La Liga resumes after a three-month hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic – and it’s all sounding a little surreal.
In times of crisis, some communities resort to barter. Now Spanish football teams might too.
La Liga President Javier Tebas says he expects the country’s clubs to consider more direct swaps of players instead of big transfer payments, as they try to cope with the economic impact of the coronavirus crisis.
"The transfer market will be subdued. It is clear that there will be fewer direct cash transactions. There will be more player swaps," Tebas told reporters in a videoconference on Thursday.
He said he did not expect the Spanish league's transfer market to move more than €800 million, compared to €3 billion last summer.
And he ruled out blockbuster moves such as the world record €222 million Paris Saint-Germain spent to pry Neymar from Barcelona in 2017.
La Liga resumes on Thursday – Sevilla meet Real Betis in a much anticipated local derby – after it was suspended for three months due to the coronavirus pandemic. But things will be looking very different on the pitch.
So what is it going to be like for fans?
All football games in Spain will be played without fans, and authorities will try to stop supporters from gathering outside stadiums. Only a few journalists will be allowed inside to cover the matches.
Joris Evers, Chief Communications Officer at La Liga, explained to Euronews how canned cheering will be used to give the games more oomph.
"On the international broadcast, anybody who's watching La Liga outside of Spain, you will have a virtual stand. (…) There'll be an audio a soundtrack that is actually based on the EA Sports FIFA product, which uses real sound from real fans from real matches," he said in a TV interview.
In Spain, viewers will be able to choose whether they prefer to listen to the original sound from the empty stadium, or watch the virtual experience with virtual supporters.
What about for players?
Players will continue to undergo regular tests and maintain strict safety and hygiene measures.
La Liga has been taking care of all of the travel arrangements for the different clubs, to try to limit the risk of infection.
"During normal circumstances, all the clubs arrange their own travel when they go from one city to another to play another team," Evers explained.
"Now we're really trying to get them into kind of a safety bubble, and La Liga is taking care of all of the travel for all the clubs – chartering planes, booking trains, buses, and also housing them in hotels, which is difficult because in many places in Spain, hotels aren't yet open."
With so many things up in the air – how will players perform after months without playing? How will they react to having no fans in the stadium? – he argues these unprecedented times are actually making it a "really exciting season."
Watch highlights of the interview with Joris Evers in the video player above.