As Iker Casillas clutched and hoisted the Henri Delaunay Trophy, a thunderous sound was heard over Las Rozas, a suburb of Madrid. It originated from the headquarters of the Spanish FA, where the RFEF board clapped their hands in unison and not because Spain had done the unthinkable and undoable, winning three tournaments in a row. It was because the gravy train that has been keeping the money flowing into the coffers would continue to tour around the world, whether the players liked it or not.
For the sixth time in less than two years, Vicente del Bosque and his charges will cross the ocean and this time they will face Panama. So far they have played in Mexico, Argentina, Venezuela, Costa Rica and Puerto Rico and all have been games the players will want to forget.
Poor performances were accompanied by rumours that the players were reluctant to give 100 per cent for a number of reasons, with two of the important ones being they had not been paid their World Cup bonuses and believed the games were a waste of time.
Don Vicente has used these games to filter in fringe players and give others some valuable playing time, but it seems that the jig is up. Showpro and Shockwave, the companies organising the friendly, have inserted a clause in the contract saying that Spain must field at least 75 per cent of its World Cup and European Championship winning sides. To play Spain costs in the region of €2-3m and Panama have sold out the Rommel Fernandez, charging fans from €50 to €160 with VIPs paying more than €1500, so spectators want value for money.
Del Bosque has discussed the idea of only bringing 18 players instead of the traditional 23 but this will do little to appease both Real Madrid and Barcelona. Just 72 hours after the friendly, Madrid host Athletic Bilbao and then travel to England to face Manchester City in the Champions League. Barcelona in turn face Real Zaragoza and then have to travel to Moscow for their European tie. The Barca players included in Spain’s trip to Panama will end up travelling around 24,200kms in just 10 days.
Both Florentino Perez and Sandro Rosell have asked FA president, Angel Villar, to be sensible but the simple fact is that he does not seem to care. The Spanish FA are laughing all the way to the bank, and with the €3m being offered by Panama and a further €1.3m forked out by RTVE to broadcast the game, the FA will continue to milk the cash cow as much as they can.
Another worry for Los Vikingos y Los Cules is that both Argentina and Brazil also have long distance friendlies. Right now all both clubs can do is cross their fingers and hope for the best.