No Love for the Spaniards

(Disclaimer: My heritage may or may not have placed some inherent bias into this article, but I still speak the truth and you know it.)

My beloved Barcelona was long gone and yet, I still found myself clinging to the hope that the “Lords-of- Dogtown-esque” Torres (one of my all-time faves) and El Cholo’s scrappy bunch of misfits could have managed to at least temporarily silence Real Madrid and their overly hair-gelled contingency. But alas, it was not meant to be. Yet, regardless of who pulled it out on the 28th of last month, one thing was certain: The Champions League winner this year would be from La Liga, just like it was last year, and the year before that.

In fact, four of the past six Champions League winners (and eight of the last 17) have been from the Spanish League. Five of the past seven Europa League winners have also been from the Spanish League and none of them were named Real Madrid or Barcelona. (It’s also worth noting that despite La Roja’s dismal showing at the 2014 World Cup, they’re going for the three-peat this summer at the European Championships and have won three of the last four major international tournaments they’ve participated in. (Don’t worry; we still can beat Italy and win.) )

Yet, 90% of people outside of Spain with an interest in soccer are still hesitant to claim La Liga as the best and most dominant league in the world. If you need any more convincing as to La Liga’s success in European soccer, consider this: Real Madrid (ugh, I know) is the most successful Champions League team ever with 11 titles, while Sevilla is also the most successful Europa League team ever with five titles, for all those who say that there are no quality teams outside of Barcelona and Real Madrid. Atletico Madrid, Valencia, Villareal, Sevilla (obviously), and occasionally even Atletic Bilbao and Malaga have all made respectable showings in recent years at important international tournaments. La Liga is not a two-trick pony.

Webster’s defines best as “better than all others in quality or value” or as “most skillful, talented, or successful”. It is hard to argue that these definitions cannot be attributed to teams from La Liga, as evidenced by their somewhat rapid ascent to the top of Europe within the last four to seven years. Granted, the very definition of best is rather subjective and arbitrary, leaving room for nuances, even “success” can be somewhat ambiguous and difficult to measure at times. But while I hate to use the phrase “the numbers don’t lie” as it relates to sports, (due to the many intangibles that have a large effect on the game outside of statistics) I think it is applicable in this scenario.

Last year, all three of the top goal scorers in the UCL came from La Liga, and two of the four semifinalist teams were from there as well. The previous year featured an all-Spanish final (same matchup as this year) and three of the top five goal scorers were again from La Liga. The two previous years were not as successful for the Spanish giants. However, there were still two Spanish teams in each semifinal leg, while only one of the top ten goal scorers in each respective year came from the EPL. Meanwhile, Spanish representation amounted to four goal scorers amongst the top ten in 2013 and five in 2012. Their dominance within the European club stage is undeniable.

At this time is when common retorts usually begin: The EPL has more competition. The EPL has more tradition and history with clubs like Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool etc. The EPL may well be more competitive, but that doesn’t mean that it’s better. Also, we’re talking about right now, not about history. But if history was to be an indicator, it’s likely worth reminding naysayers of the aforementioned dominance of Real Madrid and Sevilla in international competitions (oftentimes beating so many of those “storied English clubs” along the way).

I’m not really sure why the Spanish League gets no love. I can’t even turn on cable television in this country and watch el clasico! However, if I wake up early enough on a Sunday morning I sure can enjoy a thrilling match between Sunderland and West Bromwich.

Let me be clear: the intent of this article is not to hate on the EPL; it is a great league and it definitely possesses some unique characteristics and claims to fame that La Liga simply cannot rival. However, being “better than all others in quality or value” is just not one of them.