Are Barca and Real killing Spanish football?

August 30, 2011

In our latest post on Spanish soccer, Mark Elkington in Madrid ponders the opening round of matches in La Liga and what it underlined about the growing domination of the big two.

La Liga had a familiar look to it on Tuesday morning.

Wealthy behemoths Real Madrid and Barcelona top the standings on goal difference after each recorded emphatic wins against opponents who were utterly outclassed.

Villarreal, through to the Champions League group stages after finishing fourth last term, were thrashed 5-0 by Barca at the Nou Camp on Monday night, a day after Real Madrid romped to a 6-0 victory at Real Zaragoza.

Barca’s financial clout was underlined by the fact that coach Pep Guardiola was able to start without Spanish World Cup-winners Xavi and David Villa as new signings Cesc Fabregas and Alexis Sanchez scored on their home debuts in the league.

Villarreal president Fernando Roig said the growing financial disparity between Barca and Real and the rest of La Liga was killing Spanish football.

“If they only want to have two matches (Real v Barca), let them have two matches, but this isn’t good for football,” he told local media on Tuesday.

“I give it three or four years. Either this changes or we kill Spanish football.”

If recent seasons are anything to go by Barca and Real will be the only realistic title challengers with the others left to fight it out for European berths or struggling to avoid relegation.

Barca won a third consecutive league crown in May with 96 points, four ahead of Real. Third-placed Valencia had 71 points and Villarreal were fourth with 62.

The last team outside the big two to win La Liga was Rafa Benitez’s valencia in 2004.

Villarreal, who operated on a budget of less than 70 million euros ($101.7 million) last season compared to Barca’s of just under 430 million euros, have been one of the leading critics of the way money is distributed from television rights.

Real and Barca, the world’s two richest clubs in terms of revenue, take around half the total pot of Spanish TV income of 600 million euros.

The remaining 18 teams earn far less than their peers in rival European leagues, where a system of collective bargaining allows for fairer cash distribution.

“The two biggest clubs steal the television revenues from the other teams,” Sevilla president Jose Maria del Nido, an outspoken critic of the system, told national radio.

“It’s a league which only two teams can win, it’s third-world,” he added. “‘If we don’t recognise it for what it is it will remain rubbish.”

Sevilla won their opening game 2-1 at home to Malaga but suffered financially damaging elimination from the Europa League, Europe’s second-tier club competition, in a playoff against Germany’s Hanover 96 last week.

PHOTO: Barcelona’s players celebrate the team’s second goal against Villarreal scored by Cesc Fabregas during their Spanish first division soccer match at Nou Camp stadium in Barcelona August 29, 2011. REUTERS/Albert Gea.

One comment

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I think that having both Real Madrid and Barcelona dominate Spanish football (and obviously even more so Barcelona) just shows that there needs to be more outside attention. This may sound hard, but out of the first 9 Premier League titles, 7 of them were won by Manchester United. Now money, outside attention (creating tv revenue), etc. has allowed more money and teams to be a bit more even. Now there is a Man U, Chelsea, Man City, Liverpool, Arsenal and Tottenham who can challenge for a Champions League spot.

Ridge Robinson
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