Naysayers have been quick to consign La Liga to the scrapheap. Spanish football fans should take that as a compliment. After all, La Liga clubs have won five of the last eight Champions League titles and five of the last eight Europa League titles, too.
Yes, two of the most captivating, charismatic captains in Lionel Messi and Sergio Ramos have departed this summer, both for free to the French capital (to a club that has never won the biggest European prize, to be clear). But La Liga still has plenty going for it. After one of the most competitive and enthralling title races in years, Atletico Madrid have revved up and reinforced, Real Madrid have played their ace, and Barcelona have two of the brightest young talents in the game. Sevilla too, are building a fearsome side on the quiet.
Atletico are fresh from being drawn in the group of death for this season’s Champions League. But they should be bullish about their chances of progression. They have had Liverpool’s number in recent times, and Marcos Llorente in particular has career-defining memories of Anfield. With added quality in midfield and up front, there is no reason why Atletico should not make it out of their group.
Across the city, Florentino Perez has made the power-play to end all power-plays. He has Neymarred Paris Saint-Germain, to coin a phrase. Granted, the transfer figures are obscene for a player with just one year left on his contract, but symbolically this is priceless for Madrid. The aura and prestige of the club is simply unparalleled in Europe, and Kylian Mbappe’s well-documented love and admiration is proof of that. The Parisian prince could have been the centrepiece of a juggernaut, but the allure of Los Blancos was always too much to ignore.
In Barcelona, times are tough. Make no mistake about it. Messi’s departure left a fracture which will take time to heal, and the emotions around the manner of the exit may never fully subside. But the future is still bright. In Pedri, they have the Euro 2020 Young Player of the Tournament, with both feet on the ground and a calm, composed head on his shoulders. Ansu Fati is also close to return after a lengthy injury absence, and his reintroduction will breathe new life into the side. Memphis Depay has hit the ground running, too, and the green shoots of recovery are definitely present at Camp Nou.
In Andalusia, Monchi and Julen Lopetegui are moulding a squad to compete on multiple fronts. They may have lost Bryan Gil and will surely lose Jules Kounde before the end of the transfer window, but they have a plan to reinvest and rejuvenate the squad. The track record is such that few can doubt Sevilla’s capacity to absorb the loss of a player and find a way to improve the collective without heading backwards.
So for all the doom and gloom, remember that La Liga is still packed with talent, can still attract and keep the world’s best players, and is likely to provide a setting for another compelling competition at both ends of the table. There is some credence in the critique of the league’s standing, as it struggles to match the financial clout of the Premier League and Paris. But the post-mortems have been far too harsh and far too hasty. There is plenty of life left in La Liga.