La Liga Title Race: Could Foreign Purchase of Racing and Malaga Shake Things Up?
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While not quite as deadlocked into a two-horse race as say the Scottish Premier League, the La Liga title race has historically been a contest between two clubs—Barcelona and Real Madrid. In the last decade, aside from a pair of wins by Valencia and one from Deportiva La Coruna, the spoils have largely been split between the two traditional powerhouses of Spanish and European football.
However, recently two of La Liga's less-celebrated clubs have been bought out by foreign interests. Indian business man Ahsan Ali Sayed just completed the purchase of Racing Santander, who currently occupy the 14th place spot in the Spanish table. This follows the purchase last year of current 16th place dwellers Malaga by a member of the Qatari royal family.
One need only look as far as the English Premiership to see how the investment of foreign capital can potentially open up a previously deadlocked title competition. The EPL title race, at one time the sole domain of big four clubs—Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal—has now become a much more open field.
Manchester City, once something of a backwater club, currently jointly occupy the top spot with their crosstown rivals United. The purchase of City by the Abu Dhabi United Group in 2008 led to an infusion of cash into the club, allowing them to assemble a team that look like genuine contenders for title success and European glory.
In the coming seasons will La Liga remain a two horse race?
The ascendancy of Manchester City seems to have pried open the doorway to the upper regions of the EPL table and now you have clubs like Tottenham Hotspur, Sunderland and Bolton all within real striking distance of a top-four berth.
Back in Spain, Ahsan Ali Syed, upon completing his purchase of Racing Santander, issued a statement saying he, "will invest all my knowledge and financial strength to elevate the club to the highest level of success in Spain and Europe."
Whether that will translate into injecting Manchester City-sized parcels of cash to attract top class players away from major clubs elsewhere on the continent remains to be seen. Racing have been relatively quiet in the current transfer window thus far.
Malaga, on the other hand, have appeared a bit more ambitious, acquiring Jose Angel from Sporting Gijon, Julio Baptista from Roma, Sergio Asenjo from Athletico Madrid and Martin Demichelis on loan from Bayern Munich.
Current Spanish media reports have also indicated that there is a Mexican businessman attempting to purchase Real Oviedo, a former top-flight club that has slipped down to the third tier.
With Barcelona currently on 52 points, Real Madrid on 48 and Villareal sitting at third with 39, there is unlikely to be much movement at the top of the La Liga table this season. As we've seen in England with Manchester City, it takes a couple of years for a backwater club to emerge out of the wilderness, even when they are riding on a giant wave of euros and English pounds.
Of course like the song says, "Money can't buy you love," and in football splashing the cash doesn't always guarantee you success.
Despite Real Madrid's record levels of spending on players in the past two years and the introduction of Jose Mourinho as manager, the club still can't seem to catch Barcelona, who field a team of mostly homegrown talent augmented by the odd purchase of a David Villa here and an Ibrahim Affellay there.
But with a whopping 13 points separating Barcelona from anyone who is not Real Madrid, one can only hope that not this season, or maybe even the next but someday soon, the Spanish title race will open up in the way the EPL seems to have.
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