Has Spain’s golden age ended amid Barcelona’s decline and Premier League’s re-emergence?

Spain has boasted some of the greatest football clubs in recent history; whether Barcelona 2008-2012 or Real Madrid 2016-2018.

Spain has long dominated UEFA coefficients, coming in first place in fifteen out of the twenty years since their inception in the 2002/03 season.

However, with England deposing the nation over the last two seasons, and with Atleti the furthest to advance (Round of 16) in last year’s Champions League, there has clearly been a lull in performance.

The question on many lips is whether it’s temporary, or if a more long-term malaise is at hand.

Increased competition?

The La Liga season so far has seen plenty of unexpected results, and has produced a varied table.

While Real Madrid sit on top, they do so with fifteen goals conceded – only two less than thirteenth-placed Villareal – and the next seven five positions share five points between them.

Barcelona, astonishingly, sit in seventh. This is a sign of considerable unpredictability in the league, as Forbes outlines, yet not necessarily of quality.

Despite the shock results, bookkeepers are still promoting better odds for the big sides – Real Madrid, Atleti, Barça, and then Sevilla, Valencia and Betis – nodding to a belief that there is still a lot of strength in those top sides. Arguably, a stronger Barça and Real Madrid means a stronger league.

Spending power

Of course, part of the problem with Spanish football are the debts being run up at the top clubs.

While the Premier League continues to attract huge spending from the bankrolled clubs such as Man City, Chelsea and Newcastle, and the Bundesliga shells out for players using sustainable models, La Liga is floundering.

A report by Last Word Reports found that Barcelona are near bankruptcy; Real sit on a 1 billion Euro debt pile.

They simply cannot afford to spend, even as rumours of Mbappe to Real continue to gather steam.

The inability to pull star players, as reputation alone cannot pay the wages, is leading to a dearth of established talent in the league.

Youth moving forward

There may be hope in the league’s youth. Fans of Barcelona will note that their 2008-12 side had some superstar purchases – David Villa, Samuel Eto’o, and so on – but was largely driven forward by the academy.

Messi, Xavi, Iniesta, Busquets, Victor Valdes and Pique were all home-grown – though Pique did require a small transfer fee to Man Utd to bring him back.

With the emergence of Ansu Fati and Pedri at Barça, and the shrewd purchase of wonderkids like Camavinga by Real Madrid, there are signs on the horizon that the league is once again relying on its excellent youth prospects to drive their clubs forward.

To get back on top, Spanish clubs need to whittle down their debt while enhancing the development of their youth.

Superstars will continue to be pushed towards Spain by the media, yet it’s unlikely Madrid can afford an Mbappe nor Barcelona a Mo Salah.

Tags Ansu Fati Barcelona Pedri Real Madrid

3 Comments

  1. Del says:

    Mbappe is a foregone conclusion to join Real Madrid on a free transfer. They have been mostly sellers for the past two years. That will give them six players under the age of 24 that make significant contributions to the club, along with Vincius, Rodrygo, Valverde, Camavinga and Militao. Even if they have to reign in their spending over the next few years, the foundation of youth has been established. And of course Modric can play until he’s 40. Simply amazing footballer.

    Now if only their cross-town rivals could figure out how to use their young players like Joao Felix, Cunha and Lodi. They are becoming a team of limited-skill grinders who’s lack of ball-handling gets exposed against better teams or even teams with the legs to apply a press.

    Barcelona has no money but they have the academy and they have Xavi. Although I’m not a fan of Barcelona’s recent arrogance such as suing the league that they play in, Xavi will set things right over time. Marcus Rashford for example is NOT a Barcelona-style player. He is a Premier League style athlete, big and fast and strong, the preferred style of most teams outside of Liverpool and Man City.
    La Liga has less size but more technique, which is why it’s my first choice of leagues to watch. Sevilla and Villareal have both defeated Manchester United in the late stages of the Europa League with that contrast in styles.

    Because La Liga has a salary cap, teams have been forced to reduce expenditures as Covid hit their revenues. Teams had to sell but not spend in order to stay within the salary cap limits. But La Liga will bounce back as they’ve had the CVC investment of 2.7 billion and a new broadcasting deal worth almost 5 billion over five years, 2 billion more than the previous deal. One step back and then two steps forward.

    The middle class of La Liga is getting stronger and Sevilla is on the rise. They are well on their way to a fourth consecutive season of lucrative money from European football and don’t carry the enormous debts of the Big Three. They might not catch Real Madrid, but beyond that anything is possible.

  2. james says:

    Barcelona and realmadrid future is bright due to name and youth

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