Mallorca Muriqi’s deal of the century

During a week when I read about a well-known movie star who had given birth to her beautiful “love child,” they weren’t called that in my day – Can you imagine shouting at a football referee “The referee’s a love child! ” ? – Real Mallorca broke their transfer record when they paid Italian Serie A side Lazio 7.7 million euros for striker Vedat Muriqi on a five-year deal.

That amount will be paid in three annual installments. In addition to the player’s gross annual salary of 4.2 million, Mallorca will pay bonuses of up to 1.5 million, depending on individual and collective performances, eg number of goals scored.

The total cost to the Palma side is almost 6.8 million euros per year plus bonuses. This is without a shadow of a doubt the highest costing transaction in the 106 year history of RCD Mallorca. If we have any desire (which of course we do) to stay as long as possible in top flight Spanish football, pushing the boat out money-wise is a necessary gamble to take. There has been no mention (perish the thought) about Muriqi remaining if we don’t stay in La Primera.

If some people who haven’t a clue about football thought signing a big money player was as simple as getting a checkbook out, think again. When I was but a twinkle in my mum’s eye in the Kingdom of Fife (where men were men and sheep were terrified!), football transfer transactions would entail two representatives with one carrying a brown paper bag full of fivers. They would meet in some smokey pub and do a deal over a couple of pints of heavy, two mutton pies and 20 Woodbine!

Right now the best clubs in Europe are spending ridiculous sums of money to strengthen their squads. Nowadays football transfers seem to last for ages and have more twists and turns than the road to Sa Calobra. For less affluent clubs like us, two questions override everything (1) Can we afford him and (2) Will the player sign? Every club wants players on the first couple of days of the Summer window, but many clubs (like us) and especially the agents play the market so you never know what’s going to happen.

Real Mallorca have bet heavily on the return of Vedat Muriqi who turned out to be a fundamental piece for us to stay in a League. He infected his competitive spirit from day one capable of chasing lost causes, fighting with anyone for a ball unattainable to less mortal souls, pressing to force a throw-in and celebrating with rage and a clenched fist – he’s pure box office. Without his presence next season our task would have been even more difficult.

So who is this Vedat Muriqi? He was born in the city of Prizren (Kosovo) on April 24, 1994, and had a childhood marked by war that forced him to flee at six years old with his family for exile in Albania, escaping the advancing Serbian army.

After the Balkan war, he returned to Kosovo to pursue his dream of becoming a footballer. In 2005 he played in the lower leagues scoring goals for fun. He played in Albania and Turkey and at the age of 26 netted 15 goals in the Turkish Super League for Fenerbahçe.

His goalscoring prowess attracted Lazio who paid 20 million euros for his services in 2020. However, the move didn’t work as Muriqi said “In the Italian league there is more quality than Turkey and I was injured then got Covid at the beginning. It was not easy to get back into top form.”

The fans in Rome turned against Muriqi as he dropped down the strikers pecking order and couldn’t even make the bench. Lazio’s hierarchy said his signing was the worst 20 million euros the club had ever spent and for Muriqi the writing was on the wall, it was a case of “Arrivederci Roma”!

His sharp chin and sunken cheekbones highlighted by a beard enhance his look as a weathered guy and the Mallorca fans have christened him “El Pirata” (the pirate). The Kosovar international endeared himself almost immediately to Mallorquinistas with his swashbuckling style when he arrived here in January. I don’t think I’ve seen a better header of a ball and stats showed he participated in 22 aerial duels of which he won 15. He scored the same number of goals in four games with Mallorca as in 49 games for Lazio.

Another arrival this week was 26-year-old, 6ft 2in Serbian goalkeeper Predrag Rajkovic who’s had extensive experience in the French league. He’s arrived from Stade de Reims and has turned out for World Cup finalists Serbia 28 times. He costs three million euros and will be our No. 1 stopper. Local media have been quick to point out that Rajkovic is the spitting image of actor Travis Fimmel from the hit TV series “Vikings.”

SP A Wednesday night stroll in the sunset saw Mallorca beat Second Division Sporting Gijon 1-0 with a 10th minute Dani Rodriguez (with new bleached hair look) goal. After four pre-season matches it’s three wins, a draw and four clean sheets. Next up Napoli at Castel di Sangro in Italy on Sunday 31st at 20:30. Mamma Mia!

AND FINALLY, a priest and a rabbi are sitting next to each other in an airplane. After a while the priest turns to the rabbi an asks “Is it still a requirement of your faith that you mustn’t eat pork?” The rabbi replies “Yes, that is still one of our beliefs.” The priest then asks “Have you ever eaten pork?” The rabbi tells the priest “Yes, on one occasion I did succumb to temptation and tasted a bacon butty with HP sauce.” The priest nodded in understanding and went to sleep. A while later the rabbi asked the priest “Father, is it still a requirement of your church that you remain celibate?” He replied “Yes, that is still very much part of our faith.” The rabbi then asked him “Father, have you ever fallen to the temptations of the flesh?” The priest admits “Yes, Rabbi, on one occasion I was weak and broke my vows.” The rabbi nodded understandingly then went silent for five minutes. He then said “Beats the hell out of a bacon butty, doesn’t it?”

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