La Liga: The New SPL?
Earlier this week, the Ballon d’Or nominations were revealed, with only one English player, Wayne Rooney, in a list dominated by Spain. Does this show that the Spanish league is superior to its English counterpart?
It has been argued for many years, and even more so recently following Barcelona’s domination of European football that La Liga is in fact a better league. Looking at the nomination list, which includes 15 players based in Spain (out of a total 23) and a further two who spent last season there (Eto’o and Aguero), it is hard to argue against it. However, when looking at the list, the one thing that jumps out is the eight players at Barcelona; eight players, who in FIFA’s eyes are some of the best players in the world – that’s three short of a whole starting XI. If the Spanish league didn’t have FC Barcelona in La Liga, would the league be as good?
Without doubt, Real Madrid make the race with Barca interesting, but is Spanish football at a risk of becoming a league similar to the SPL? Both leagues have very different styles of play, but at the end of the season, you know it is going to be either Madrid or Barca or Rangers or Celtic. You have to go back to 2004 to see the last time a team apart from the ‘big two’ won la Liga, Valencia, under a certain Rafael Benitez…
With the English Premier League, you have always had a division between the ‘top teams’ and the others, but it’s not as blatant as in Spain. Recently with the re-emergence of Manchester City as a top team it has certainly made the League that little bit more interesting. Love or hate Sheikh Mansour, he has certainly injected some new life into the Premier League, none more so than this season, with City seeming to be an unstoppable force at the moment. Before the Arab Summer of 2008, the League was still in an interesting situation. You had Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal and don’t forget, Liverpool all gunning for glory. It took a few seasons for City to get to the promised peak of English football, but in the meantime, you knew there was still a chance of more than two teams just winning the league.
You can argue of course that Spain has had this as well. In 2008, you had Villarreal emerge as runners up, but normal service resumed soon after with titles being fought over by Madrid and Barcelona. Teams like Sevilla, Atletico Madrid and more recently Levante have all had their time in the limelight, but the division of class between the ‘big two’ seems almost too big now. In fact, you could argue Barcelona are above most Champions League teams at the moment.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not condemning the skill and beauty that Spanish football has. El Clásico has turned into one of the must-watch games for any football fan and Sky Sports’ Spanish football is also great fun to watch. But I certainly feel that we watch the games with a feeling that come the end, it is just going to be a race to the finish line with Barca and Madrid… But why not just sit back and enjoy the football that Spain has to offer, as after all FIFA are implying over half the world’s best players ply their football over there, even if it is just for two teams!