Football

Published on July 2nd, 2017 | by Paco Polit

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Why La Liga is losing ground in superstar stakes

The spending power of the Premier League is overwhelming, but La Liga is to blame for lagging behind

Trends are, according to their own definition, set after a given time period. We can’t talk about a single example or transfer move, as it could easily trick our mind. Trends, on the other hand, can be watched and monitored, and rarely hide anything. So let’s begin with a blunt statement: the tide has changed in the transfer market in the last ten years. Period. And the Premier League sides have immersed themselves in a spending rat-race where Spanish teams are unable to compete.

There was a time when Real Madrid and Barça were the undisputed two top dogs in this sense. Ten or fifteen years ago, both sides were signing world-class game-changers such as Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, David Beckham and so on. Everyone wanted to come to La Liga and compete in arguably the best competition in the football world. Nowadays? Not so much.

A few days ago we talked about how La Liga’s management has made its appeal and prestige take a downwards direction, becoming second to the Premier League or Bundesliga. And this has hit especially hard in the TV rights issue, which has been managed brilliantly by English clubs and their representatives. It’s the most balanced, appealing and well-thought executive decision of the lot.

And it has enabled even modest Premier League teams to perform multi-million transfers and seduce top-class players. What about the likes of powerful sides like Manchester United or Manchester City? In their case, every move they make in the market is followed by the proverbial rattling of coins and notes falling from the sky.

Summer 2017 is bound to follow the path of 2016 and earlier transfer windows. Remember Paul Pogba’s humungous €105 million move to ManU last year? That signing beat the record previously set by Real Madrid a couple of seasons ago, when Los Blancos snatched Gareth Bale from Tottenham for a totally bonkers €100 million. Both signings, at this time, have failed to meet the expectations set by such large amounts of cash paid for them.

Who could meet them, anyway? Prices going through the roof (actually, nowadays there’s no roof so to speak) have allowed even mediocre players to sport scandalous price tags in a snowball of record-breaking transfers that won’t stop anytime soon. And most of it, as we said before, should be attributed to the rise in spending power in the Premier League thanks to a cunning and well-designed TV rights sharing of the loot. Something that, currently, La Liga teams can’t even dream of.

La Liga’s TV rights are maybe one of the most unbalanced systems in any competition, where over most of the money is handed to Real and Barça (€150 million), Atlético comes in third at roughly €90-100 million, and then the rest of teams are granted money depending on their tier: Valencia, Sevilla, Villarreal and Athletic lie within the €60-70 million mark, Málaga, Celta and Real Sociedad are in the €50 to 60 million tier, and so on.

This system, unfair as they come, can’t be compared to the Premier League smooth transition between clubs at the top and at the bottom of the competition: facility fees, merit share, equal share and both the domestic and overseas gross are spread so that the difference between the Premier League champion and teams that get relegated never exceeds the €50 million mark. And that is an astounding achievement.

If we get into names, several of the biggest transfers so far this summer have the Premier League seal on them. Bernardo Silva made Manchester City to spend a cool €50 million with almost €30 million more depending on bonuses. What about Mohamed Salah? Liverpool snagged the striker from Roma after ponying up some €40 million, with some extra bonuses in the future.

Barça and Madrid have eyed young, full of potential players to strengthen their teams this summer: Marco Verratti and Kylian Mbappé. In another context, the players would’ve already signed with La Liga’s two giants. But things have turned for the worse even for the current two biggest football brands in the world. The price of both players has skyrocketed and spun out of control: reportedly, Arsenal are ready for making an outrageous move for Mbappé that would surpass easily the €100 million, and other sides are coming after Verratti with huge amounts of money in their wallets.

If this happens to Barça and Madrid… what will happen to lower-tiered clubs in La Liga?

Exactly. Not only talent is not coming to Spain: it is, in fact, fleeing the country. And it is a situation that is likely to worsen in the years to come as Premier League spending power grows even bigger.

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About the Author

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Paco Polit is a Valencia-based journalist with over ten years experience reporting La Liga, covering both Valencia CF and Levante’s news, signings, ups and downs. Madrid and Barcelona are huge, indeed, but the Spanish La Liga is much, much more: regarded as the top football competition in the world, he enjoys explaining why to every reader from abroad.



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