Spanish football has been going through a golden period, with the Spanish National Team winning the last three big competitions, the youth teams sweeping almost every title, Barcelona dominating the European club scene, and Real Madrid being a juggernaut themselves. Praise has been heavily heaped on Spanish football and its philosophy from every corner and with good reason. Looking at the amount of uber talented young Spanish players still coming through, one would be led to believe that the Spanish domination is still not near its end.
But while lavishing praise on the Spanish football and its system, most forget to mention the big elephant in the room: La Liga. While the Spanish national teams keep sweeping the biggest prizes, the Spanish League is facing an unprecedented crisis. The two top Spanish clubs seem to be stronger than ever, but La Liga faces a huge predictament. Not only has it become extremely boring in its predictability – it’d be a considerable surprise if the third place team came within 30 points of Barcelona/Real Madrid next season – but the imbalanced revenue distribution has also made many clubs from the top flight face enormous financial struggles.
The bottom 18 (because that’s what they are) see themselves forced to sell their most talented players either to a foreign club or to one or the big two; the most recent example being Jordi Alba’s transfer to Barcelona. With each passing year Barcelona and Real Madrid become stronger, while the rest get weaker, turning La Liga into a more and more monotonous competition – you can fully expect both clubs, as well as Messi and Ronaldo, to once again shatter all records as far as goals are concerned this new season, and again next season.
The Spanish national team is indeed one of the best ever national teams but it is basically formed by Barcelona and Real Madrid players. While everything seems great at the moment, such a model is unsustainable in the long term; no country’s football can flourish while the league is progressively weakened and destroyed. Scotland is a great example of that; while Spain have always been a far more powerful footballing nation, the principle is the same. The neverending duopoly will bring people’s interest down and thus affect revenues, and the lack of competition will make young players either not develop their skills as much as they could or go abroad, in a vicious cycle that will make Spanish football lose any kind of supremacy it might have had.
Barcelona and Real Madrid’s greed might eventually end up consuming Spanish football. Other clubs have been trying to negotiate a fairer revenue, but Barcelona and Real Madrid have been completely reluctant to agree and dictate the terms with the power of their brand. Every year Barcelona and Real Madrid pocket €150 million in TV revenues alone, while the other clubs get less than €20 million. And the gap will keep increasing; a situation that eventually will end up hurting Spain’s big two as well – in fact, it could be argued that it already did in last year’s Champions League, as the lack of competition in their domestic league made them unprepared to face Europe’s finest and both lost before the final despite being widely considered the two strongest squads in Europe.
Sooner or later, the powers that be of Spanish football will need to either realize that they must preserve their league in order to remain successful or accept that this golden period of Spanish football will be shortlived. Watching Barcelona and Real Madrid score five goals every other week with Messi/Ronaldo hat tricks can be compelling for a while, but it will get old at some point and people will inevitably lose interest in the league if there’s no competition and the league comes down to two matches every year.
The 4-0 victory over Italy in the Euro 2012 final is still being celebrated in Spain, but in many ways Spanish football is at a crossroads; another season of complete Real Madrid/Barcelona dominance and more financial struggles from the rest of the clubs will only further emphasize the dangerous path Spanish football is taking.
Malaga’s current situation should serve as enough warning that only a more even revenue distribution can save La Liga from becoming an even bigger shadow of itself than it already is and bring the whole Spanish football phenomenon down with it.