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Match 23
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Atleti rule out controversial 'maletines'

Atletico Madrid president Enrique Cerezo has joked that his hard-up club cannot afford to offer any motivational bonuses to teams facing their title rivals amid fresh controversy over the payments.

Ledwith: La Liga race tightens

There has been debate in Spain for some time over the issue of "maletines" ("briefcases"), which predominantly involve teams in either the title race or relegation battle offering win bonuses to sides with little to play for when they face their rivals.

The matter received fresh attention when Levante youngster Ruben Garcia joked about the possibility of receiving a "little present" prior to his side's 2-0 victory over Atletico at the weekend. Spanish players' union president Luis Rubiales defended Garcia, but La Liga chief Javier Tebas insisted that "taking money to win a game is forbidden and seriously punished."

Cerezo, whose side remain top of the table despite the defeat, told AS that Atletico would never resort to making such payments.

"We do not have money for many things, so we do not have money for the 'maletines' -- first, you who have to buy the briefcase, and then put in the money," Cerezo joked. "But no, no, no -- our team is not about that.

"We are a serious team. We know how to win and how to lose. I have spent all weekend doing up the sums, and they come out well for us as we still depend on ourselves. If we win our games we will have no problem."

Barcelona, in second, and Real Madrid, in third with a game in hand, remain in contention for the title.

Should Real win their next two games, against Real Valladolid and Celta Vigo, it is possible that Barcelona could hand the title to Carlo Ancelotti's side by beating Atletico at the Camp Nou on the final day.

Cerezo does not believe there is any prospect that Barca could be tempted to ease off to ensure their Bernabeu rivals did not win the title.

"Barcelona will go out to play, go out to win the game, and us too," the Atletico president said. "It will be a normal game with both teams wanting to win. They are playing at home and will want a happy end to their season, even if they do not win the title."

Meanwhile, La Sexta and Marca have drawn attention to the fact Celta Vigo boss Luis Enrique, who is now widely expected to take charge of Barcelona next season, could derail Real's title bid.

Enrique, an unpopular figure at Real after leaving the Bernabeu for the Camp Nou in 1996, was filmed meeting Barca sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta on Monday.

Meanwhile, Celta captain Borja Oubina said he would not welcome the offer of any third-party bonus payments.

"I am not in favour of legalising the payments to win," Oubina told El Faro de Vigo. "We should defend the honesty of the player. I believe all this has no place in football, although in this there are all kinds of opinions and tastes. I am too pure in this sense."


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