Real Madrid's Julen Lopetegui on Miami proposal: All La Liga matches should be played in Spain
Real Madrid coach Julen Lopetegui has said he is not in favour of La Liga's plan to play a league game outside of Spain this season while Barcelona manager Ernesto Valverde said he is taking a wait-and-see approach.
The Spanish Primera Division is moving forward with plans for a regular-season game in the United States, likely to be Girona vs. Barcelona. This would be the first time La Liga plays outside of Spain, part of a 15-year marketing agreement with Relevent Sports, the organisers of the International Champions Cup.
Earlier this week, the league put in formal request to the Royal Spanish Football Federation for Girona's home league game against Barcelona to be staged at Hard Rock Stadium in suburban Miami on Jan. 26, 2019. The Spanish Footballers' Association (AFE), has expressed opposition, accusing the league of not consulting players and of using them as "bargaining chips."
"I'm not in favour," Lopetegui said during his news conference on Friday ahead of the match against Athletic Bilbao. "All teams must play on the same pitches and that is for the good on competitive equality."
Spain's sports minister, Jose Guirao, said last week that La Liga must find a way to expand overseas without its interests conflicting with the home fans. Part of the agreement is for fans of the teams involved to be compensated for missing out on a home game while the subsidised travel and accommodation would be for home season ticket holders. La Liga need the approval of Spain's sports council, UEFA, U.S. Soccer and CONCACAF to move forward with the match.
Barcelona coach Valverde said he is not concerned with the proposed match just yet, even though it could affect his players because a trip to Miami would be squeezed between two midweek Copa del Rey games.
"Let's see how everything evolves," he said during his news conference on Friday. "It's still a long way away. It's good that everyone talks about it, but all the time there's new things coming out. No one knows if we're going to play it or not. The intention is for it to be played [in Miami] but we will have to see how this all ends."
Nor would Valverde speculate on whether he felt Girona would lose their home advantage by playing the Catalan derby in Miami instead of Montilivi.
"I have no idea because we've never played Girona in Miami," Valverde said. "I can tell you after, if it goes ahead. I can only say that it was tough to win there last year."