Spanish football, after years of dominance at club and national level, it ceases to be among the favorites to win the great titles. The hit of our clubs in the eighth of the Champions League opened a debate. It came more because of how those eliminations happened, than because of the defeat itself. The style of Spanish football is making people talk again, but not as positively as in previous years, when the tiqui-taca, that technical football with intelligent and skilled players, brought so many successes. Now a more tactical and physical one is opening in recent years, where transitions, counterattacks, running more, winning divided balls and set pieces become more important. There are still hopes and representatives, as is the case of Madrid, who showed against Liverpool how to adapt to different approaches.
European football has put the Spanish in check and to regain that hegemony it is necessary to see what has been done well and how badly. Or what has been stopped doing in Spain and has been done in other countries. From the variation of systems, to the flight of stars, both of players and coaches, to other leagues that are direct competition. And those who can still leave (Messi and Ramos). Nor should we forget the economic issue. Although financial health in Spain has improved, the Premier continues to earn more for television rights. And, like Serie A, the English do not loosen in their investment in transfers, while here they are held back by the COVID crisis.
There are those who point out that Spanish football plays “one thing” and European football “another”. There is talk of a different rhythm, of a modern football, of the 21st century. The truth is that Spanish football has had competition to call itself “the best league in the world.” The debate is open and opinions are diverse. However, there are truths above any opinion and causes that explain the reasons for the decline or crisis of our League.
Win or lose the trend has changed. Spanish teams are no longer the favorites to lift European titles at the end of the season. After a glorious decade, where even European finals were seen with Spanish finalists (Real Madrid – Atlético de Madrid from the 2014 and 2016 Champions League final or the 2018 European Super Cup and, also, Atlético de Madrid – Athletic Club of the Europa League 2012), the LaLiga teams are no longer the rivals to beat or the mirror to look at.
For ten years, LaLiga has enjoyed the golden generation of Spanish football, champion of two consecutive Euro Cups and a World Cup, plus the football battle between two of the greatest players in football history, Cristiano Ronaldo and Leo Messi. The domestic competition has collected stars for ten years accompanying the national talent. Messi was supported by Xavi, Puyol and Iniesta, but also by players like Neymar, Dani Alves and Luis Suárez. And, on the other hand, Cristiano Ronaldo was supported by Casillas, Sergio Ramos and Xabi Alonso, but also by players like Bale, Benzema and Luka Modric.
From 2010 to 2020, in the Champions League, 6 of the 11 winners were either Real Madrid, with 4 Champions, or Barcelona, with 2.
With the sum of all of them, LaLiga has been able to boast of a successful decade. From 2010 to 2020, 7 of the 11 winners of the Europa League have been Spanish teams, specifically, distributed between Sevilla and Atlético de Madrid. In addition, in the Champions League, 6 of the 11 winners were either Real Madrid, with 4 Champions, or Barcelona, with 2. In the European Super Cup, the data is even more flattering. Since 2009, Spain has raised 9 titles out of 12 possible, with Atlético de Madrid, Real Madrid and FC Barcelona. Sevilla has been a finalist up to 4 times.
In 2019, the first symptoms of decline began, which, over the months and years, are more visible due to the absence of competition and titles. Two years ago, Liverpool raised the 'Orejona' after coming back in an epic way, and without two of its stars, Salah and Firmino, to Barça in the semifinals. That same course, Ajax gave the surprise at the Santiago Bernabéu in the round of 16 and Cristiano Ronaldo, already at Juventus, traced the tie against Atlético de Madrid by himself. Last summer, Real Madrid was again out in the round of 16, surpassed by Manchester City. The mattress team after attacking Anfield in the round of 16, could not with Leipzig in the quarterfinals. Y Barça received a humiliation that blew everything up by losing 2-8 against Bayern, which would end up being the fair winner of the competition. Those of Hans-Dieter Flick would end up rounding the year with a sextet.
