“No, I absolutely do not,” Diego Simeone replied to the journalists when asked about his team having a chance to compete for La Liga title this season after an opening win against Sevilla, he continued. “Madrid and Barcelona play a different league. This is a boring championship.” While former Sevilla striker Alvaro Negredo has claimed that he left La Liga to a more competitive championship where he actually has the opportunity to win something, the Premier League. The story of La Liga being a two-teamed championship is not new but now the league has hit rock-bottom and the current state it is in is even worse than the one in post-civil war. To what extent are the words of the two accurate? Very much!
Simeone claimed that Barcelona and Real Madrid are playing in a league of their own, thus we will compare Barcelona & Real Madrid combined to the rest of the La Liga teams during the past few seasons. Firstly, we compare the combined spending per season. The figure below shows how Real Madrid and Barcelona combined evolved to spend nearly as much as the rest of the 18 teams combined do and they even went far ahead in 2009-2010.
This figure restricts us to only see that the big two are dominating but it does not prove that the rest are moving from bad to worse as expenditure seems to have risen substantially tihs season compared to the previous two but what are the reasons behind that? Is it that the teams are healthier and wealthier? Certainly no. The only reason they spent 50 million Euros more this season than the last one is because they gained 300 million Euros from sales.
We add to this the money generated from sales which leaves us to see if clubs are making profits or losses from the transfer season and surprisingly we obtain this graph:
This graph clearly shows what has happened, the blue line which represents Barcelona and Real Madrid combined shows that that two clubs have never had a season where they made profits from transfers (the blue line is always below zero). The rest of La Liga teams used to spend money in transfer period before 2008-2009, after that the clubs started being more cautious in there spending and ultimately in the past two seasons they were aiming to sell players and generate money to be able to sustain themselves financially. This season a profit of 200.5 million Euros was made and the transfer season is not over yet. Many clubs were forced to sell their players as they struggled to generate money elsewhere, most notably from TV rights of which an enormous portion (56%) goes to Barcelona and Real Madrid. Imagine that 18 other clubs will have to share what less than two are receiving. How can the rest of the teams compete?
The number of Spanish players playing in foreign leagues has been rising ever since 2007-2008. There was only 9 Spaniards playing in foreign leagues in that season. This number became 20 two seasons ago, 29 last season and this season there are 33 players playing in 11 different countries most notably: England, Wales, Greece and Italy. The Spanish players have been forced to find teams elsewhere because their local teams cannot afford to keep them unless they are good enough to play for one of the big two.
Radamel Falcao, Robeto Soldado, Alvaro Negredo, Jesus Navas, Fernando Llorente, Fernando Amorebieta, Cata Diaz, Jose Cañas, Adrian, Joel Campbell, Iago Aspas, Daniel Pranjic, Amat, Gustavo Munua, Toulalan, Joaquin, Julio Baptista, Antonio Luna, Tino Costa, Fernando Gago and Lulo all left La Liga this summer and some more could be set to join.
The local people in Spain are really frustrated at the situation, people here in the northern part of the country say that Basque teams have won La Liga 11 times but there is no chance for them to see a 12th title as long as money is going into the coffers of only two clubs. Fans of all clubs now are hopeless with very little to aspire to.In the past nine years La Liga’s title was shared between two teams and it’s not easy to guess which two.
Furthermore, to illustrate La Liga’s situation we compare the average wages of La Liga players in each team to the ones Bundesliga teams. According to numbers from last season. Both Barcelona and Real Madrid pay on average each player more than any German does. Though apart from the top two teams, Germany dominates elsewhere, the third and fourth in Spain for example Valencia and Atletico Madrid pay less than what the third (Borussia Dortmund) and fourth (Werder Bremen) in Germany pays. The big surprise comes at the end of the list, Freiburg, who have the lowest average wage for a player in the Bundesliga at (984,000 Euros a year per player), actually pay their average player more than ninth most in La Liga, Espanyol (860,000 Euros a year per player). This season, 16 teams are said to have decreased their wage budget in Spain (only Barcelona, Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid and Real Sociedad did not decrease their budgets, the latter two only because they were able to reach Champions League football) making the situation even worse. In total, the salaries of the Spanish first and second division have decreased by 150 million Euros (10% of what it currently is)! The Spanish teams hold a total of five billions Euros of debt which puts plenty of teams at risk of being dissolved in the near future.
The financial situations seems tougher than ever: eight clubs from the rest of La Liga decided to increase the price of season tickets in hopes of making more money while nine others decreased them to attract more fans and increase their profit leaving only Real Betis with the same prices. Those moves did not pay off at all whether the price increased or decreased it was not enough as less season tickets have been sold compared to the previous season.
In the past two seasons, La Liga champions reached 100 points and in the one before both Barca and Real had more than 90 points. In the past three seasons we were seeing each of them score over a hundred goals. These numbers cannot be found anywhere in any other league yet La Liga seems to be producing them consistently. Levante were humiliated 7-0 by Barcelona in the opening game but the scoreline seems to be normal now as any team has and will suffer the same defeat but can the small clubs be blamed for not aspiring to be competitive when all factors are against them?