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Coach: UEFA making Mallorca a financial example

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SPAIN, August 11 (Reuters) -- UEFA's decision to exclude financially-troubled Real Mallorca from this season's Europa League smacks of unfairly singling out the La Liga club as a warning to others, according to coach Michael Laudrup.

In an interview at the Balearic Islands club's training facility outside Palma, the 46-year-old former Danish international said he supported the European governing body's efforts to crack down on financial mismanagement. But he noted that many clubs were suffering similar debt problems to Mallorca, who are in administration, including some of the larger ones who regularly reach the latter stages of the Champions League, the continent's top club competition.

"I think it's good that you don't spend more than you have -- that's also true in life in general," Laudrup, a former player at Barcelona and Real Madrid, told Reuters. "All the clubs, even the big ones who reach the semi-finals and final of the Champions League every year, they have debts of 300, 400, 500, 600 million euros," he added. "What UEFA and (president Michel) Platini have said recently is very good, very nice words, that we have to do something about the debts in football.

"It's always easier to make an example of a smaller club than a bigger one. "I think the words from UEFA sound a little empty."

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Part-owned by tennis world number one and island native Rafa Nadal, Mallorca have threatened to sue UEFA for damages over their exclusion from the lucrative Europa League, which they say will hamper efforts to get their finances in order. The club, who finished fifth in La Liga last season, went into voluntary administration earlier this year and UEFA ruled last month they should be excluded from Europe. Their licence had not been correctly awarded and the club "did not sufficiently fulfil its financial obligations", UEFA said, and awarded their place to La Liga rivals Villarreal.

"For me personally it doesn't mean so much but I know it means a lot first of all for the players that have achieved this historic position last year in the league in a very, very difficult situation for the club," Laudrup said. "So I am very sorry for the players and also for the fans because they had got back into Europe after some years. I think a lot of people don't understand fully what this is all about. And when you look at the papers from UEFA it's not as if you get much more idea about the issue."

A study by a University of Barcelona accounting professor and soccer finance expert published in May showed Mallorca had total debt of 85 million euros ($111 million) at the end of the 2008-09 season. That compared with 683 million for Real Madrid and 489 million for champions Barcelona. Atletico Madrid, the 2009-10 Europa League champions, had debt of 511 million at the end of the previous season and Villarreal 240 million euros, the study showed.

Many clubs have slipped into the red due to a combination of spiralling wage and transfer costs and Spain's worst recession in around half a century and Laudrup said complacency about the financial crisis had also been a factor.

"I think that up to a certain point some people thought that the crisis would not affect football," he said, his thick dark hair still slick from a post-training session shower. He added that club presidents, players and their agents were finally starting to realise that wage inflation had got out of hand.