The crisis derived from COVID-19 has arrived just when Spanish clubs had managed to clean up their accounts with the Treasury and were experiencing economic growth, thanks, above all, to the sale of audiovisual rights and strict financial control. But, due to the effects of the pandemic, Javier Tebas, president of LaLiga, has ordered tighten your belt and look more at the quarry and less at the portfolio. “A year of transition”, he asked for Madrid and Barcelona in terms of signings. These big clubs were the hardest hit by the corona crisis, since the money from the televisions, almost entirely, has been saved, but those that had a large percentage of income from ticketing, stadium operation and merchandising are the ones that have the most. They have suffered. That ties them in short to go to a market that asks for exorbitant amounts by footballers and in which they compete against state clubs (PSG and Manchester City) and leagues with more beneficial tax laws for footballers (A series). Given this, they must play with the trump card of their historical appeal as clubs and before Thebes' warning: “Let's not look at what the others in Europe are doing, we will see their accounts shortly.”
Investment in transfers falls
In the last decade, while Spanish teams dominated European competitions, the Premier was taking over the transfer market. His economic power has caused him to break in every summer paying exorbitant prices for players. The attractiveness of historic clubs in Spain or Germany took a back seat to the call for money from the Premier. In the last five years, including the last summer conditioned by the COVID crisis, English clubs have been around 1,500 million euros in spending. Not even with the coronacrisis have they slowed down. On the other hand, LaLiga has. In Spain, by order of Javier Tebas to preserve the economic viability of the clubs, they have had to tighten their belts and get off the wave of waste by players. It was not the time for signings for more than one hundred million.
The Spanish teams, as they were reducing their debts with the Treasury and entering more on television, have managed to spend more on signings. Even In the summer of 2019, it broke the billion barrier and reached 1,361 to reinforce its workforce. But she was not the only one who experienced that economic boom. Serie A, since before the Spanish clubs, have come to the market to strengthen themselves and stand up in Europe. But also, They have managed to implement their particular 'Beckham Law' since 2019, where foreign footballers will pay half that in Spain. A greater attraction to compete with the Premier and try to overtake LaLiga. A tax difference for which Spain has already complained and warned that, if it is not equalized, it will be difficult to bring in foreign talent.
Premier clubs have managed to break the transfer market in recent seasons thanks to the sale of their audiovisual rights. The economic power between the English and the Spanish was obvious. In the cast of the television revenues of the 2018-19 season of the Premier, the one that received the most was Liverpool (172.82 million euros) and the one that less was Huddersfield (111.38 million). Figures much higher than those distributed in Spain for that same season: the one that received the most was Barcelona (166.5 million) and the one that received the least Huesca (44.2). In total, LaLiga distributed 1,420 million euros among the First Division teams in 18-19, a figure that has dropped to 19-20 due to the stoppage suffered by the competition due to COVID: to 1,417.7.
Furthermore, Spanish football faces another challenge. Thebes must face a new auction of TV rights. The last three-year period sold ends next season and LaLiga is going to find a bear market. The Premier, for example, has sold its audiovisual package for 13% less than in the previous period. And with the great dependence that exists in most Spanish clubs on this income, it could affect even more their level to compete in Europe. Either on the lawn of a stadium or when it comes to getting better players on the market.
LaLiga has suffered a loss and expiration of talent. Years ago, emerging players in Europe wanted to finish exploding and making a career in Spain. Now, they prefer to take their suitcases to England. The possible arrival of Haaland and Mbappé can change the dynamics and recover the diluted appeal of Spanish competition.
Aging of reference players
The ‘old rockers’ are the ones who are leading and dominating this League. And more if we talk about the scorers table. Leo Messi, Luis Suárez, Gerard Moreno, Karim Benzema, Iago Aspas and José Luis Morales they are the scorers of Barca, Atlético de Madrid, Villarreal, Real Madrid, Celta and Levante respectively, and they are also footballers who are around or over thirty years of age. But they are not only the forwards, they are the templates. Teams have gotten older. In LaLiga Santander 2020/21 there are 24 players who will finish the season with 35 years or more, the highest number in this century. In addition, the championship has the highest average age of the major European leagues with 27.5 years, by 27 in Serie A, 26.9 in the Premier League, 25.4 in the Bundesliga and 25.3 in the Ligue 1, according to data from Transfermarkt. The top three teams with more average age are made up of Osasuna (29), Elche (28.8) and Eibar (28.8). Of three provisionally top ranked, no one has rejuvenated their team, quite the opposite. Real Madrid 2019-20 I had an average age of 24.9 compared to 27.1 today. The culés go from 24.1 of last season to 25.8 of 2020/2021. At Atlético de Madrid the jump is even greater, going from 23.9 to 27. Among the most veteran players in the competition there are proper names: Joaquín (Betis) and Jorge Molina (Granada), aged 39, and Nino (Elche) way of the 41.
