Barcelona: Building Momentum

Confusion, disorder and chaos filled the air during the build up to Real Madrid’s trip to Galicia in the weekend but the match against Celta Vigo was never played. The terrible winter weather and Galicia’s geographical location on the Atlantic Ocean meant that winds travelling at a speed of 150 kilometers per hour had dislodged parts of the roof at the Balaidos stadium. Thus, for obvious safety reasons, Celta Vigo’s game with Real Madrid had to be called off.

Lionel Messi

Real Madrid who already had one game postponed from earlier this season against Valencia will now have to fit in their busy schedule another tie against Celta. Madrid still have Champions League football to fill their upcoming weeks while Celta Vigo who kicked Real Madrid out of the Copa del Rey have to play in the Europa League. The postponement could be a blessing or it could be harmful for Los Blancos who continue to lead the table despite playing two games less than their rivals Barcelona.

On the other hand, Barcelona took advantage of Real Madrid’s inaction and made a statement by registering a 3-0 win over Athletic Bilbao. Aleix Vidal, who was an outcast in the earlier half of the season, seems to be back in the squad and he was even on the scoresheet. Barcelona are now just one point behind their historical nemesis Real Madrid. They will be hoping that European distraction could make Zinedine Zidane’s team falter in the league, but Los Merengues need to falter in three games for Barcelona to be able to take advantage. Barcelona built up further momentum by securing a 1-1 draw with Atletico Madrid to make their way to the Copa del Rey final against Deportivo Alaves. Can Barcelona continue their form and avoid dropping points in the league?

It’s highly unlikely but possible. Last season Real Madrid managed to close a big gap with Barcelona only to finish the season just behind. This season, things have been reversed, Barcelona are the ones who have a mountain to climb. The difficulty of the task makes one wonder, should the Catalans put more focus on the Champions League or should they fight on both fronts equally? The Blaugrana will be facing PSG next week and have a high chance of advancing since PSG has been having a tough season in the Ligue 1 and is not known to be a big player on a European level. The football season is nearing its peak and this is the most crucial time of the season. Real Madrid’s postponed game means that the title battle has been reignited at least for the time being.

Early Exit: Real Madrid out of Copa del Rey

A Tired Real Madrid side suffered an early Copa del Rey exit following a 2-2 draw and a 4-3 aggregate loss against Celta Vigo last night. Real Madrid’s hopes of winning the treble have faded away but Los Merengues should seize the opportunity to shift their focus on reclaiming the La Liga title after many years of failure.

arsenal

Real Madrid currently sit on top of La Liga table with 43 points despite having played on less game than both Sevilla (42 points) and Barcelona (41 points). Until recently Madrid had a 40 game unbeaten streak, but they have now won just one of their last five games. There are definitely worrying signs for the capital club but perhaps their early exit from the domestic cup would allow them to focus on staying ahead of Sevilla and Barcelona in the title race and return to their winning ways.

Last night Real Madrid failed to score from open play and in recent times they have had to rely on Sergio Ramos’ scoring abilities to be saved in other games. It is obvious that the team is tired and the injuries have not helped Zinedine Zidane give his players a rest. The season started straight after the Euros and Real Madrid had to partake in last season’s Champions League final as well as this season’s European Super Cup and the Club World Cup. Things have definitely been hectic for Madrid but they shouldn’t rest on their laurels just yet.

Zidane will now be focusing on the upcoming games against Real Sociedad in La Liga and Napoli in the Champions League. Real Madrid needs to be strong, convincing and uncompromising in their games. Any hiccup in the upcoming games could put the team under unneeded pressure. The season goes on as Atletico Madrid, Celta Vigo, Deportivo Alaves and one of Barcelona and Real Sociedad proceed to the Copa del Rey’s semi-finals. Perhaps, this could be a chance for Luis Enrique’s Barcelona to win some silverware this year.

The Fall of La Liga: Graphical Analysis and Statistics

“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.

Spending per year

Amount spent by teams each season in millions of euros

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:

profit

Profit made by teams each season in millions of Euros

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.

average wage comparison

Average Wage of La Liga Teams compared to Bundesliga teams in 2012-2013

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?