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Saturday 22 October 2016

MEPs say Gareth Bale's £78m Real Madrid transfer should be probed for illegal state backing

Sam Wallace

Published 17/02/2016 | 17:25

Bale's transfer could have had illegal backing Photo: GETTY IMAGES
Bale's transfer could have had illegal backing Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Three MEPs have written to the European Commission asking them to investigate whether Gareth Bale’s £78 million transfer to Real Madrid in 2013 was backed by Spanish banks bailed out by the European Union taxpayers.

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The question, tabled by British Conservative MEP Daniel Dalton, the Belgian MEP Sander Loones and Ramon Termosa, Spanish MEP, was precipitated by questions asked by Telegraph Sport about the promissory notes that were part of the details of the Bale deal disclosed on the Football Leaks website last month.

Those promissory notes, which assumed the risk for the three outstanding instalments on the deal that Madrid agreed with Tottenham Hotspur for Bale, have been reported in Spain to have been bought by, among others, Bankia, the Spanish bank that was bailed out to the tune of €18 billion [£14 billion] by the EU.

Other named “friendly banks” who may well have bought the promissory notes include BBVA, Santander and Popular.

The political climate in Spain at the time, one year after the EU’s €41 billion [£32 billion] bailout of the country, made borrowing the money for the deal difficult for Madrid president Florentino Perez. The promissory note system was a more acceptable way of financing the world-record transfer without it being a direct loan from a financial system that would have been bankrupt but for the EU’s intervention.

The three MEPs say that if the bailed-out Spanish banks were using Spanish and European taxpayers’ money indirectly to guarantee the Bale deal it would constitute illegal state aid.

In their statement, the three MEPs pointed out that Spanish banks used the contracts of Kaka and Cristiano Ronaldo as collateral when applying for loans to the European Central Bank in 2010. At the time, Bankia, formed from the merger of seven banks, including Caja Madrid, owned Real Madrid’s debt. The episode was “something which hampers leading English clubs in the flagship UEFA Champions League,” the MEPs said, “and in competing commercially at the global level.”

Daniel said: "If taxpayers’ money was used to underwrite the Gareth Bale transfer deal then this is something the EU should investigate further. Real Madrid are the world's richest football club and if it has used a state owned bank, owned by taxpayers to guarantee multi-million pound record transfer fees, then it is clearly something the EU should look to address to ensure there are no unfair competitive advantages given to football teams supported by taxpayer-funded financial institutions."

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