Barcelona and Real Madrid's Stadium Plans Illustrate the Gap Within La Liga

Paul WilkesFeatured ColumnistFebruary 3, 2014

This photo shows a general view of the new San Mames stadium in Bilbao, Spain, Sunday, Dec. 1, 2013. (AP Photo/Alvaro Barrientos)
Alvaro Barrientos/Associated Press

Spain's newest stadium hosted Real Madrid last night, and the new San Mames has an impressive modern look. It isn't quite finished yet, with only three stands around the pitch, but that hasn't detracted from the atmosphere.

Athletic Bilbao remain unbeaten in the league at their new residency, as the move has helped revitalise the team.

The Basques' self-imposed unique purchasing policy means that unlike a number of other clubs within Spain, they haven't wasted money on overpriced signings.

Their financial position is stable, and one big sale, such as Javi Martinez to Bayern Munich, can cover the next three transfer windows rather than service debt.

Other teams that have traditionally chased Champions League football haven't had such luxuries.

Valencia currently own two grounds: one that they can't sell and one they can't afford to finish. Any takeover in the near future would surely sort out this predicament.

Atletico Madrid are doing well on the pitch, but their hopes of a new stadium remain a bit of a pipe dream. Their money problems are deep, and it will take a number of years to solve the dilemma.

Others struggle to afford player wages; shedding out a few hundred million on a new home is pointless, when their current one is half full most weeks.

It doesn't stop the smoke screens or the political angling, though, as presidents and directors try to gain local support.

Getafe's president, Angel Torres, declared last October that he wanted to build a new stadium, via Eurosport. "Before I leave, I want to make a bigger ground, one for 32,000 spectators and have it full. Mark my word. If I achieve this, and I am going to achieve it, the stadium will be full," boasted Torres.

Getafe have just 6,000 season ticket holders and average around 10,000 a game. Their small fan base makes any such suggestion appear comical.

It wasn't quite former Liverpool owner Tom Hicks saying: "the spade has to be in the ground within 60 days," via The Guardian, but it's pretty humiliating nonetheless.

Obviously there are no such issues at Barcelona and Real Madrid. Just one of their star attractions collect more wages than some of the other squads.

A few days ago, Los Blancos revealed plans for the redesign of the Santiago Bernabeu. It will cost £330 million, include a retractable roof and should be finished for 2017, via BBC Sport.

"Our commitment is to continue increasing the heritage of our club, thus gain in economic strength, so we can continue to lead in an environment of increasing competition," said Florentino Perez on the announcement.

He is talking about internationally, but even there, few clubs can compete with Real Madrid.

The timing of the briefing comes just two weeks since Barcelona unveiled their blueprints. The thought of being outdone by their arch-rivals isn't worth thinking about.

Camp Nou would see its capacity increased to 105,000 with more parking spaces, displaying a different look inside and outside the establishment, via the official Barcelona website.

It will take almost four years to complete, with work due to commence at the end of the 2016/17 season.

This is a completely different world to teams like Levante. When former manager Luis Garcia arrived at the club he admitted "there was no heating in the changing rooms," to Sky Sports Revista de La Liga in 2008.

A year prior, this press release (via Valencia Property Hound) suggested that the club were going to have a new stadium by the America's Cup Marina that should have been finalised three years ago.

The television deal is a huge disparity between the big two and everyone else, but that would only scratch the surface in order to make the league more competitive from top to bottom.