Lunchtime kick-off: not great in Spain, ideal for China
Real Madrid play host to Granada at 13:00 CET. More than one Real-supporting pal of mine has complained to me about the scheduling of the kick-off, which torpedoes your average Spaniard's lunchtime; but I'm sure they'll all be there and that the Bernabéu will see a good turnout. The timing isn't so hot if you want to go to the ground, but it's good for China, the sleeping giant that's waking up to everything, football included. Granada's owner, Jiang Lizhang, is Chinese: one of many multimillionaires from the country fulfilling the wish of their president, Xi Jinping, that the nation embrace soccer. Fresh from an Italian owner, Granada's fans are watching this period unfold in a state of bewilderment.
Granada business model a growing trend these days
It's a model we're set to see more and more of: outfits in the hands of a foreign owner who's normally linked - either directly or through a principal intermediary - to other clubs. Players who come and go in a never-ending flow of ins and outs. That's the lot of such clubs: to be a transit station, a fattening farm where footballers can make their name. This year, there are 18 new players at Granada, a state of affairs not dissimilar to previous seasons under the duo of Gino Pozzo and Quique Pina. Just that now it's managed not by Pina but Sergi Vieta, the right-hand man of Pere Guardiola (brother of Pep) at Media Base Sports, an athlete representation agency with which Jiang is heavily connected.
For the lifelong fan on the street, it's hard to watch (what's going on at Valencia is similar), but when a city loses its club because it doesn't know how to pay for it, this is where it ends up. That's why they're so upset in Vigo at Celta chief Carlos Mouriño's idea of selling to a Chinese buyer. This Granada is made up of players who'll mostly be gone next year... The project began with Paco Jémez, but he was soon out for Lucas Alcaraz. Such differing coaches suggest a lack of conviction on the part of those making the decisions in that regard. So there you have it: Chinese owner, Chinese kick-off time - that's the way it is now. But it's football, the game we love, so today it's everyone to the stadium or, failing that, a TV screen.