Stars of Spanish football such as Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are set to be back in league action this weekend after players called off a strike that delayed the start of Spain's Liga for the first time in 27 years.
Negotiations had dragged on into the early morning Thursday and resumed hours later, before the players' association AFE finally said it had struck an agreement with the league to guarantee wages, so the football-addicted nation will get its weekend fix.
"The strike is officially suspended. The situation of the 200 players who had unpaid salaries has been resolved," Luis Rubiales, president of the AFE, told a news conference alongside league president Jose Luis Astiazaran.
Global stars such as Barcelona's Argentine ace Messi and Real Madrid's Ronaldo can command massive transfer fees and salaries, but further down the ranks the AFE complains hundreds of players have been going unpaid.
"We wish to express the pride we feel in all the players for the unprecedented unity and solidarity they have shown at a time when many of their companions were having a really tough time," the AFE said in a statement.
The AFE says 200 players in the top two divisions are owed a total of about 50 million euros ($72 million) in unpaid wages from cash-strapped clubs, some of which are in bankruptcy protection.
The AFE was demanding a wage guarantee and an agreement that players be allowed to break their contracts if they are not paid for three consecutive months. AFE said the league had finally accepted that measure.
"The strike committee of the AFE and the Professional Football League reached an agreement that guarantees footballers' salaries by various means," the AFE said in a statement.
The league and the AFE agreed to set up a fund to guarantee unpaid wages but the officials declined to specify the total amount.
"Today is not the day to talk about amounts," said Astiazaran. "Suffice to say that through the fund... the payments due to the players who have not been paid will be guaranteed."
The league had earlier offered a fund worth 10 million euros, available until 2015, but the players had argued this was insufficient.
"This is a very important step for Spanish football, but it is only one turning point," Rubiales said, pointing out that the Spanish parliament has yet to vote on a law that would relegate teams that fail to pay players' wages.
Astiazaran said the missed Primera Liga matches would be replayed on January 22, with that day's matches rescheduled to May 2. The missed second division matches will be played on October 26.
Among the coming weekend's fixtures, Barcelona are scheduled to play at home against Villarreal while Real Madrid play away at Zaragoza.
It was the first strike since 1984 in La Liga, now one of the most widely-followed football leagues in the world.
The start of Italy's top league Serie A this weekend is also facing a strike threat after players and club bosses failed to agree on a new collective bargaining deal.