The departure of Cristiano and Neymar and the possible departures of Ramos and Messi
First it was Neymar. Then it was Cristiano. And last summer, it was almost Messi. The League has been losing its most media stars over the seasons. The best footballers in LaLiga are packing their bags and no longer choosing an exotic destination or venturing into American football. Now, the figures of La Liga Santander leave the Spanish competition in search of new challenges and challenges in other powerful European leagues. A change of scenery, the option of being more competitive in the Champions League or paying less taxes are some of the reasons that explain the exodus of talent from our domestic competition. Y this summer, it is not predicted a change of scenery. The future of players like Sergio Ramos and Leo Messi is still in the air. The football consequences are observed in that, on barely a decade, and reflected in the Ballon d'Or list, it has gone from 10 players on a list of 15, to so only 3 players.
The non-arrival of the successors
Football and La Liga fans, led by Javier Tebas, are eagerly awaiting the arrival of the summer transfer market. Rumors, Raiola's tour and Mbappé's statements presage a new group of stars arriving at Spanish clubs. Real Madrid and FC Barcelona they are the best placed to represent the Spanish competition in card movement in the next market. Despite the economic crisis that Spanish football is going through, the two great powers of La Liga hope to gather the necessary financial resources to be able to obtain the services of players who can suppose a sporting and economic boost to the Spanish competition. On the one hand, Laporta intends to build an ambitious project that will seduce Leo Messi, and about the one I know cement the last football years of the Argentine. For another side, Florentino Pérez has spent more than a decade without altering the summer and this year a new revolution could materialize. Haaland, Mbappé, Agüero, Salah or Lautaro are some of the galactics that have been related to the two entities.
Cracks that have arrived and have not worked
Although the rest of the European leagues, except the Bundesliga, they disbursed more money that LaLiga last summer, doesn't mean in the last five years no big signings have arrived in Spain. Courtois, Dembélé, Coutinho, Hazard and Joao Félix arrived with the star poster. However, only the first one has amortized its price, and the second has not taken off until this season because of injuries. The physical level of the next two has also been a headache for their clubs. Coutinho had to look for an opportunity in the form of a loan and was the protagonist in Bayern's 2-8 against Barça by scoring a double for the culé team. On his return, and although at first he had the confidence of Koeman, an injury has located back on the transfer list. For its part, Hazard is living a nightmare since he landed in the capital of Spain And, 2 years after his signing, the unbalancing and decisive player who led Chelsea and made Europe fall in love is still awaited. Joao Félix has not fulfilled what was expected either. To replace Antoine Griezmann was not going to be an easy task. After paying Benfica 120 million, the mattress team wants to be patient with the Portuguese promise and is confident that the young forward will explode in the Wanda Metropolitano team.
The quality of the coaches of the Spanish benches is unquestionable. The League is nourished by coaches with a long career to their backs, joined by coaches revelation in recent years, such as Imanol Alguacil (Real Sociedad) or Diego Martínez (Granada). However, despite the undoubted talent of LaLiga coaches, those considered “best” emigrated to other European leagues, especially the Premier.
The Premier has Mourinho, Guardiola, Klopp and Ancelotti
Pep Guardiola, José Mourinho, Carlo Ancelotti and Marcelo Bielsa are some of the coaches who a few years ago led Spanish teams and are now in England. They accompany them in the English league coaches the likes of Jürgen Klopp, champion of the Champions in 2019, and Thomas Tuchel, finalist in the same competition in 2020. But it is not only the Premier, in Germany the benches with technicians who had remained in the shadows until recent years have been revalued, as the coach of the current Champions of the Champions, Hans-Dieter Flick, the very young Julian Nagelsmann and the Borussia Mönchengladbach coach, Marco Rose, who will lead Borussia Dortmund, with or without Haaland, next season.
