El Centrocampista

History Makers – Spanish football is on top of the world despite financial woes


On Thursday night Spain’s La Liga made history. It became the first country ever to have five representatives across Europe’s two premier competitions, the Champions League and the Europa League, previously the UEFA Cup.

It is an unprecedented achievement and one that will almost certainly see La Liga rise to the top of UEFA’s coefficient rankings at the expense of England’s Premier League, which overall has endured its worst showing in Europe in seven years. The tide, it seems, is turning back to the continent.
It is curious to note that while on the field Spanish sides have gone from strength to strength, off the field they are rife with problems.

Their off field battles were highlighted at the start of the season when a player-led strike saw the opening round of fixtures postponed. The dispute revolved around the issue of unpaid wages to the tune of over €50 million with some 200 players from various clubs affected.

This contention provoked debate about the central cause behind the strike; the deteriorating financial situations of many Spanish clubs in both the Primera and Segunda division. To give a broad picture, three clubs were in administration at the start of the current season while 22 clubs from the top two divisions have passed through administration in the last few years.

The dire economic situation, one that represents the country at large in this present moment, was or is deemed by many to be the result of the gross disparity in broadcasting revenue between the ‘big’ two, Real Madrid and Barcelona, and the rest of the league.

Between them, los Blancos and the Catalan giants take home roughly half of the €600 million in broadcasting revenue each season. Valencia, who came third last season, took home just a third of what is shared relatively evenly between the top two.

It is an alarming situation which has seen even Barcelona’s president, Sandro Rossell, admit that: “sometime in the next three or four or five years we have to put it all in one pot and make the distribution the way it is in Serie A and the Premier League”. His comments echoed that of more vociferous protagonists like Sevilla president Jose Maria del Nido, who warned earlier this season that if matters did not change than this could “kill Spanish football”.

Yet, after this week’s European action one could be forgiven for thinking there was anything wrong in Spanish football.
Not only does Spain have five representatives in the semi-finals across the Europa and Champions League, but, its teams are the favourites to win both competitions.

In the Champions League, many are expecting Real Madrid and Barcelona to meet in the final that is to be played at Munich’s Allianz Arena. While, in the Europa League Athletic Bilbao are the clear favourites after their remarkable triumphs over Manchester United in the round of 16 and, latterly, Schalke in the last round. Should the Basque side brush aside Sporting Lisbon to progress to the final than they will meet either Valencia or Atletico Madrid.

Incredibly, it is highly possible that the final of both competitions could be all-Spanish affairs. It would mark the first time in history that his has occurred and probably the last time. Following this week’s successes, La Liga is almost certain to dislodge the Premier League from top spot in UEFA’s coefficient rankings. Currently, just 1.456 points separates the two leagues.

What makes it a near mathematical certainty that this will occur, aside from the points accumulated between now and May 20, is that as of next year performances of the leagues in the 2007-08 season will be disregarded – the season when Manchester United and Chelsea met in an all-English final in Moscow. With the points accumulated from this season deducted, La Liga would already then hold a 2.545 point lead over the Premier League with added points surely to be gained over the next seven weeks or so.

Despite the current financial troubles plaguing many of its top clubs – not that any of this has been detrimental to their performances in Europe – there has still been some good news away from the pitch in Spain. Valencia, a club that has only staved off administration in recent years by selling off stars such as David Villa, Juan Mata and David Silva, has plans in place to build a new stadium with an increased capacity of 70,000. 

Atletico Madrid have also unveiled plans to build a new stadium while Barcelona have outlined their intention to increase the capacity at Camp Nou, already the biggest stadium on the continent, by 10,000. Not to be outdone, Real Madrid president Florentino Perez has laid out his intentions to redevelop the surrounding area of the Santiago Bernabeu into a commercial precinct which would include the addition of a hotel amongst other amenities.

Financial concerns may be prevalent and they still cast a shadow over the game on the Iberian peninsula. Nonetheless, despite the dire economic situation affecting the country in general, Spanish clubs seem to be pushing forward in one way or another. While the picture may not be perfect off the pitch, on the pitch things have never looked better. As mentioned earlier, Spanish teams have made history already this year. As of next season it will officially be the number league in Europe, and deservingly so.

La Liga sides have not only run riot this season, but, they have done so accounting for numerous clubs from rival leagues in Europe such as Schalke, Hannover, AC Milan, Manchester United, Bayer Leverkusen and Lazio. Chelsea and Bayern Munich could become the next victims if in May we are to be treated to another Clasico in the Champions League final – which, it may be added, would be the final between the world’s two greatest teams, and few would argue with this.

The country may be suffering from the highest unemployment rate in the European Union zone, but, at least, Spain’s football clubs are giving its people something to cheer about. Not to mention the national team who coincidentally are the reigning European and world champions. For its football, at least, times have rarely been better.


Follow Frank Tigani on Twitter @franktigani


  1. iankip58

    7 April, 2012 at 18:03

    Finally the EPL V La Liga debate will come to an end. La Liga has shown us that substance always prevails over form.

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