La Liga Weekly

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LaLigaWeekly On May - 23 - 2011

Where Does La Liga Stand After This Season?

After the most congested La Liga season in recent years, the same questions about the competitive nature of the league continue to resurface. Once again Real Madrid and Barcelona are the top two teams in Spain, that’s no surprise to anyone. But the staggering nature of their point’s total and goal difference raises the old fear that Spain’s top flight is just far too uneven.

And certainly if you just look at some of the results over the past few months it’s easy to draw that conclusion. Madrid hitting eight the other week and Ronaldo getting forty league goals in a season would seem to suggest that there is something wrong with the league. But we already knew that. We all know that the distribution of wealth in Spanish football keeps the other eighteen La Liga sides locked out the kind of money that Real Madrid and Barcelona take for granted. And yet despite the powerhouse performance of the big two once again, the rest of the league has closed up considerably and that has led to a more competitive and even league in general. And it’s the same story around the rest of Europe where the leagues have generally been a lot close especially down the bottom.

The top leagues in England, France and Germany are all extremely close and the battle against relegation in these countries, like it did in Spain, has drown a larger than normal amount of clubs into a fight for survival and meant that final league positions weren’t all tied up going into the final round of fixtures. Yet despite La Liga’s similarities with some of the leagues in Europe this season, it’s once again the top of the league in Spain that shows the biggest contrast with the rest of the continent. While other leagues around Europe have generally been tight and close amongst the top sides, once again in Spain it was only Real Madrid who challenged the dominance of Barcelona. In Spain the difference between first and fourth was thirty four points. In comparison in France it was fourteen, in Germany it’s fifteen and Italy it’s sixteen. In Scotland it was thirty two.

A good example of how the English Premier League has closed up this season is the point’s difference between the champions and the rest of the league. In the 2004/05 season Liverpool came fifth in the league and finished thirty seven points behind the winners Chelsea. This season Blackpool were relegated and finished just forty one points behind the champions Man Utd. This shows not just that the league is generally tighter in England this season compared to other years, but also that the top of the league is of a poorer quality than it was a few season back.

So what does this say for the state of European football? Well first of all there seems to be a lull at the top end of the leagues, Spain not included. It’s widely regarded that in England this Man Utd team is the weakest Premiere League champions in recent years and yet they’re in a European final. In Italy AC Milan have won the league and yet were shown to be a fairly slow and pedestrian team by Tottenham, who finished fifth in The Premiere League. While in Germany and France the established powerhouses of Bayern Munich and Lyon have been left behind and been forced to fight to just try and get into the top three while the younger and less established squads of Dortmund and Lille have won their leagues. It seems that there is a lack of real quality sides right now out there that can challenge the might of Barcelona. Even Real Madrid for all their stars and goal scoring exploits of late are still less a team and more a collection of players. If they are to topple this brilliant Barcelona team then that has to change.

So what lies ahead for teams in La Liga in the near future? Well for now there seems to be little change. With the distribution of television money, that keeps Barcelona and Real Madrid way ahead of the rest, staying the same, the power (im)balance in Spain will remain intact and that is of determent to the rest of the league. This is a real pity and detracts from some of the wonderful football and some of the wonderful stories that take place throughout the rest of the league. It’s such a shame then that this summer might see the sale of the two best players from outside the top two teams. Both Sergio Aguero and Giuseppe Rossi have been lined up with moves to the top two. This would not just mean the loss to Villareal and Atletico Madrid of their star players but would also just confirm to the rest of Europe that La Liga is now just becoming an arms race between two super powers.

Perhaps these two are just too big for Spain, maybe we won’t see another team winning the league ever again or at least not in the next five years. Certainly without either major investment in one of the other big clubs in Spain or a drastic reworking of the TV money, this dominance of Spanish football by the top two is set to continue.

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