Jose Mourinho predicts close race
NEW YORK -- Calling La Liga the top league in the world, Jose Mourinho predicts a more competitive season as Real Madrid defends its title and Barcelona tries to regain the crown.
Los Blancos set Spanish records with 100 points and 121 goals last season, winning by nine points and ending the Catalans' streak of three straight titles.
"I don't think the champion will reach 100 points," the Real Madrid coach said Wednesday. "I don't think the champion will score 120 goals. I think these are numbers to stay in the history for a long time. I don't think we can do it or Barcelona will do it."
Calling Real Madrid and Barcelona "the two best teams in the world," Mourinho said La Liga was now better than England's Premier League -- where he led Chelsea to consecutive league titles in 2005 and 2006.
"The league is very, very strong," he said of Spain. "A beautiful league, because the teams are very technical, and that's the reason I'm in Spain, because I want to be where the best league is."
Real Madrid hasn't made any major moves this summer but has been negotiating with Tottenham to acquire Luka Modric and talking about selling Kaka back to AC Milan, which sent him to Spain three years ago for 65 million euros (then $93.5 million).
"Our squad is strong. It's good. It's young. And we feel no needs," Mourinho said after a 5-1 rout of Milan in an exhibition at Yankee Stadium.
Paris Saint-Germain has taken over as soccer's big spender, buying forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic and defender Thiago Silva from Milan, forward Ezequiel Lavezzi from Napoli, midfielder Lucas Moura from Sao Paulo and midfielder Marco Verratti from Pescara, all with funds from its new owner, the Qatar Investment Authority.
After he was outbid for Lucas on Wednesday, Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson criticized the spending spree, telling his team's website "when somebody's paying 45 million euros ($56 million) for a 19-year-old boy, you have to say the game's gone mad."
Not so, Mourinho maintained.
"You pay 40 million (euros) to a club, that club is going to spent this 40 million buying two or three players from smaller clubs. The smaller clubs get the money, so somebody has to make the circles go around," he said.
"UEFA is working on what they call the financial fair play, which will be good for a club like Real Madrid because Real Madrid is economically very powerful but doesn't depend on money not produced by the club. The club by itself produces that money, so Real Madrid will be in a much better position when the financial fair play comes."
European soccer's governing body is phasing in rules that require teams not to spend more than they earn.
Mourinho appeared to criticize Malaga, which qualified for the Champions League playoffs with a fourth-place finish but now is selling off players such as Santi Cazorla as members of the team complain they haven't been paid.
"When you buy and you owe, for me that's the problem -- when you go to big projects and you sign some big players and after that you don't pay to the players, you don't pay to the clubs," he said.
Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press