Spanish football is in crisis according to a report in Diario AS. After winning five of the last seven Champions League titles, its privileged status in the European game is in serious danger. German, English, Italian and French clubs have seen them off in Europe over the last two years, whether that’s been Real Madrid, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, Sevilla or Valencia. This downturn has been underlined this season, with Barcelona, Atletico and Sevilla all losing the first leg of their last 16 ties.
If Los Blancos fail this evening, Spanish football could be close to the modern nadir of 2005, when no Spanish clubs made it to the quarter finals. Back then, Liverpool beat Milan in the final in Istanbul, with PSV Eindhoven and Chelsea the other two semi-finalists. Madrid and Barcelona were the La Liga clubs that went the furthest, but they only made it to the last 16. Valencia and Deportivo La Coruna couldn’t make it past the group stage. Madrid lost to Juventus while Barcelona were seen off by Chelsea. The last time before 2005 Spain had so few representatives in the quarter final was 1993.
This decline showed symptoms last season, with Bayern Munich sweeping Barcelona aside 8-2 and Atletico losing to Leipzig in the quarterfinals. Sevilla regained a degree of self-respect for the Spanish game with their triumph in the Europa League, but the overarching signs were there. Many eyes in Spain will be on Real Madrid this evening in the hope that they beat Atalanta and earn a little credit for Spanish football in Europe’s premier competition.