Inside Spain: Barcelona payments to Vice-President of Referees and Carlo Ancelotti’s 99 problems

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Inside Spain is a weekly instalment brought to you by Football España, providing an insight into all of the major stories coming out of the rich and intense climes of La Liga and beyond.

Barcelona played out a thrilling 2-2 draw with Manchester United on Thursday night, but it wasn’t even close to the biggest story in Catalonia this week. The Blaugrana are cruising in La Liga of late, but a suspension for Gavi and an injury to Pedri make United favourites in many people’s eyes. Pedri could miss around 3-4 weeks, with the return leg against United and the first leg of their Copa del Rey semi-final against Real Madrid.

All eyes in Catalonia have been focused on the boardroom at Barcelona though. It was leaked out in various installments that Barcelona had been paying the Vice-President of the Technical Committee of Referees Enriquez Negreira, or at least his company Dansil 95. Those payments allegedly span from 2001 to 2018, and add up to €6.7m, for services supposedly involving scout reports and advice on how to handle referees. Some are referring to it as the biggest scandal in Spanish football history. It looks like they might avoid punishment though, although Negreira had threatened to unveil more scandals in the future.

Osasuna and Croatia striker Ante Budimir with Mari Carmen on their road trip.

Meanwhile Real Madrid did have something to celebrate last weekend, as they lifted the Club World Cup. Victorious in a 5-3 thriller over Al Hilal, Carlo Ancelotti added another trophy to his collection. Amid the injuries, the large gap to Barcelona, and the troubling lack of fitness for the likes of Luka Modric, Ancelotti has a number of problems, but not the same one as Pep Guardiola. Asked if, like Manchester City boss, winning made his side weaker, he had a blunt response to that idea.

Los Blancos remain eight points behind Barcelona, after beating Elche 4-0 in midweek, but face a tough trip to face Osasuna ahead of Liverpool next week in the Champions League. They will do so without Karim Benzema, who once again has fitness issues.

Facing them on Saturday night will be Croatian striker Ante Budimir. The giant forward man has won the affection of Pamplona (and much of the rest of Spain), after he acted as chauffeur for 78-year-old local woman Mari Carmen Sierra Castillo.

Down in 18th, Valencia are in the relegation zone in the second half of the season for the first time since 1986 – it was also the last time they were relegated. Los Che are in desperation mode, and have turned to club legend Ruben Baraja (with World Cup-winner Carlos Marchena as his assistant) in order to try and get them out of trouble.


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