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Spanish Super Cup in Saudi Arabia due to money, says Valverde

Jeddah (Saudi Arabia) (AFP) – Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde said Wednesday the Spanish Super Cup is being held in Saudi Arabia because of the money on offer and admits he preferred the previous format. 

Barca face Atletico Madrid in the second semi-final on Thursday after Real Madrid take on Valencia on Wednesday. The winner will play for the trophy at the King Abdullah Sport City Stadium in Jeddah on Sunday. 

This is the first year the Spanish Super Cup has been held in Saudi Arabia, after a controversial three-year contract worth 120 million euros was struck with the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF), who run the competition. 

The clubs will also benefit financially. For participating alone, Real Madrid and Barcelona will earn around 6 million euros while Atletico and Valencia will make around 3 million euros. 

But the RFEF have faced accusations of betraying local Spanish fans while critics also question the association with a country long-condemned for its treatment of women and record on human rights. 

“I know there has been a lot said about this competition but the bottom line is football has become a business and as a business it looks for income,” said Valverde at a press conference in Jeddah. “That’s the reason we are all here.” 

Previously, the Spanish Super Cup has been held in Spain in August, before the start of the league season and involving only the winners of La Liga and champions of the Copa del Rey. 

But the RFEF has not only changed the location but expanded the format, with the next two highest placed teams in La Liga also now taking part. 

“It’s a completely different format to what we’re used to,” said Valverde. “It was always the first title and the opener of the season and to me that seemed fine. 

“It’s been changed and let’s see, it will be judged once it has happened. It’s interesting, with four good teams, but from a sporting point of view, I’m not sure.” 

Valverde’s press conference was delayed by over an hour after the team’s bus got lost on the way. “We certainly know the city a bit better now,” he said with a smile. 

“There was a small mistake because the driver thought the press conference was at the stadium where Real Madrid and Valencia are playing tonight. He realised before we got there but then there was a bit of traffic so we were late.” 

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