Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large
Real Madrid, in white, and Barcelona are such dominant forces in Spain, they are in a position to negotiate bigger television contracts worth more than any English club receives.
Real Madrid, in white, and Barcelona are such dominant forces in Spain, they are in a position to negotiate bigger television contracts worth more than any English club receives.

Big two still drive game in Spain

Barcelona and Real Madrid dominated last year and their ability to buy the best means they will stay out front, writes Andy Mitten.

When Real Madrid signed Cristiano Ronaldo and Kaka last summer and Barcelona signed Zlatan Ibrahimovic, it was the evidence that supporters of the Primera Liga needed to prove that Spain had the best domestic league in the world. The Spanish national team's dominance also emphasised that the league had the right balance between home-grown stars and premium exports. The English Premier League was criticised by some for being full of foreign players.

But one of the strengths of the Premier League is the competition. Chelsea, the champions, counted a loss to lowly Wigan Athletic among their six league defeats last season. And Manchester United lost to teams like Fulham and Burnley. Despite finishing 10 points ahead of the chasing pack, the leading two in England lost 13 league games between them. In Spain, Barcelona and Real lost just five times. The gap between second-placed Real and third-placed Valencia was a massive 25 points and did not do much for the credibility of the league. The historical gulf between the top two in Spain and the rest has grown into a chasm. The likelihood of Deportivo La Coruna, who won the league in 2000, or Valencia, who won it in 2002 and 2004, topping the Primera Liga again appears remote. The duopoly becomes ever more dominant because their 80,000 average crowds are twice that of the third and fourth best supported clubs, Valencia and Atletico Madrid. In the Premier League, a collective television agreement is in place and the champions receive just 30 per cent more from domestic television money than the bottom-placed team. In Spain, the big two use their enormous pulling power to negotiate bigger television contracts which are worth more than any English club receives - and the bottom clubs scrape around for anything they can get, which is sometimes nothing. Media rights is a boom area, one that was virtually non-existent 15 years ago. Lesser "big" clubs used to be able to keep hold of their players, but now Spain's economic woes mean that Valencia had to sell David Villa and David Silva in the summer, while Deportivo's playing budget has been slashed by a third in the last two seasons to a level which is one-tenth of Real Madrid's. Such cut backs are common throughout the league. Real and Barca have always bought the best Spanish talent. Sevilla were long regarded as Real's feeder club - now they just feed Barca Brazilian full-backs. The two giants have overstocked pools of talent - home-grown and otherwise - but has the pendulum swung too far? Racing Santander's Sergio Canales, 19, was one of the most exciting young players to emerge in recent seasons, but would he have been better off staying and playing in Cantabria rather than occupying Real's bench? There are still shocks and set-backs. Sevilla beat Barca away in the Copa del Rey last season and a full-strength Real lost 4-0 at third division Alcorcon, but these are rare, freak results. It will be Real and Barca or Barca and Real for the title. And then the rest, with Sevilla, Valencia, Atletico and Villarreal trailing by a distance. Little wonder than many fans in Spain support both their local club and Barca or Real. If they didn't they'd never taste football's richest fruits. sports@thenational.ae

Back to the top

More articles


Editor's Picks

 Glenn Maxwell's knock that followed ensured Brendon McCullum's knock went in vain after his explosive half-century took Chennai Super Kings past the 200-mark. Ravindranath K / The National

All is well with Punjab as Maxwell and Miller seal win against Chennai

The Australian missed out on a century but his 95 runs, along with Miller's unbeaten half-century, ensured Kings XI scaled a mighty peak of a target in a hot first game of Abu Dhabi's double-header.

 Sunderland manager Gus Poyet protests during the Premier League match against Crystal Palace at The Stadium of Light in Sunderland, northeast England, on March 15, 2014. Ian MacNicol / AFP

Sunderland going out of Premier League with a grumble

Northeast club have underwhelmed during seven-year stay in the top flight

 Hamburg players leave the field after the match against Borussia Moenchengladbach on March 30, 2014. AFP

Hamburg the dinosaur’s time may be up in Bundesliga

Ever-present for 51 years in the German top-flight, Hamburg face the prospect of relegation, writes Ian Hawkey.

 At 105 kg, Gabrielle Garcia has dominated the world circuit and loves many things about being in Abu Dhabi. Ravindranath K / The National

Garcia seeks fresh challenge in MMA after her jiu-jitsu domination

Brazilian prides being a lioness in the sport but feels she can shed 25kg weight to pursue her MMA debut aspirations.

 England's Jonathan Trott hits out during the ICC Champions Trophy semi final match against South Africa at The Oval cricket ground, London June 19, 2013. REUTERS/Philip Brown

England’s Jonathan Trott sidelined with stress-related illness again

Jonathan Trott is to take a second break from professional cricket because of his stress-related illness as England and Wales Cricket Board and Warwickshire confirmed he will stop playing with immediate effect.

 Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho looks on during the Premier League match between Swansea City and Chelsea at the Liberty Stadium on April 13, 2014 in Swansea, Wales. Chris Brunskill/Getty Images

‘That’s why we are a top club’ says Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech

Jose Mourinho’s men will temporarily claim the Premier League top spot if they beat Sunderland, leaving them in control of their own destiny in the title race ahead of a crucial trip to face Liverpool at Anfield on April 27.

Events

To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National