Only Real Madrid, led by Zinedine Zidane, row in Europe. Barcelona and Atleti were eliminated in the second round.
In the Santander League, only Real Madrid, led by Zinedine Zidane, row in Europe and he stands up for a League that has been hit economically and footballingly. It is not only the Zidane's ‘flower’ in the Real Madrid fetish competition. The French coach has silenced more than one In this 2021 with great tactical reviews, as he demonstrated in the first leg of the Champions League against Liverpool, passing Jurgen Klopp on the board. However, despite the exception of Real Madrid, which has been overcoming obstacles and negative streaks and has reached the quarterfinals, la Champions has ceased to be national territory. FC Barcelona and Atlético de Madrid lost in the round of 16, leaving the Spanish representation in quarters in only one team. Villarreal and Granada also continue in the Europa League, although Manchester United is that he starts as a great favorite to lift the title in Poland.
Little patience with coaches
Linked to the criticism of Spanish football for its low and slow pace, are the proposals of new and different coaches. From some sectors of football, there is a manifest interest in the arrival of new faces with more revolutionary ideas in Spanish football. LaLiga and its coaches are “branded” for not having evolved tactically and in parallel with European football. ANDConservative football, leisurely and without major tactical changes in recent times, is associated with the durability and success of the last decade. Being the best means that trends are not reinvented and you opt for continuity and, therefore, repeat the same ingredients that led you to glory. But also it is associated with the limited patience that exists in a coaching staff, a project and a squad when the situation cannot be reversed on a losing streak of matches. In other leagues, there is more patience and trust in the coach and in its idea. It is for this reason that many coaches are afraid to bring new models or impart different drawings, because their contracts are close to an expiration date if there is no immediate positive effect.
Soccer evolves and the dominant styles are changing. The past decade was that of the tiqui-taca, but little by little others in which the tactical and the physical stand out. The Spanish style crisis is joined by the fall of the scoring nose in LaLiga. Year after year the scoring figure decreases in Spain, a trend related to the benchmark forward gait.
The style debate: the tiqui-taca versus physical power
It is useless to dominate in your league, if then you go to Europe and fall at the first exchange before a big one. Let them tell PSG and Juventus. Intractable in their domestic competitions, but the Champions League has resisted them in recent years. Bayern, who have been in an almost identical situation, managed to conquer it last year after almost a decade of trying. A situation in which Spanish teams are now. Madrid, Barcelona and Atlético are the clear dominators of LaLiga Santander, while other teams celebrate adding a point, for them it is a stumbling block. And even in the Champions League, where they have gotten used to reaching the semifinals and finals easily in recent years. Whose situation Sevilla has experienced in the Europa League. But from that superiority that Spanish clubs demonstrated in any corner of the Old Continent, in recent seasons it has become more complicated. Technical football, which served Spanish football to dominate Europe, is being overtaken by tactical and physical. This was demonstrated in the first leg of the Champions League round of 16: Barça 1- PSG 4, Sevilla 2 – Dortmund 3 and Atlético 0 – Chelsea 1. Results that were decisive for these three Spanish teams to be left out of the European Cup in the first round .
The sensation of these matches was that the rivals of the Spanish teams were clearly superior. They reached all the divided balls, won all the races, made quick transitions and found gaps that the Spanish did not. Tiqui-taca football was outdated. As evidenced by the image of Piqué trying to grab Mbappé's shirt to stop him. “We are running like crazy. A long fucking possession”, shouted the Barcelona center-back to his teammates before the hecatomb at Camp Nou.
