How La Liga Could Balance Out the League

Rik Sharma@@riksharma_Featured ColumnistMarch 13, 2014

Cash is king: Barcelona and Madrid are dominant.
Cash is king: Barcelona and Madrid are dominant.David Ramos/Getty Images

Alvaro Negredo, David Silva, Juan Mata, Radamel Falcao, Jesus Navas, Santi Cazorla.

Just a handful of names that have left La Liga in recent years.

Wouldn't the Spanish league be a better place if they were still in it? Of course it would.

Good players leave smaller teams all the time in search for silverware, but there has been a veritable exodus from Spain.

A study compiled by Prime Time Sport, reported by the Daily Mail, showed how La Liga clubs raked in £404 million, with almost a third of the income, at £117m, coming from overseas.

On the move: Alvaro Negredo and Jesus Navas signed for Man City.
On the move: Alvaro Negredo and Jesus Navas signed for Man City.Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

The study showed that four clubs spent nothing on players themselves, and nine paid under £2.52m each.

Prime Time said:

La Liga is now more of a seller than a buyer and except for Real and Barca is experiencing difficulties in holding on to talent. As many as 13 of the 20 teams in La Liga took their chance to cash in and clean up their accounts.

This was the spending last summer from Spain's top cash splashers, according to information from

La Liga's top spenders in summer 2013
Real Madrid€181.5m
Atletico Madrid€27m

Bear in mind that Sevilla had sold Negredo and Navas to Manchester City for a combined total of around €42m, while Atletico made close to €60m from the sale of Falcao to Monaco.

Even accounting for Madrid making over €100m back, through the sales of Mesut Ozil, Gonzalo Higuain, Jose Callejon and others, they still spent the most. 

And Barcelona's Neymar deal may have cost them a lot more than the declared price, as per the BBC

Unless Atletico can pull something out of the bag this season, it's going to be a decade since any team other than Real Madrid or Barcelona won La Liga.

The last team to do so was Valencia in 2004, back when the Ronaldo Real Madrid had up front was Brazilian.

Cristiano was nowhere to be seen.
Cristiano was nowhere to be seen.Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

But in Spain it's tough to stay at the top, unless you're Real Madrid or Barcelona.

Those two sides have finished in the top two slots for the past five seasons.

Deportivo La Coruna, the 2000 champions, who finished as runners-up in the following two years and reached the Champions League quarter-finals in 2004, sank, getting relegated to the Segunda in 2011.

The players themselves know the league is not a balanced football playground.

Upon leaving Real Madrid for Arsenal, German midfielder Ozil spoke out.

He told The Sun, h/t Inside Spanish Football:

In the Premier League the level between the teams is much more balanced, than in Spain for example. The strongest teams in the world are in England and you can sense that as a player. You know you’re never going to have an easy game, any team can make you work hard and fight. Every three or four days there’s a huge game. That doesn’t happen in any other country. That’s why everyone admires English football.

Atletico Madrid manager Diego Simeone puts the dominance of Barcelona and Real down to television money.

He said earlier this season, as per Tribal Football: "Madrid and Barcelona play in a different Liga. This is a boring championship. We'll have to wait for television money to be distributed differently because now the La Liga is only two."

Simeone is correct—the quickest way to make La Liga a more balanced division would be to spread the wealth.

Using information from these infographics, h/t 101 Great Goals, Real Madrid and Barcelona take €140m each from TV deals, while La Liga's bottom clubs only get €12m apiece.

Meanwhile in the Premier League, Manchester United took £60.8m and Queens Park Rangers, the lowest earning club last term, picked up £39.75m. That's a far narrower gap.

But as per The Independent, the Spanish government is currently discussing a new "Sports Law" which would cap the income that the traditional big two would pick up.

They would still have an advantage over the rest, but it would be the first step on the road to balancing La Liga.

Having more money means teams may be able to keep their better players for longer.

Lesser spotted: Illarramendi has not played a lot.
Lesser spotted: Illarramendi has not played a lot.Denis Doyle/Getty Images

If more teams have a chance of picking up silverware, then the likes of Asier Illarramendi, who left Real Sociedad last summer for €32.2m and moved to Real Madrid, might not be so tempted to go.

Since arriving at the Bernabeu he has mostly been sat on the bench.

It would be better for the Spanish league and his own development if he was playing week in, week out.

Other ways to help balance La Liga would be to encourage clubs to sell tickets for cheaper prices for games that aren’t going to sell out.

At a lot of matches there are empty seats. These statistics from Inside Spanish Football from last season show that half of La Liga's sides were filling their stadium to less than 65.5 percent of capacity.

Empty seats: The likes of Espanyol don't sell out.
Empty seats: The likes of Espanyol don't sell out.Manu Fernandez/Associated Press

If you get fans coming consistently, there will be better atmospheres and more reason for players to feel loyalty and devotion to their teams.

People slate modern football because the players seem to be mercenaries, but if the stadium is half-empty each week, who wouldn’t want to ply their trade elsewhere?

Clubs could also do more work with the media, including foreign outlets.

An in-depth interview with, for instance, Real Sociedad’s Antoine Griezmann about his prospects for France this summer at the World Cup would interest a lot of people.

The more clubs get their players out there, the more interest people will take in them. And under the current system of TV revenue in Spain, they will be able to fight for a better deal.


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