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Rubén Uría: Atlético asking top earners to defer their salaries

Meanwhile, the club CEO’s wealth is only rising.

Atletico de Madrid v Villarreal CF - LaLiga Santander Photo by Diego Souto/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

Goal’s Rubén Uría reported on Tuesday that Atlético Madrid are asking core players to renegotiate their contracts and accept salary deferrals in an attempt to alleviate a high wage bill.

In exchange for a longer contract at the Metropolitano, Atlético hope dressing-room heavyweights like Koke, João Félix, and Antoine Griezmann (among others) will take less money in the short term as the club tightens the figurative purse strings amid more financial problems.

“From the club offices, the message is clear: There is not one euro left over, the books must be balanced, and there is an urgent need to reduce the wage bill,” Uría wrote.

The club has also asked members of the coaching staff to agree to salary reductions, at least on a temporary basis.

Uría reports that early conversations have been positive and have been held in good faith. And at least two players have already found an agreement with the club.

According to Uría, the recently-reported contract renewals for Jan Oblak (to 2028) and Thomas Lemar (to 2027) feature salary deferrals, while both players are said to have willingly taken pay cuts on top of the deferrals. Lemar’s salary, which was €7 million per year, his been trimmed to around €4 million annually. Reports have conflicted on Oblak’s new salary, with Marca previously reporting the 29-year-old would maintain his current wages.

King Juan Carlos Last Institutional Public Appearance
Miguel Ángel Gil (middle) has been Atlético’s CEO since 1993.
Photo by Europa Press Entertainment/Europa Press via Getty Images

Meanwhile, as Atlético are asking top players to cut their salaries, chief executive Miguel Ángel Gil will carry on with a salary he raised himself in 2019. Once ranked 192nd on Spain’s rich list, Gil is now 67th with a net worth of €400 million — and over the past 10 years, Leicester City and Everton are among the clubs whose owners have spent more on funding the first team than Atleti.

The strategy of deferring wages to a later date — when it is hoped that the club is healthier financially — mirrors one being used up at Camp Nou Spotify. FC Barcelona players began taking pay cuts two years ago as the COVID-19 pandemic raged, and some veterans have since taken multiple wage reductions so their club can register new signings.

Atlético’s financial picture is not as grotesque as Barça’s, with fewer reported short-term liabilities, but it is far from rosy. Heavy debts have been accrued since the club was forced to convert into a sociedad anónima deportiva (public limited sports company; “S.A.D.”) in 1992, while under Jesús Gil’s destructive ownership.

It’s worth noting that the board negotiating lengthy contracts with hefty salaries for several squad members is part of what got Atlético to this point in the first place. Putting off tomorrow for relief today is a risky strategy.