As Real Madrid huffed and puffed past 10-man Manchester United, the realisation that there would no longer be any English teams left in the Champions League crept upon us. That was not even considering Arsenal’s ultimately futile 2nd leg tie against Bayern Munich. Twitter wasted little time in attacking the “declining” Premier League and its once dominant teams. Gary Linekar and Gerard Pique’s recent Twitter spat managed heated up huge debate on the competitiveness of Europe’s top leagues; only a day before Barcelona led Levante 6-0 at half-time in their La Liga opener.
It’s way too early to talk up struggles of Premier League clubs. This was the first time in 17 years that an English team has failed to make the quarter finals of the Champions League – in fact 5 of the last 10 finalists are English clubs. A European blip should not avoid that fact that the Premier League still is – and will continue to be – the strongest League in the world. And why will it continue to be so?
Because the Premier League possesses a huge advantage over its peers, a financial advantage. Only Germany can lay claim to be in better/ more stable condition. La Liga is sowed in debt and inequality while Serie A is still in resurgence. The new huge TV deal signed last year will shower the Premier League with untold riches, approximately worth a whopping £3bn, an increase of 71% from the last deal. Rupert Murdoch’s American NBC channel is said to have paid the Premier League $83m per year for next year’s matches, an amount that would quadruple the $23m Fox currently pays. It’s no surprise to learn that next year’s relegated teams will earn more prize money than Bayern Munich earnt for winning the Champions League.
While the Premier League booms harmoniously, La Liga teams feed on each other. Despite bearing, arguably, the best two teams on the planet, La Liga does so at the expense of other Spanish teams. Many clubs are facing or are already in administration, selling off vital assets in a desperate attempt to stay alive. Real Zaragoza, Deportivo and Rayo Vallecano are all clubs in serious trouble while Real Madrid and Barcelona continue to leech TV money, worth about £511m – more than 50% of the total TV revenue and some 10 times more than clubs like Rayo Vallecano. The feudal-like distributional system of TV revenue is hitting the smaller clubs hard and can only prove to be detrimental to the well being of La Liga. Even the strongest teams in the league after the big two are in bleak situations. Atletico Madrid finished 3rd in the league but bear monstrous debt at approximately €200m; and the reality is that stars, like Radamel Falcao, are sold regularly to satisfy the taxman until the upcoming year. Many clubs, like Valencia, are in danger of collapsing all together. The southern-eastern club rely solely on player sales and European football to pay off long-standing debts estimated at a preposterous €380m. David Villa, Raul Albiol, Juan Mata, David Silva and Roberto Soldado are prime examples of fine players sacrificed like rams in order to keep the club afloat after years of horrible mismanagement.
Many hoped it would be Malaga who would break the Spanish duopoly after witnessing the millions spent when Sheikh Abdullah Al-Thani acquired the club back in 2010. But after realising there was no solace (money) to be found in La Liga, he pulled the plug and plunged Malaga into debt, forcing the club to sell recent marquee signings such as Santi Cazorla and Salomon Rondon in a frantic attempt to avoid sanctions. Nevertheless, their cut-backs proved futile as UEFA fined them and banned Malaga from any participation in Europe – despite this year’s miraculous run to the quarter finals. Their problems have only just begun after their debt figures rose to €90m – which effectively ensured the departure of current stars like Isco and well-respected coach Manuel Pellegrini who couldn’t be paid on time. Consequently, mismanaged finances, combined with unfair deals have proved pernicious to La Liga and ultimately dashed all hopes of a Spanish renaissance.
And there’s no hope for teams like Valencia and Malaga when your own La Liga president, Javier Thebes, believes that Real Madrid “signing players such as Bale can help maintain the quality of competition”. Yes Javier, Bale moving to Spain will definitely help maintain the quality of competition that has seen Barcelona and Real Madrid finish in the top two in eight of the last nine seasons. Such naivety from Spanish football’s top man is embarrassingly laughable, his comments clearly highlighting the oblivious and ignorant attitudes towards the bleak situation in La Liga. With Spain’s economy taking turn after turn for the worse, La Liga looks to follow suit.
While the economic advantage is clear, the entertainment factor is even more so. No other league in the world attracts as much interest as the Barclay’s Premier League. It’s notoriously fast-paced, end to end games gather huge world-wide audiences, inevitably resulting in stiff competition for TV rights. The passion and commitment from fans is peerless, producing high-intensity matches and vibrant football. The Premier League ultimately boasts high average attendance records, 35,931, some 10,000 more than Serie A and La Liga – only bettered by Germany’s cheaply priced tickets and effective use of safe-standing zones.
The sheer competitiveness of the league should also be applauded, where the battle for a place in the Champions League usually draws around 7 different teams for only 4 spots and the Premier League title could go absolutely anywhere this year. While Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea are equally matched, teams like Bayern Munich, Juventus and the Spanish duo steamroll over every other club in their respective league, both financially and squad-wise. The Premier League’s closest rival, Bundesliga, is home to a club that is financially dominant over every other club and cherry-pick’s rival’s best players so that they can’t compete with them. Dante, Mandzukic and Mario Götze are prime examples of players Bayern Munich have regularly taken from rivals to weaken them, moves that would rarely happen in the Premier League.
Ricky Van Wolfswinkel (£10m), Pablo Osvaldo (£15m), Victor Wanyama (£12m), Wilfried Bony (£12m) and Andy Carroll (£16m). The Premier League has seen a fine host of expensive talent arrive to play for mid-table teams because of the new TV deal. While Premier league clubs spend and strengthen left, right and center, your La Liga teams scrap around for whatsever left – free transfers, loans and misfits – all while Barca and Madrid break their respective transfers records. After losing their 3 best players in Negredo, Navas and Medel, Sevilla, brought in Kevin Gameiro and Marko Marin on loan from Chelsea; spending £20m of the £65m they couped from player sales. While Levante are certain for relegation after spending a whopping £200,000 this summer. A stark contrast to what’s happening back on British shores
To even suggest La Liga or Bundesliga is anywhere near the Premier League competitive-wise is simply ludicrous. While Serie A and La Liga face uncertain futures, the Premier League boasts the resources to expand even further, allowing it to cement it’s position as the best league in the world. Ultimately, it’s silly to argue that the Barclay’s Premier League isn’t here to stay.