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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

And let's stay with Europe for a moment, because Spain is facing a housing crisis a little like the United States. And the pain is spreading. In fact, funding is drying out for the country's most popular sport. Jerome Socolovsky reports on how the economy affects soccer.

JEROME SOCOLOVSKY: There's a row of four impressive new skyscrapers on Madrid's northern edge. The land they're built on was bought from soccer powerhouse Real Madrid for half a billion dollars. So now the local joke is to call the towers Beckham, Zidane, Figo, and Ronaldo after the star players that Madrid signed with some of that money.

Spain's decade-long real estate boom was a goldmine for Spanish soccer. Construction firms paid big time to have their logos on team jerseys. Real estate moguls lined up to buy teams. Sports business professor Sandalio Gomez says the sponsors are now in serious trouble.

Professor SANDALIO GOMEZ (Sports Business, IESE Business School, University of Navarra): (Spanish spoken)

SOCOLOVSKY: It's not that they're in bad shape. They're in freefall, he says. So the first thing they cut is sports sponsorship. Gomez says more than half the companies with season box seats have canceled them. Former champion Deportivo La Coruna is itself almost bankrupt after its main sponsor, developer Martinsa-Fadesa, collapsed last summer. Mallorca's owner is struggling to sell the club after his real estate firm went into receivership. And the list goes on. Gomez expects foreign buyers will come to the rescue.

(Soundbite of Spanish soccer match)

Unidentified Commentator: (Spanish spoken)

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