By Duncan Shaw, DPA
Madrid : The problem for Spain’s sports newspapers in summer is how to keep up the interest of the readers when there is no serious football being played.
There are no less than six daily sports newspapers in Spain — two each in Madrid and Barcelona and one each in Valencia and Seville.
In addition, a veritable plethora of free sports papers — some of which only last for a few months — are handed out on street corners.
No other country in Europe has such an extensive network of sports papers as Spain, though Italy and Portugal come close.
An estimated seven million Spaniards a day — more than a sixth of the total population — are reckoned to read at least a part of one of these sports papers every day.
Around two thirds of these papers are focused on football, called the “Deporte Rey” (“King of Sports”) in Spain.
So how can the interest of the readers be sustained throughout the long summer, given that “La Liga” never starts up before the last weekend in August?
The answer, of course, is transfer talk.
Alfredo Relano, editor of Madrid sports daily AS, claims that exciting transfer talk can actually increase the sale of his paper in summer.
Last summer Relano proudly announced that the circulation of AS had gone up in August.
“This is when many people are on the beach,” he said, “with time on their hands to read. And what they want to read about are exciting players who might be coming to their clubs.”
This summer AS has tried to boost its sales by claiming that Real Madrid president Ramon Calderon is about to fulfil his 2006 election promise by finally signing Kaka, Cesc Fabregas and Arjen Robben.
Kaka and Fabregas, it seems, are not keen to leave AC Milan and Arsenal, so attention is focused on Robben.
On Thursday, AS again has the Dutch winger on its front page, claiming that Real have him “tied up” and that agreement is about to be reached with Chelsea over the transfer fee, which will be around 25 million euros ($31.74 million).
AS also tries to attract the attention of the Real fans — who make up more than two thirds of its readership — by talking about the possible arrival of Royston Drenthe (from Feyenoord), about the return of Julio Baptista (from Arsenal) and about the tantalising prospect of seeing former Barcelona forward Javier Saviola in the famous white shirt of Real.
Rival daily Marca – Spain’s best-selling daily paper – tried to trump AS by claiming that Real are prepared to pay up to 60 million euros ($82.79 million) for Barcelona midfielder Andres Iniesta.
Marca and AS know full well that every “madridista” fan loves a story about Real snatching a player from Barca, as happened with Saviola two weeks ago.
Around a quarter of the readers of Marca and AS are Atletico Madrid fans, and they also have to be catered for during summer.
Therefore, the two sports dailies talk every day about Atleti’s bid to sign Argentine playmaker Juan Roman Riquelme (Villarreal) plus Portuguese wingers Ricardo Quaresma (FC Porto) and Simao Sabrosa (Benfica).
Catalan sports papers Mundo Deportivo and Sport, meanwhile, have boosted their sales in recent weeks by focusing on Barelona signing Thierry Henry (Arsenal), Yaya Toure (AS Monaco), Eric Abidal (Lyon) and Gabriel Milito (Zaragoza).
But what can they focus on now that Barca’s signing campaign has apparently finished (with the possible exception of Asier del Horno from Valencia)?
On two things: On Henry and the other signings beginning pre-season training, and on Real missing out on Kaka, Fabregas and Christian Chivu.
Valencia sports daily, Super Deporte, for its part, concentrates on Valencia signing Ivan Helguera (Real Madrid) and trying for Lucho Gonzalez (FC Porto) and Nicholas Anelka (Bolton).
As Relano says, what the fans on the beach want to read about is the exciting players who might be coming to their clubs.