spain: in style.

Last season, as Rayo Vallecano returned to the top flight, they signed a little known midfielder from the Principality of Asturias in northern Spain. He would go from virtual unknown to club hero in just a few months. The story of the boy from Oviedo is one of football’s few true fairytales. He came up through the ranks at home club Real Oviedo playing in the third tier of Spanish football. His displays caught the eye of Galician side and former Champions League side Celta Vigo. He put in some decent displays and Sporting Gijon, bitter rivals to his boyhood club Oviedo, were very interested in securing his signature but the deal fell through. Although the next season he would be part of Celta Vigo’s promotion, he would be on his way again and was signed by another promoted side, Rayo Vallecano. This would be the first time he would play in the top flight anywhere.

At Rayo he would set the league alight scoring 15 goals and becoming the top scoring midfielder for the season.

At Rayo he would set the league alight scoring 15 goals and becoming the top scoring midfielder for the season. As the season wore on, Rayo knew they would struggle to keep hold of their prized asset. Rayo are in debt, like most Spanish clubs, and came up to the top flight whilst in administration. The truth is that all the clubs promoted that year had been in some form of administration or boarding on it that season. In Spain the financial failures of clubs are not punished like in England and for this reason many clubs have been living beyond their means for a long time but now things are changing.

With the recession in Spain showing no signs of letting up, football clubs are starting to be held accountable for their poor organisation. Last year it was announced that football clubs owed almost €800m to the Spanish Taxman, with Atlético de Madrid believed to owe around €200m of that debt and the tax debt is just the tip of the iceberg. Clubs owe millions in transfers, wages and mortgages on stadiums. Michu for example went months unpaid at Real Oviedo, Celta Vigo and Rayo Vallecano. Possibly, the first time he was ever paid on time was this summer after he had signed for Swansea.

This summer, apart from three clubs, two being Real Madrid and Barcelona, all had to sell their top player to balance the books. While this may be a golden age for Spanish football on both the club and international stage, the financial state of the game is on the verge of a cardiac arrest as more and more stars are leaving La Liga. While in the past few years the departures of Kun Agüero, Juan Mata, David Silva -and this season Santi Cazorla, Diego Ribas and Salomón Rondon, just to name a few- have caught the headlines, it was Michu’s departure that should have set off the alarm bells.

Rayo had to sell him as the administrators had to accept the deal to help settle outstanding debts with creditors but, what shocked many, was why no Spanish club had tried to sign him.

The attacking midfielder joined Swansea for just over €3m. Rayo had to sell him as the administrators had to accept the deal to help settle outstanding debts with creditors but, what shocked many, was why no Spanish club had tried to sign him. He had proven himself in La Liga and nobody doubted his abilities but, why was no rival club after him? The answer was simple: They are all broke. Last season Atlético de Madrid spent over €60m on Radamel Falcao, Silvio and Arda Turan but this season they spent just €1m on Cata Diáz, Cebolla Rodríguez and Emre. Whilst somebody like Michu could have been the perfect replacement for on-loan playmaker Diego Ribas, Atlético had no money to sign him. Neither had Valencia, Sevilla or any other club.

Michael Laudrup had the money to sign Michu and he acted fast to sign the 26-year-old. In Spain no one was surprised that clubs were chasing after the Asturiano, but it was Laudrup who was the quickest to see a bargain, having managed in La Liga and having an impressive scouting network. Michu was sad to leave Rayo but knew he had to. As he now sits on top of the goal scoring chart, he is the same player who left the Rayo’s stadium on the last day of the season in his underpants, as fans ripped his kit off for souvenirs to remember how the team had miraculously survived with a goal in the final minute in their final game of the season, completely down to earth.  If more La Liga clubs had his attitude of hard work and patience, then maybe the storm that is threatening to burden La Liga may have been prevented.

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