BBC Sport football


Related BBC sites

Page last updated at 17:18 GMT, Monday, 15 September 2008 18:18 UK

Butragueno's Champions League warning

Former Spain and Real Madrid striker Emilio Butragueno

By Chris Whyatt

As a football man who has flourished at the highest level on the pitch and in the boardroom, Emilio Butragueno is a rare breed.

One of Spain's greatest players, 'the Vulture' earned legend status at Real Madrid with 271 goals in a glittering 12-year spell and then went back to the club as sporting director under former club president Florentino Perez's extravagant galacticos regime.

During that time, he pulled strings in the ground-breaking transfers of Zinedine Zidane, Luis Figo and David Beckham to the Spanish capital.

Given that CV, he knows the game's machinations better than most.

"You need uncertainty at the core of every competition," the 45-year-old told BBC Sport as he looked ahead to the eagerly awaited first round of Champions League group matches this week.

In an age when the Champions League is king and increasingly dominated by English clubs reaping rewards from vast amounts of money being pumped in by unparalleled commercial investment and billionaire businessmen, his comments will resonate louder than ever.

Now a businessman himself, Butragueno shares his thoughts on why football remains pure on the pitch - but how it must adapt off it.


There is no doubt that money is essential for everything in the current world.

So the more money one club has, the more chances they will have to win. Given that, we have to be very careful. English teams are becoming more powerful.

Maybe the gap between England and other countries will be negative for football

Emilio Butragueno

In the last two seasons there have been three English teams in the Champions League semi-finals. That gives us an idea about the power.

On paper they have many chances to be contenders again [with holders Manchester United, finalists Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal all in the last 32] but I don't want to see they are going to be the favourites once again.

Barcelona and Real Madrid have very good squads but in the last five to seven years the Premier League has improved tremendously.


Money has made a difference, obviously.

When you have a lot of money you can sign the best players and aspire to win titles - as has happened over the last 50-60 years.

But now there is a key difference because we are talking about the [investment of] multi-millionaires - we are not talking about getting a good team and having efficiency in running a club according to your revenues.

Carlos Tevez and Ricardo Carvalho
Manchester United beat Chelsea in this year's Champions League final

I don't know if this is going to be dangerous for football.

I don't know if it matters with the philosophy of football.

But maybe football, like the world, is changing, and we have to adapt to the current situation.

I don't know what Uefa [European football's governing body] will do about it because maybe the gap between England and the rest of the countries will be negative for football. Who knows?


Regarding the players, I don't think so. The eagerness to play well and to do your best on the field is the same.

When you love playing and when you love doing something you do your best to defend your honour and the pride of your team.

But football is a great business - and we have to admit that. The spiritual and economic world have to live together - that's how it is. We don't try to avoid that.


But it's very important to find a balance. We have to look for a fair ground where many teams can fight each other.

But, according to their current revenues (through marketing, television rights, ticket sales), regardless of the economic results of the club, well, a [billionaire investor] is going to pay the difference.

Maybe that's going to be a little dangerous for football.


We have to be aware we are in an open market.

In England we know that all the teams have owners. So if, all of a sudden, the owner receives a great offer then it is his right to sell the club. It's OK. It's part of the market. It's no problem at all.

For me, maybe the problem is 'what is going to happen in the future?'

If we are going to spend a huge amount of money regardless of the price of the market - because they are multi-millionaires - it is going to be really tough for the rest of the clubs.

England is a very attractive country, one of the most prestigious and powerful in the world, and in some ways it's fantastic for fans because they can go to games every weekend and watch great players - that is good for the Premier League. And the Champions League has been acknowledged as the best competition in the world.

Maybe in the future a salary cap system [like in the US] will be set here in Europe with the aim to maintain the necessary balance of the competition

Emilio Butragueno

In football, as in life, you need balance. You need uncertainty at the core of every competition.

But now, the reality is that the Premier League and English teams, they have a lot of resources and are dominating.

I hope, of course, that Real and Barcelona will rise to the occasion and do something great in the Champions League this year.


Those who work for the clubs would of course like to have a lot of money to buy players every year, that is logical. To bolster your team and its resources, that way you are going to be powerful and you will be able to compete with more weapons.

But football is changing in the sense that, now, the management is not thinking, in terms of the way they run the club: 'we have to be efficient'.

If the owner is a multi-millionaire, it doesn't matter. And maybe that is dangerous.

In [sports such as basketball and American football] in the United States, of course every club has an owner - but they have a salary cap.

There, you can do almost whatever you want but there are some rules also. Maybe in the future that will be set here in Europe with the aim to maintain the necessary balance of the competition.

In the case of Chelsea and maybe now Manchester City, it may be too difficult for our clubs to compete - if the multi-millionaires are putting in more money than our clubs are able to get from their current operation.

That's why I think we may eventually have something similar to the [salary cap] system in the US, with the idea to give a chance to all the clubs.


Real Madrid and Barcelona belong to the members of the club, the 'socios' as we call them.

Every four years there is a presidential election, so the process is quite different. Real Madrid, for example, can only compete according to its budget, that's it - it relies on its revenues.

Former Spain and Real Madrid striker Emilio Butragueno
Striker Butragueno excelled for Spain at the 1986 World Cup in Mexico

Our league is very good also, very attractive. Our football is very offensive, very open, it has beautiful football that all our fans can witness and enjoy every weekend.

There is no doubt that in England and Spain we have the best leagues in the world.

And history is important in the Champions League. Barcelona have changed their coach but they have a good squad. Real Madrid has stability, a good squad, and a lot of experience.

So I think they will both fight for the title.

see also
The director of football debate
24 Nov 04 |  Football
Butragueno promoted at Real
06 Oct 04 |  Europe
How Real always get their man
28 Jul 04 |  Arsenal
Pele's list of the greatest
04 Mar 04 |  Football
Spain's story of pain
18 Nov 03 |  World Football
Zidane makes record Real switch
09 Jul 01 |  Europe

related bbc links:

related internet links:
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


Sign in

BBC navigation

Copyright © 2017 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.