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A few days ago, Real Zaragoza president Eduardo Bandres said: “The Spanish league will be a matter totally and absolutely between two teams, among other things because the system for distributing television rights determines that it will be this way. It is unique in Europe and because of this the Spanish league is one of the most boring in Europe.”
The television channels would beg to differ, as they regularly run adverts or open their coverage of matches from La Liga claiming it is the ‘best league in the world’ with clips of Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaka, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Lionel Messi running in the background.
But Bandres has a point. Five games in, and the table has an all-too familiar look about it. There are only two clubs left with a 100 percent record – Real Madrid and Barcelona.
Who has scored the most goals? Real and Barca with 16 apiece.
Who has conceded the fewest? Real with two. Barca have let in three.
Which clubs have the most money? Real and Barca are both working on budgets of over 400 million euros, three to four times greater than their nearest rivals. They rake in around half of the money earned from La Liga’s television rights, which are not negotiated on a collective basis.
You are guaranteed goals when Barcelona take on Atletico Madrid each season, and Saturday’s encounter at the Nou Camp was no exception as the European champions romped to a 5-2 victory.
Barca were 4-0 up within 41 minutes after goals from Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Lionel Messi, Daniel Alves and Seydou Keita, before Atletico pulled one back through Sergio Aguero.
Jose Antonio Reyes has some work to do to win over Atletico Madrid’s hardcore fans judging by the reception he received on Tuesday, when he came on as a late substitute at the Calderon in their 2-0 Champions League play-off win over Panathinaikos.
The tie was already over by the time Reyes was called up to replace Simao with four minutes left — Atletico won the away leg 3-2 — but he was met with a barrage of whistles from around the stadium.
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.
The sort of performance Sergio Aguero turned in to inspire victory over Barcelona could be a curse as well as a blessing for Atletico Madrid, who are only going to find themselves under more pressure to sell him to one of Europe’s powerhouse clubs come the end of the season.
The gifted 20-year-old, nicknamed “Kun” after a Japanese comic book hero, scored two superb goals, including a dramatic 89th minute winner, as Atletico twice came from behind to stun the visiting Primera Liga leaders 4-3.
Atletico Madrid’s decision to appoint Abel Resino as coach in place of the mild-mannered Javier Aguirre should help placate disgruntled fans and unsettled players.
Whether it will help them fulfil their aspirations of European success is a trickier question.
This week’s Champions League matches featured several howlers. Both of Dimitar Berbatov’s goals for Manchester United against Celtic were shown to be offside by TV replays yet the Belgium linesman kept his flag down.