BarcelonaJavier Tebas (Costa Rica, 1962) is one of those people who leaves no one indifferent. Of those that are in all the sauces. But behind the most striking and controversial facet hides a hyperactive character who has spent the last decade transforming the League. Linked to football since the 1990s, he was president of Huesca from 1993 to 1998 and later devoted himself to advising multiple professional clubs. Representative of the G-30 since 2003 – currently, G-35 –, he continued his professional climb until reaching the presidency of the club board in 2013. He was the only candidate. This week he begins his fourth term after being, once again, the only aspirant in the elections.
Four elections won, all unopposed. Only in 2016 was there an alternative, that of Alex Aranzábal, then president of Eibar, although in the end he could not be presented due to lack of endorsements. “Football wouldn’t be the same without Tebas. He has put the League where it needed to be and has generated a lot of money for the industry in general. In the end, the clubs value this,” say sources from the employers’ association. Tebas landed at a turbulent time, when the Spanish government threatened to intervene in the football business due to non-payments to the Treasury and footballers. “It has increased revenues and imposed an economic discipline on the clubs that, if it were not mandatory, they would not continue”, analyzes Marc Menchén, co-founder and CEO of 2PlayBook. “Spanish football needed a change and Tebas represented this in the first terms”, adds Marc Círia, financier, founding partner and executive chairman of Diagonal Asset Management, who praises the first stage, but disagrees with the latest decisions taken by the management .
“There are two Javiers”
Those who know him well say that the public image often overshadows him. That he is someone who is “tolerant of everyone’s ideas”, but who never gives up defending his ideals – he was a member of Fuerza Nueva and openly defines himself as a supporter of Real Madrid – even if this means adding more fuel to the fire. Those around him recommend that he be more selective and moderate on social networks, but as is clear, he doesn’t pay any attention to them. The other side is the entrepreneur Javier, the one who sits at a table to talk about numbers. “I avoided talking about politics with him. But about business, whatever was needed. And it was easy for us to agree,” admits a former president who had met with him often.
Thebes is not much of a night owl. It activates around 5 in the morning and has a hard time disconnecting until 11 at night. The employer defines him as “incredibly intelligent, hardworking and demanding”. And that, far from the most illustrious part, it gains a lot in short distances. A very homely person, father of four children, who, when he is not working, devotes all his time to his family. Business has worn out his passion for football. “They always invite him to the games, but he never goes, although he doesn’t miss a detail on television,” they explain. He has a home in the Aragonese Pyrenees and in the winter he takes refuge in skiing, the sport he has been passionate about since childhood.
The great friction between Thebes and Florentino
The first task as president of the League was to clean up the clubs and impose the regulations of the fair play financial A regulation, the latter, popular since the pandemic, but which had also suffered the most modest clubs at the beginning. Then, the expansion thanks to the audiovisual market. “He had a vision of the future, especially with the television rights. In the short term, the joint marketing seemed like it could harm us, but we were clear that in the long run it was a good global business”, adds a former Barcelona manager. Real Madrid was left alone in this battle and this led to a estrangement from its president, Florentino Pérez. Then the Superliga project would be added, which Tebas has tried to boycott from the beginning. Today the relationship between the two presidents is broken. “This has not changed in the slightest the way they work or defend that the business should be collective and not individual”, they say to the employer.
He also had his frictions with Barça, a club that had supported him during Josep Maria Bartomeu’s tenure. Joining the Super League was the cause. “The situation was renewed, even though we don’t agree with everything”, they point to the Camp Nou. Financial control is another point of friction, even though Barcelona know that this is not an issue that directly controls Tebas, but goes through other departments of the League. This, and the relaxation of the regulations – not to help just Barça, but all the clubs – has helped to lower the tension.
Two opposing visions of the future
“One thing that the clubs have really liked is that the global expansion of the competition has allowed them to have access to new markets. This has translated into new sponsorships, commercial agreements…”, reflects Menchén. More income, basically. However, Círia reproaches him for playing too passive a role in the farewell of two figures such as Cristiano Ronaldo or Leo Messi. “He let lose the opportunity to be the most watched and the most entertaining League. His first stretch was very good and he believed that inertia would be enough. But he was a victim of his own structure,” he adds. the financier, who misses a generational relief, not only in the figure of Tebas, but in general in the managers of Spanish football.
But the League clubs are sovereign and want Tebas, who have been granted millionaire salary increases – one of them, in the face of the threat of leaving to manage the Italian Serie A -. “Surely, it’s the best we can have, even if it’s not good to say it publicly,” they say from the Camp Nou offices.
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