REAL MADRID | RAÚL
Raúl (part III): "A Madrid franchise in the US wouldn't be a bad thing"
AS caught up with the new LaLiga country manager for the US in NYC. The final part of a three-part interview where Raúl talks at length about his time at Madrid.
Can football compete with the NBA, baseball or American football?
In some ways it’s already competing. The MLS and other leagues have really improved – last year there was an average attendance of 21,000 per game, and some teams attract 45,000.
Do they fill the stadiums?
One good thing they’re doing now is building stadiums just for football, whereas before this didn’t happen. Clearly competing with the NBA or American football is not easy, but I think it can compete with baseball or ice hockey.
Do you think having two football leagues, the MLS and the NASL, is problematic?
There are too many, yes. But hey, that’s American culture. You don’t have promotion or relegation and the franchises are increasingly more expensive. You have to make a huge investment, and the second or third leagues want to be up there but they don’t have the capital to do it. It’s a war that’s going to go on and on, but as far as I can see it will be difficult for them to join up. In the MLS club owners have invested a lot of money. There are more and more franchises coming through; for instance this year there have been three: Beckham’s Miami is one of them. Ideally in five or ten years there will be promotions and relegations, but that doesn’t really fit in American culture.
What strategy can LaLiga follow in the US?
Here everyone knows about Madrid and Barça because they are two global brands. LaLiga, however, has a long way to go. It has to work on it and spread because it’s not just about Madrid and Barça; recently Atlético have come through strongly, and Sevilla, winning three Europa Leagues. Villarreal also reached the semi-finals. There are many brilliant teams in Spain.
Who are LaLiga competing against there?
There is a lot of competition. The Premier League, which is NBC, with Univision, ESPN… those are big broadcasters.
Can it catch up with the Premier League?
It came a long while before and knew how to sell the brand. We’re just beginning, and we have to say: “We have the best league. No other league plays football like we do. Aside from the Euros, Spain’s way of playing is something different and unique. There’s also our high-quality trainers, which are lacking here, the sporting directors, the lower leagues…”
Do you think Rayo buying a club in the US is something positive?
It depends. Some clubs have taken that step.
What do you think about Real Madrid doing the same?
If at some point they started a franchise it wouldn’t be a bad thing. It’s about studying the numbers because it’s a big investment. Manchester City did it because they had a global strategy. The sheikh has a team in Abu Dabi, and others in Australia and Japan… It’s something global.
And Spanish clubs?
Madrid and Barcelona have the capacity to do it. Atlético, for example, have been over here looking into it. It could be a possibility in the future but the idea still requires a lot of development.
Do you think Bale has exploded at Real Madrid?
He’s scored big goals for Madrid, but you can see that he’s more and more integrated in the club and really understands the club’s values. He looks more comfortable when he’s playing and in everything he does. Individually he’s powerful and has a great shot on him. He has certain qualities that really help Madrid play.