La Liga Preview – Sid Lowe

Real’s and Barça’s ability to make the impossible look easy has crushed the ambitions of La Liga’s other clubs and tarnishes Spanish football’s golden age.

(Getty)

” It is the best of times, it is the worst of times. Spain are European and world champions, the most successful national team in history. They completed a unique three-tournament run with a 4-0 demolition of Italy, the biggest winning margin in a final.

Meanwhile, Barcelona and Real Madrid are arguably the most powerful clubs the game has seen. The favourites for this year’s Ballon d’Or will be theirs. Again. Since 2005, only one winner of the award for the world’s best player didn’t play for Real or Barcelona and Kaká and Cristiano Ronaldo ended up arriving at the Bernabéu anyway.

For the past two years Real and Barcelona have boasted all six of the men on the podium, Ronaldo breaking up Barça’s domination. With every passing week, Real and Barcelona, Ronaldo and Leo Messi, break records that seemed to belong to another era. Ronaldo broke a 38-goal record that had stood for 20 years. The very next season, Messi reached 50. Barcelona reached 99 points, two years later Madrid hit 100. Impossible figures suddenly look easy.

One of the reasons that they rack up such astonishing totals is that, in a battle where draws are the new defeats, they have to. The pressure is suffocating; these two teams drive each other, all too aware that the smallest slip could be decisive. The other, related reason is that they can.

The Spanish league is not easy. Barcelona and Real have been European semi-finalists for the past two years and they are favourites for the final this year, too. These are genuinely brilliant teams with genuinely brilliant players, some of the best in history; they are teams who would surely win the English title. Every time the doubters say of Messi: “I’d like to see him score those goals in a decent league,” the obvious retort is: “How about the Champions League? That’s quite a good league and he has been top scorer there for four seasons in a row.” When they point the finger at Ronaldo, it is simple to recall his 42-goal season in Manchester.

Last season’s Europa League final featured two Spanish teams: Athletic Bilbao and Atlético Madrid. Atlético won their second title in three years – Spanish clubs have won five of the last nine. If the Uefa Cup is the tournament that measures the depth of a league’s talent, then Spain’s league is amongst the strongest. If La Liga is a two-horse race, which it is, it is not because the rest are a bunch of donkeys. At least not yet. José Mourinho insisted that any team in the world that joined La Liga would come third, behind the big two.

He is right in the short term. But the trend is not just to the defeat of the other clubs but to their destruction. To the destruction of the league. And the league itself is complicit in its demise. This week, 13 clubs joined up to try to force the Liga de Fútbol Profesional to address the issue. They wanted a change in the TV model, a more equal distribution of the money and the kick-off times. The opening two weeks of the season include nine different slots, and 11pm kick-offs on Sunday night. More immediately, the clubs wanted the LFP to defend them in their battle with the TV company that, they allege, has not paid them. There was even talk of a strike, of the season not starting.”

Continue reading what Sid Lowe has to stay about the 2012-13 La Liga Season.

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