Miguel Ángel Gil comments on different aspects of Atlético de Madrid's current situation before the start of next season.
The first team is undertaking an ambitious two-week tour of Korea, Mexico and the United States. What made the club decide to set up such a tour?
When we consider the pre-season schedule, we always think about striking a balance between three key factors: sporting preparation, financial income and boosting our image at international level.
The first team needs to have two initial weeks of demanding sporting preparation between Madrid and Los Ángeles de San Rafael, complemented by another two weeks in which to combine training with four matches against top level opposition. Along with this sporting planning, we also have to think about generating an economic income, which is necessary for our budget.
And finally, we seek to strengthen our presence at international level, as football is the great global mass sport, and Atlético de Madrid cannot renounce this globality if we want to continue competing with the rest of the important clubs in world football.
We are in the middle of the transfer market, how do you see the international market at the moment and the level of our squad?
The pandemic radically changed the player transfer market. And it still hasn't recovered, with the exception of the Premier League, where quite a few clubs budget for losses, losses that are financed by shareholders, shareholders who understand that these losses are investments that give more value to the clubs. Those losses are a consequence of high wage and transfer payments.
Today it is true that the Premier League and the new market in Saudi Arabia distort the reality of the market and this makes it difficult for us to manage. Football is evolving as an attractive sector for large investors, and this is evidenced by the investment in buying clubs by American investment funds, as well as sovereign wealth funds from Middle Eastern countries.
Even now, countries like Saudi Arabia do not see it as enough to invest in European clubs, but have decided to strengthen their domestic league by hiring great players and coaches. This country has neither our taxation in the payment of players, nor economic control by their league, which has created an environment that is really difficult to decipher in the short term, because of the uncertainty and doubts they create in the players who are always looking to secure their future and that of their families.
I think we have a good team. This team, improved with the defensive additions we have made, will compete with everyone, as it has done for many years now. Our idea is to sign a midfielder to reinforce this area of the pitch, as well as to close the exit of at least two players that will allow us to sign that midfielder and balance our squad cost within the economic control of LaLiga.
The new season is about to start, but going back to the previous one, what is your assessment of the last campaign?
The recently concluded season, in general terms, was a good one. The team had an irregular campaign, conditioned by the World Cup, but in the second half of the season we had the numbers to have fought for the title, which means that the sporting planning was right and the squad was good and balanced.
We qualified again for the next edition of the Champions League, which means that we are one of only seven clubs that have done it consecutively in the last decade. Financially, and despite being eliminated in the group stage of the Champions League, we have finished very close to breaking even on the income statement.
In terms of assets, the club has taken a significant step forward. We have consolidated with the Madrid City Council the concession of the Ciudad del Deporte, which we are already developing on the land adjacent to the stadium. This city will make Atlético de Madrid the club with the best and most diverse facilities in Europe, concentrated in the same location.
About the Ciudad del Deporte, what can you tell us about this great project of the club?
Having a sports city was already a wish of Vicente Calderón, then of my father, and it is only now that it has been achieved. Beyond the Majadahonda and Alcalá de Henares headquarters, the club has already been granted the land and the necessary financing for the construction of a High Performance Centre, which will have five football pitches and a mini stadium with a capacity for 5,000 people.
But in addition to the football-only facilities, the project includes a number of non-traditional sports and leisure facilities that will change not only the image of our club, but of the district and the city itself. We believe that we are going to turn this area of Madrid into a must-see destination for anyone who wants to play certain sports, as well as having numerous leisure options to enjoy and have a good time.
You are vice-president of LaLiga and a member of the Executive Committee of the European Club Association (ECA), how do you see football today and where do you think it is going?
It is not easy to sum it up in one answer. Football has traditionally been a sport and has been part of our culture. In the last two decades, it has gradually become an industry based on a sport, becoming the most played and followed mass sport in the world.
But the development of technology, digitalisation, social networks and the new generations that have grown up with them, demand a different way of experiencing events. They want to participate, they want to have fun, they want to interact and, above all, they want to mix the sport itself with other spectacles. It is our obligation to adapt to this new way of offering our content. It is necessary for fans to live an experience that they can share live with their friends through social networks.
To achieve this, it is key to provide the fans attending the event with three basic elements. First, a good facility equipped with enough technology to allow the fans to be connected to the show and their friends; second, good content, mixing sport with music and occasional shows, in an experience that lasts several hours, and in which they can share it with friends and family for 25 special days a year; and, third and fundamental, a good sporting show, which was, is and will continue to be the driving force of the day, the main content. And for the fans following the event on their devices, in addition to a good sporting spectacle and the accompanying music and entertainment, it is necessary to bring the fan closer to the heart of the event.
They should be able to see and hear chats between players, between players and coaches, be able to enter a dressing room, be able to ask questions to the players... in short, feel that they are part of the show. This is something that is being done in other sports such as F1, basketball, American football, tennis, and we must learn from all the good things they have and incorporate them into our sport. This is the only way to win the loyalty of a whole generation that is demanding a change.
What can you say about the Super League situation?
The answer is simple if you analyse the previous ones. This is not about exclusivity, about restricting activity to a few. On the contrary. It is about globality, about everyone participating; big, medium and small clubs, with their fans. The big ones will reach more fans, both in person in their stadiums and through their audiovisual devices, but everyone should be able to do so. We must make football more attractive, more spectacular.
It is difficult for fans to understand that a match ends 0-0. There are certain audiences who do not understand that, if the goal is the essence of this sport, the only one capable of unleashing passion, euphoria and frustration, how is it possible for a match to end without a goal? I believe that rather than thinking about making our sport almost exclusively for a few, even if we are the most important, we should think about integrating everyone and even consider changing some of the rules to make the spectacle more attractive.
UEFA changes the format of competitions to accommodate everyone. It is up to FIFA to change the rules to try to improve the spectacle. And it is up to us, the clubs, to LaLiga, to promote the improvement of the facilities and to digitalise them to improve the fans' experience.
Thanks to the La Liga's agreement with CVC, this improvement and digitalisation is being carried out. We must also modify the audiovisual product to allow fans to get even more involved in the spectacle, changing rooms, the pitch, coaches' talks... All of us who are part of football must work together to make our sport a better spectacle, always thinking of the fans.