Saturday November 17 2012
Do Atletico own Falcao?

With daily transfer rumours surrounding Radamel Falcao, Garreth Nunn looks at why Atletico Madrid and even the player himself may have little say in any deal.

It was the summer of 2011 and change was in the air at the Vicente Calderon. Kun Aguero made his feelings known and David de Gea was on his way too. Atleti owed the taxman and they had to pay €50m by September. They appointed Gregorio Manzano and announced that this would be the year of the cantera. Colchonero fans although disappointed, did see a bright side as the youth system had been ignored in recent years and everyone was longing for the ‘Next Torres’. Then suddenly the club were active in the transfer market. Arda Turan, Radamel Falcao and then Diego Ribas - on loan - were not what the Rojiblanco board or fans had been expecting a few months before. Something didn’t sit right. Fans were suspicious and they were right to be.

Jose Marcos works for El Pais but he is no ordinary journalist. For some Atleti fans his word is gospel and those that follow the writer have good reason to believe him when he speaks or writes because not only is he in the employment of one of Spain’s biggest media groups but he can also boast to being something that very few people are, an Atletico shareholder. For years Marcos has been a thorn in the side for the Atleti board. He has exposed the Atletico accounts and is one of the few reliable sources when it comes to the club’s transfer dealings. When the club signed Falcao, he smelled a rat.

Jorge Mendes was already well known before he brought Falcao to the Calderon. El Tigre joined for €40m and it was soon revealed that Atletico had used an investment fund to sign the player. All eyes were on Mendes. Then Atletico and Getafe, to name a few, started to wear sponsorship for a company called the Doyen Group. The big surprise was that no-one had ever heard of the group before and even one official at a club that was wearing the group’s logo admitted they had no idea who they were. The Spanish Press went into overdrive and started to go mad with rumours, forcing the company to release a statement and form a website.

The company defended itself and its actions saying: “Doyen appears to be alternative source of financing for football clubs.”  It then became official that Falcao was on Doyen’s books. In May, Marcos, via Twitter, announced ‘Enjoy Falcao this weekend, he won’t be around next year’. The Calderon faithful braced itself for the departure of the forward but when nothing happened, fans thought the storm had blown over, when in reality they were in the eye of the hurricane.

After the European Super Cup in Monaco, the club’s majority shareholder, Miguel Angel Gil Marin, declared that Atletico were the sole proprietor of Falcao. He also claimed that the deal done with his former club was one that would see the €40m paid over fractioned payments. What he failed to address was that Porto were claiming that Atleti had not paid all the instalments in full. The plot thickened.

As the season kicked off, Radio Cope revealed that the Doyen Group and Mendes had agreed a deal that would see Real Madrid sign the striker. Gil Marin said the player wasn’t for sale but admitted that selling him would solve all the Manzanares club’s problems. It is rumoured that from July 2013, Atletico Madrid have no say in where the former River Plate goalscorer goes and if it is true, it will be as no surprise to why the club are so keen to offload the player in the winter transfer window when they have a choice in his destination. A move to Los Blancos would be a disaster for the board.

As for the player, he is playing it smart by saying how much he loves the club but also in saying that the future is unknown. In his case, that is certainly true and the debate over third party ownership in La Liga, something that had been forbidden in the Premier League for a few years now, will certainly raise its head again.

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