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Strike threat leaves cloud over La Liga with season up and running

The prospect of a player strike hangs over Spanish football heading into the second week of the season, as Barcelona and Real Madrid look to build on winning starts to the campaign.

La Liga bosses dropped a bombshell on the eve of the campaign when they announced their intention to stage top-flight matches in the United States, starting from this season.

However, a move announced as part of attempts to improve the Spanish league’s global popularity has this week been attacked by the country’s players union, AFE.

“Footballers are not for sale. We don’t only think about money,” said AFE president David Aganzo, once a striker on Madrid’s books.

The union say they hope to persuade league chiefs to change their minds at a meeting next month, with strike action promised if they do not get the outcome they are hoping for.

“We are worried for supporters. We see football in a different way. Going to the United States is madness,” Aganzo added.

The AFE have also said that match scheduling is a concern, with Valencia’s opening weekend draw with Atletico Madrid one of two games played on Monday night.

Matches that do not finish until after midnight are also a feature of the start of the new season, with champions Barcelona’s match at Valladolid one such game this weekend.

Ernesto Valverde’s side face their newly promoted opponents fresh from starting their title defence by beating Alaves 3-0 at the Camp Nou, with Lionel Messi scoring a brace, including a superb free-kick.

“Finding a way to stop Messi is practically impossible,” said Valladolid coach Sergio Gonzalez.

“We will try to ensure that he touches the ball as little as possible. That is great in theory, but the important thing is to stay focused.”

While Messi looked as brilliant as ever against Alaves, Real began life in La Liga without Cristiano Ronaldo by beating Getafe 2-0.

For now, the two great individuals of the last decade continue to be compared with one another, even with Ronaldo having left for Juventus.

“People rarely mention one without mentioning the other,” Valverde said in an interview with Barcelona club media. -AFP

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