We are running like crazy. A long fucking possession
Given these results and image, a national debate arose. Is there an end of the cycle? Should the style of the tiqui-taca be put aside to embrace a more physical and tactical one, as it now triumphs in the rest of Europe? A position that does not share Luis Milla, Spanish coach and former selector of the lower categories of La Roja. “You don't have to be so alarmist. I don't think so. Here we have a philosophy and an idea and that is very good. You have to try to perfect it. It is true that when you play with other top-level teams, the physical, the technical, the tactical and with very good players come together. We have to try to get to that level, but never lose our essence“To keep faith in our football, remember Real Madrid's recent win over Liverpool:”The other day Madrid was able to adapt to the game that Liverpool proposed, but then with the ball they were able to minimize them. Those are the weapons and what Spanish football has to convey. That technically and slowing down an English team, which wants to travel and play with a lot of physicality, then with the ball to counteract it. We have to continue there, with our essence and improve what they do well in other countries“And he warns about changing the style and giving more value to the physique:” You cannot start another path again when the current style has proven to work very well. You can run a lot and steal a lot of balls, but you have to make sense of the ball. If you steal five, but then lose ten, it is worthless. It is better that they run two kilometers less, but that their success in the pass is 80 or 90%. I don't think they should run a lot, but they lack intelligence to play“.
Goals fall in LaLiga
The goal is the most precious and valued thing in football. Hence the talk of galactic quantities by Mbappé and Haaland. And that these players are related to the Spanish league. Here the goal trend is downward. The global number of goals achieved per season has been falling for three years in a row and this aims to be the fourth. Making a projection of the average goals per game (2.47), the final figure for this campaign will be around 939, lower than that of the previous year (942) and that recorded in 2016-17 (1,118) when the peak and the goal crisis began. Much of the problem lay in the march of great gunners (Cristiano and Neymar) and that Messi has been losing a goal over the years. Things of the age … Of course, he is still the top scorer in LaLiga almost year after year.
This crisis of the goal was directly linked to the crisis of the forwards, their records have been reduced at the same time (almost 100 goals less from 17-18 to 19-20). But Everything indicates that this campaign could emerge green shoots. The projection indicates that 541 goals would be achieved by LaLiga's 'nines', 42 more than those achieved last season. Much of this recovery is due to Messi has increased his appetite in front of goal (He has been 23, two less than a year ago and has eight days left), like benzema (He has been 19 compared to the 21 achieved in the last two seasons) and Luis Suárez (He accumulates 19 with the Atlético shirt for the 16 achieved a year ago with Barça). But also, because a Spanish striker fights against the big foreign 'nines' for being LaLig's top scorerto. Gone was the 18-19 campaign of Gerard Moreno where he only got eight goals. Last time he demonstrated his hunger for a goal, achieving 18 and in this he demonstrates his worth and candidacy to be the nine starter of the National Team with the 19 goals he accumulates (the same as Benzema and Suárez) and that he has suffered several injuries throughout it's from the season. There is a goal crisis in Spanish football, but also green shoots to keep hope and more if Haaland or Mbappé land in Spain.
In Spain the number of applicants for the title does not usually vary. Barcelona and Madrid are the main candidates, who have been joined by Atlético in recent seasons. Also lurking is Sevilla, who have yet to break into the top three in recent years.
More title contenders in the rest of the leagues
LaLiga's record is broadly a thing of two teams: Real Madrid and Barcelona. The two Spanish teams that have shared the vast majority of the Leagues, especially in recent years. There are hardly any teams that can overshadow them, although this season Atlético de Madrid has set out to do it from the beginning. Although the Leagues are a long-distance race and there are still several days ahead. What is clear is that Atlético has managed to break the binomial of title contenders and become a fixture among the top three. Leaving Seville and Valencia relegated to the distribution of the fourth position.
In the Premier the range of hopefuls and champions in the last five seasons is much wider: Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea have sung the alirón in that period of time. While United, Tottenham and Leicester presented a fight in that contest. Instead, in Serie A the title has a name burned in the last decade: Juventus. The vecchia signora has been indomitable in recent seasons and not even Rona, Napoli, Inter and Atalanta could dethrone him. Although this year could come the charm. Inter leads the table with eleven points more than Milan, second, and 12 more than Juve, third. A situation similar to the Italian one is the one experienced in France. PSG, except for the title won in 2017 by Monaco, is champion year in and year out as well. Marseille, Lille and the Monegasque team have stood up to him in past seasons; In this edition, it is Lille that is doing it, occupying the top of the table with three points of advantage over the club of Mbappé and Neymar.
