MANCHESTER, England — The head of the Spanish soccer league was forcefully denounced by Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain on Wednesday after he criticized the financing of the two clubs by their Gulf state owners.
La Liga President Javier Tebas resorted to a crude analogy to reproach PSG’s conduct during the summer transfer window in front of soccer executives at a convention in Manchester.
While in the northern English city, Tebas also turned his ire on how City is loaning players to its new sister club in Spain, Girona. Tebas was quickly confronted by the leadership of Abu Dhabi-owned City during a meeting in Manchester.
Tebas had already censured City and Qatar-owned PSG in letters to UEFA last month, accusing the clubs of “financial doping” and of breaching Financial Fair Play rules by inflating sponsorships from their ownership’s homelands.
City rebuked Tebas in an unusually blunt statement, hours after he met with fellow Spaniard, Ferran Soriano, the club’s chief executive on Wednesday.
“Mr. Tebas’ statements are ill-informed,” City said, “and in parts pure fiction.”
During media briefings in Manchester on Wednesday morning, Tebas accused City of sending players to Girona on the cheap, ensuring that the Spanish club didn’t have to bear the financial burden of the loans to comply with domestic regulations.
Tebas claimed La Liga has intervened to ensure Girona is suitably paying for the five players loaned during the summer transfer window by City, whose owners – the City Football Group – recently bought a 44.3 percent share in the top-flight Spanish club.
Pere Guardiola, the brother of Man City manager Pep Guardiola, is the managing director of Girona Football Group, which has acquired an equal 44.3 percent share in the club.
“As you would expect, Manchester City Football Club and the City Football Group are seeking appropriate legal counsel and will act accordingly on that advice,” City said, in relation to Tebas’ comments.
In France, PSG was backed by its league leadership, which rounded on the criticism from Tebas.
The French club broke soccer’s transfer record by buying Neymar from Barcelona for 222 million euros ($262 million), depriving La Liga of one of the game’s hottest talents. In Manchester, Tebas likened PSG to someone who relieves themselves in a swimming pool when discussing how the club could have financed the transfer.
“They are laughing at the system,” Tebas said of PSG through a translator. “We can’t accept this.”
The French league said in a statement that it “firmly condemns the insulting” comments made by Tebas.
“These shameful remarks are not worthy of an institution that is as respectable and successful as the Spanish league,” the French league added.
UEFA is looking into PSG’s summer signings, with particular scrutiny of Kylian Mbappe’s move from Monaco, which was structured to delay another costly outlay after Neymar’s world record fee. Mbappe has only joined on loan, but there’s already a plan for him to sign on a permanent deal next year that will cost PSG 180 million euros ($216 million).
When Mbappe was presented in Paris on Wednesday, PSG president Nasser Al-Khelaifi faced questions about the structure of the deal.
“We have nothing to hide,” Al-Khelaifi said before coyly adding: “I can’t speak about all the details. We’ve done everything within the rules.”
And in a message to Tebas, Al-Khelaifi said: “If someone’s angry, that’s not my problem.”
Over at SoccerEx around the same time, Tebas was asked whether PSG’s ownership from energy-rich Qatar could help to prize Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo and Barcelona’s Lionel Messi away from Spanish clubs, like Neymar.
“Let’s see,” Tebas said. “Those players have even higher release clauses. But my friend Nasser Al-Khelaifi just does this (motioning the opening a gas valve) and he makes it.”