For the first time in 24 years, Spain will be represented by a single team in the Champions League final prize match with record holders Real Madrid, raising a question mark over the current competitive strength of the “La Liga” league, which appeared to lag mathematically and economically behind its English rival.
With the group stage reaching its final round, Spanish football finds itself at the heart of dealing with the situation it has reached and its current limits.
And if Real Madrid, who host Celtic on Wednesday, guarantee they get one of the two cards from the sixth group to the final prize, then Sevilla, who host Manchester City on the same night, have lost any hope of qualifying for the seventh group.
Barcelona will find consolation in continuing its continental campaign in the “Europe League” competition after Bayern Munich and Inter Milan won the third group cards, similar to Atletico Madrid, who must beat Porto in their stronghold in the second group on Tuesday or Bayer must lose Leverkusen against Club Brugge to move to the playoffs of the second continental competition in terms of importance.
The last time only one Spanish team made it past the group stage dates back to the 1998-1999 season, when Barcelona and Athletic Bilbao exited the then 24-team competition, while Real notably qualified for his quarter-final. ended at the hands of Ukraine’s Dynamo Kiev.
“The catastrophe of the century?”
The disappointment of the Spanish clubs this season did not pass without causing alarm, as the newspaper “El Mundo” talked about the “disaster of the century for Spanish football?”, wondering if it was “a coincidence or ‘ was a serious problem”?
“In recent years, Spanish football has been swimming in uncertainty. Sporting doubt and economic uncertainty. Are these clubs inferior to what they were ten years ago?”
And she asked: “Is the financial dominance of the English Premier League something temporary, or will it continue for a long time?”, considering that after the penultimate fifth round games “We got part of the answer on Wednesday night, ” referring to the qualification of Liverpool, Manchester City and Chelsea to the final prize, in addition to Tottenham topping their group, while Barcelona went 0-3 at home after a humiliating defeat to Bayern and Atletico drew 2-2 with Leverkusen and Sevilla after draws against Borussia Dortmund and Manchester City, despite their 3-0 win over Copenhagen.
This drop will have economic consequences, with the wider gap between the Spanish clubs due to Real Madrid receiving up to 11 million euros once it has reached the final price, and also sports, with the reduction of the difference between the second Spanish league and the third German in the European Union classification for the game (Wifa).
In a statement last week, La Liga president Javier Tebas softened the blow with some hesitation, saying: “If this happens to us for five consecutive years…” without being able to finish his sentence, “We have to don’t worry. It’s a disappointment, not a disaster.”
For Xavi Hernandez, coach of Barcelona, ”Each group is different, you have to analyze each exit separately. Juventus (Italy) is also out… So, no. I don’t think there is a problem in Spanish football. “
“You can’t say that the level of La Liga has gone down. I still think that La Liga is at the level of the English Premier League,” he added.
“We lost something”
As for his former team-mate in the national team, Xabi Alonso, who recently took over the task of overseeing Germany’s Bayer Leverkusen, he seemed more cautious than the former Barcelona star.
Alonso said that “the prestige of Spanish football in Europe is enormous, but the development is very fast in other countries. We are not talking here only about the English Premier League, but also about France, Italy and Germany… The fact that however, only one club out of four that qualified for the final prize indicates, the competition is very strong and we have lost something.”
For the leaders of Spanish football, the one responsible for the decline is known and the English Premier League, which was represented in the Champions League final in four of the last five editions.
And even those two of these final games were purely English, with the Premier League losing two finals against one Spanish side, Real Madrid, who took their record to 14 titles in the main continental competition last season.
In September, Tebas warned: “We have to correct what is happening in the Premier League because the market has become a bubble and is unsustainable. There is no longer any economic control. This is a subject that we will take to the UEFA table bring.”
But La Liga must look to a threat outside England: the German league could have four representatives in the last 16 this season, while the Italian league has guaranteed it will have two representatives and the number could rise to three if Milan qualify, while the Portuguese league will have a chance It is great for its third representative to qualify for this role, that is, more than two representatives of the “La Liga” league.