The age old debate of whose league is better has been a familiar one in the new age media world. Which is unfortunate for Italian fans, who ruled supreme before the turn of 2000, trailblazing their way through Europe and winning major trophy after major trophy. But with Serie A’s decline, it has paved the way for La Liga and the Premier League to battle it out to be Europe’s number one.
Both leagues have plenty to offer for different needs when watching football, but there are a number of factors which lead one to think that Spain’s league is far ahead of their competitors.
When you take a look at the last 15 winners of a European or international trophy, ranging from the Champions League to the Europa League to the Super Cup to the Club World Cup, 14 have been from Spain.
That doesn’t just include Barcelona and Real Madrid, but also Sevilla, who dominated the Europa League and won it three consecutive times under Unai Emery.
Spanish teams have consistently produced on the European stage, even if they haven’t ended up winning a trophy. Take Atlético Madrid for example: Diego Simeone has reached two Champions League finals in the previous four years, but was defeated by Real Madrid both times. The fact they are consistently making the semi finals shows what a mature and experienced side they have become, even if they haven’t won the trophy at any point in their history.
Simeone’s team are not a team who have failed to fulfil their potential, either. They are a team who have risen through European football slowly but surely, having won the Europa League twice in 2010 and 2012. Gaining that experience in Europe’s second-tier competition stood them in good stead when going toe-to-toe with some of the biggest teams in Europe.
There are four excellent European sides in Spain - Barcelona, Real Madrid, Atlético Madrid and Sevilla - who are present when the business end of the two competitions commence.
The fact that Sevilla, who have only recently made the transition from an excellent Europa League side to a competitive Champions League team, knocked out Manchester United by beating them at Old Trafford emphasises how far they have come, and also how Spanish teams continue to pose all sorts of problems for the English.
Not many pundits gave Vincenzo Montella’s men a chance when they were tasked with coming to Manchester to cause an upset. Yet, with an impressive tactical display and Wissam Ben Yedder in great form, Los Rojiblancos find themselves in their first Champions League quarter finals since 1958.
Since the turn of the century, Barcelona and Real Madrid have won nine of the 18 Champions League titles available, compared to England’s three that belong to Liverpool, Manchester United and Chelsea. There is simply no contest to see which league is more successful in Europe.
World class talent
There is a reason why players in the Premier League, no matter what club they are at, want to move to Real Madrid or Barcelona if the opportunity presents itself. Cristiano Ronaldo, Thierry Henry, Luis Suárez, Gareth Bale, Cesc Fabregas and Philippe Coutinho are just a few who have made the transition after being at clubs who were either on their way to achieving great things, or already had.
When you look at the reverse transfers, it is usually players who are out of favour with either Los Blancos or Barça who find themselves moving to England. Alexis Sánchez, Mesut Özil, Ángel di María and Fàbregas were all transferred to Premier League clubs due to the nature of those selling clubs needing to raise funds to sign their primary targets (just as Madrid did for Bale and the same with Barça for Suárez).
While the new Premier League TV deal has allowed those English clubs to keep ahold of some of those players with new, eye-watering pay packets, it will not be a viable long term solution. For most of these footballers, their dream - and the reason why they wanted to play the sport in the first place - is to represent one of Spain’s big two. Money, of course, is something they desire and are in their right to demand, but nothing can hold them back from competing for either of those two global heavyweights.
Eden Hazard and Thibaut Courtois have consistently denied being linked with Real Madrid and stating their happiness of being at Chelsea, but with their manager on the verge of leaving to pastures new and the club potentially not qualifying for the Champions League next season, their resolve and loyalty to the Blues will be tested more than ever when Zinedine Zidane comes calling.
Pound for pound, Spain possesses all round more quality than England does. You only need to take a look at the top three clubs in Spain to realise the strength in depth and sheer ability they have trumps the Premier League’s equivalent.
Competitive league: myth busting
One argument that the Premier League faithful like to make is that the top division of Spain is uncompetitive and a foregone conclusion before the season has even started. Though, that could not be further from the truth.
In the past three seasons, La Liga’s point difference between first place and the runner’s up has been a maximum of three points, which was last year. In the same time, the difference between first and second in the Premier League has been a whopping 10 points. Quite the contrast when fans claim that England has the most competitive league in the world.
Historically, La Liga has, more often than not, has provided fans with immense entertainment in both the relegation fight and the race for the title. There have been seldom times when the league was wrapped up in December, as it was for Manchester City this season.
In truth, England has failed to deliver a fascinating title race since 2013-14, when Liverpool fought hard for their first ever Premier League title, but scuppered their chances with some disappointing results and allowed City to sneak in and claim the throne.
The most exciting aspect to the Premier League over the last few seasons has been Leicester City’s emphatic and record-breaking triumph, but that came as a result of other teams wildly underperforming and causing embarrassment over the credibility of the league.
La Liga will continue to dominate
In defence of the Premier League, it is arguably the most entertaining, primarily because of its lax defending and vast amount of goals scored. There is not a gulf of difference between the top six and the mid table any more, while in Spain, there is a noticeable change in quality.
But that’s not to say La Liga’s mid table teams are poor, because they’re not, and would surprise many if they were to watch them and arguably better their equivalent competitors in England, but it does mean that there is more of a visible disparity between the sheer excellence of the elite teams compared to the clubs who fall a bit further down.
The Premier League might have an unimaginable amount of wealth that attracts players, but La Liga’s quality is there for all to see. Fans might prefer the English division because of its unpredictability, but Spain will continue to dominate European football and show why they are the greatest league of all.
This article was written for Soccer Box by Liam Canning. Shop with us for all your official football shirts, including the latest Premier League and Liga shirts, shorts, socks and training kits.