When Vicente del Bosque named Roberto Soldado in his Spain squad for the Confederations Cup in Brazil, the Valencia hitman became the only player among the 23 still playing in La Liga who is not with either Real Madrid or Barcelona.
Apart from Soldado, Del Bosque’s group contains nine Barcelona men and four from Madrid, with the rest plying their trade overseas, almost all of them in England. It has confirmed a worrying trend for a League that some people consider the finest in the world, yet is fast becoming the best breeding ground and exporter of top players.
While giants Real Madrid and Barcelona continue to sign the cream of the talent on offer, the recent trend has seen those players the big two have overlooked, for one reason or another, go abroad in search of trophies or bigger pay checks. Players such as Fernando Torres, Javi Martinez, Juan Mata, David Silva, Santi Cazorla and more recently Jesus Navas have all sought pastures new, but it is not only the established international stars that are on the move.
Swansea City forward Michu – signed from Rayo Vallecano for €2.5m at the start of last season alongside Real Mallorca centre-back Chico, Valencia winger Pablo Hernandez and Villarreal midfielder Jonathan de Guzman – set the Premier League alight by notching 18 goals from 35 appearances, with Real Betis midfielder Jose Alberto Canas also recently linking up with the Welsh outfit. In addition, Betis goalkeeper Adrian has opted to join West Ham United for the 2013-14 campaign rather than pen a new deal at the Benito Villamarin.
Critics of this talent drain point out that Real Madrid and Barcelona’s dominance of La Liga is such that the vast majority of players recognise that, aside from any financial considerations, they stand a much better chance of challenging for major honours if they are performing in a more competitive environment. For example, Swansea’s conquest of the Capital One Cup last term with a 5-0 final victory over Bradford City, when Michu and De Guzman were both on the mark, earned the Spanish players winners’ medal they would have been unlikely to have picked up if they had remained in Spain.
The appeal of La Liga is further weakened when you take into account that the only team that got near the hegemony of the big two last year was Atletico Madrid, a club that over the past few seasons has been forced to sell the likes of Sergio Aguero, Diego Forlan, David de Gea, Radamel Falcao and Torres due to financial considerations. Even so, it is not just Madrid and Barca’s dominance that has been the major contributing factor.
The unprecedented success of the national team has had scouts from all over the world flocking to Spain, where they know they can usually pick up players who are technically gifted and possess good tactical sense for a comparatively bargain fee. This has led to around 180 Spaniards operating in 36 different countries around the world, with several lesser-known players from La Segunda or Segunda B also finding their services have been in demand. Furthermore, they tend to acknowledge that there is more chance of them being paid on time abroad than at a lot of cash-strapped clubs back home.
Javier Tebas, President of the Spanish League, has warned fans of all clubs that more players could follow them out of the country in the next few years, citing another reason.
“Fans need to be aware there is going to be an exodus of players over the next three to four years, because we need clubs to decrease their debts if they are able to become alternatives to the big clubs,” he cautioned.