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Spanish football: Shady characters are in a league of their own

Jose Maria del Nido, the Sevilla president, sentenced to seven and a half years for embezzlement, is one of many such fraudulent people to own Spanish football clubs.

Spanish football has always attracted charlatans and frauds, many of whom made their fortune in the country's three-decade-long property boom, which turned to bust in 2008. Their egos like being positioned at the head of a football club beloved by thousands, where every utterance is deemed newsworthy.

Atletico Madrid's Jesus Gil was the biggest crook of all, an outspoken eccentric and larger-than-life character who pulled the plug on a key European Cup Winners' Cup game with Manchester United an hour before kick off because the broadcasters irked him.

Gil, who died in 2004, was the mayor of Marbella, the enclave of a monied international crowd on Spain's Costa del Sol. Marbella hit the headlines again this week in relation to another football club owner. Jose Maria del Nido, the Sevilla president, was sentenced on Monday to seven and a half years in prison for his involvement in the embezzlement of public funds in Marbella. Del Nido will also have to pay the Marbella town hall €3 million (Dh14.1m) for his role as a lawyer in the corruption ring.

The offences took place between 1999 and 2003 when Del Nido worked as lawyer for the municipality of Marbella, during which time he took control of Sevilla.

He was at the helm for the most successful period of their history, capped off by two Uefa Cups. Because the fraud didn't take place at the club, he will stay as president, even when he's behind bars. He will doubtless proclaim his innocence, despite being found guilty. Only in Spain.


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