Did Spain’s Euro 2008 win jinx the clubs?
Spain overcame 44 years of underachievement on the international stage when they were crowned European champions at Euro 2008. Not only did they win the tournament, but their players, their style and their attacking ambition were hailed around the world.
However, that success appears to have had a detrimental effect on their domestic teams, who have traditionally been some of the strongest performers in Europe’s club competitions.
Last week’s Champions League and UEFA Cup results are some of the worst in recent seasons.
Nine-times European Cup winners Real Madrid were beaten 1-0 at home by Liverpool in their last 16 first leg, while both Villarreal and Atletico Madrid were held to score draws at home by Panathinaikos and Porto respectively.
Only Barcelona achieved what could be considered a positive result, coming from behind to draw 1-1 away to Olympique Lyon and it was hardly an impressive performance.
In the UEFA Cup they fared even worse.
The 2004 winners Valencia drew at home to Dynamo Kiev to go out on the away goals rule 3-3 on aggregate, while Deportivo Coruna were humbled 6-1 on aggregate by AaB Aalborg. The 2006 and 2007 winners Sevilla failed to make it out of the group stages along with Racing Santander.
It is the first time in 18 years (since the 1990/91 season) there is no Spanish representative left in the last 16 of the UEFA Cup.
This competition is often touted as an indicator of the strength in depth of particular leagues and this year’s Primera Liga does not appear to be a vintage one.
Leaders Barcelona are doing their best to make it exciting at the top, with their 12-point lead over Real Madrid down to four, but look beyond the top two and you’ll find third-placed Sevilla are a long, long way back, while fourth-placed Villarreal are closer to the relegation places (17 points) than they are to Barca (18).
Unless Barca, Real, Atletico and Villarreal buck up their ideas before the Champions League second legs, Spain could be bemoaning an even more calamitous scenario.
PHOTO: Dynamo Kiev’s Betao (R), Carlos Correa (2nd R) and Eremenko celebrate a goal near Valencia’s Vicente Rodriguez (L) during their UEFA Cup soccer match at the Mestalla Stadium in Valencia February 26, 2009. REUTERS/Heino Kalis