One of the thermometers that European football has to indicate the level of the European leagues is the UEFA ranking. A ranking based on the performance of the clubs in each league in continental competitions for the last five seasons. From the titles to the rounds that the teams from each country have overcome. This ranking has been led by Spain since 2012-13, thanks to the winches that Real Madrid, Seville, Barcelona and Atlético achieved during that time. Times in which there were even finals between Spaniards (Real Madrid-Atlético, in the 2014 and 2016 European Cup, and Atlético-Athletic in 2012 in the Europa League). But the early eliminations of Spanish teams in recent seasons and, above all, in this one, have led to the fact that, after the Champions League round of 16, in updating this classification, Spain loses the throne, handing it over to England. The great rival.
Hit the Spaniards in the second round
The panorama of Spanish football in Europe this season is being negative. Only Real Madrid survive in the Champions League, going to Anfield with an advantage after beating Liverpool 3-1 at Di Stéfano. Behind were Barcelona, Sevilla and Atlético, eliminated by PSG, Dortmund and Chelsea respectively. The same outcome suffered by Real Sociedad in the Europa League round of 32 against Manchester United, who is putting Granada on the ropes in the rooms of said competition. Villarreal, meanwhile, achieved an important victory against Dinamo in the first leg.
A curiosity to compare the level of LaLiga and the Premier are the direct confrontations between teams from both competitions this season in Europe. Of the eight duels, five have resulted in an English victory, two in a draw and only one in a Spanish victory.. At least two more remain and decisive for Spanish football: Madrid visit Anfield to be the only representative of LaLiga in the semis and Granada will seek to make history and turn the tie around to get into the semi-finals of the Europa League.
Fewer LaLiga players in La Roja
Another way to gauge the talent of a League is by seeing the internationals in it. Regarding the Spanish, the number of summoned who have come with La Roja has been decreasing. In Luis Enrique's latest list, almost half of the footballers are playing outside our borders. Eleven of the twenty-four belong to other leagues, mainly the Premier (De Gea, Robert Sánchez, Eric García, Diego Llorente, Rodrigo, Thiago, Ferrán), followed by Serie A (Fabián and Morata), Bundesliga (Dani Olmo) and Portugal (Porro).
A trend totally contrary to the calls made in the golden age of the National Team. In Luis Aragonés' list for the 2008 Euro Cup, he only had four players who did not belong to LaLiga: Reina, Xabi Alonso, Torres and Fábregas (all from the Premier). In 2010, Del Bosque led South Africa to three (Torres, Reina and Fabregas), and in 2012 to four (Reina, Silva, Torres and Mata). LaLiga is losing share in the National Team's calls, from dominating its lists to only half.
What will happen in the Eurocup?
The Eurocup will be one of the great events of the season and this type of tournament, like the World Cup, tends to show the dominant style of play in football. This was demonstrated with the tiqui-taca of the Spanish National Team or football with more strategy and set pieces in the World Cup in Russia. The last two editions of the Champions League are being decided more by physical power than by tactics. Proof of this was the outbreak of Marcos Llorente with Atlético against Liverpool. His role in that tie last year was key and from that moment he consolidated in Simeone's eleven and grew even more as a footballer. Now with that tendency to prioritize the physical over the technical in European football, the question is whether Luis Enrique should prioritize footballers like Marcos Llorente in his call for the Eurocup or more technical players such as Thiago or Isco.
“Soccer is balance. You have to find that some provide work, others talent, other centers … La Selección española tiene que mantener la esencia en la que se ha movido en los últimos diez años y le ha dado éxito. Si no puedes controlar el juego como antes, tendrás que buscar un componente más vertical y físico. Pero, repito, sin perder la esencia. Hay que intentar que el equipo compita bien y controlar distintas situaciones. Intentar variar, combinar y no ser previsibles, pero con nuestra esencia“, apunta Luis Milla. Y añade, sobre el papel que puede realizar en La Roja en la Eurocopa: “Seguro que vamos a seguir dando guerra, que es lo importante, pero otra cosa es ganar un campeonato que es muy difícil. Solo gana uno y hay muchos países que trabajan muy bien. No solo es cuestión de trabajo, también de hornadas, de jugadores que te puedan salir. Inglaterra, Alemania y Francia están trabajando bien. Los países de toda la vida que han trabajado bien siguen mejorando también”.