Thursday, September 22, 2011

David v. Goliath: Racing and Valencia Hold Real Madrid and Barcelona

Si, hay liga indeed. Maybe.
I watched the Madrid game yesterday, and caught most of the Barca game through a combination of Radio Barca and Gol TV courtesy of the Druid in Inman Square. Both teams drew in fixtures to Racing de Santander and Valencia respectively, in what was probably the best set of results for La Liga's PR officers. However, it is very apparent that the top two teams are breaking away in terms of attracting and contracting talent, and there appears to be no end in sight.

For fans of different teams in La Liga the situation looks frustrating and difficult to reconcile.  I am a fan of one of the big teams, Barcelona, but I cannot stand the fact that our spending power and that of our rivals Madrid has reduced the others in the league to mere also-rans. Points differences between the second place finisher (either Barca or Madrid each of the past three years, with the big points jump at the 2009-2010 season) and the third place finisher tell a depressing story.

2010-2011  21 pts between Madrid (2) and Valencia (3)
2009-2010* 25 pts between Madrid (2) and Valencia (3)
2008-2009   8 pts between Madrid (2) and Sevilla (3)  
2007-2008  (Villareal finished above Barca; Madrid won the title)
2006-2007   5 pts between Barca (2) and Sevilla (3)
2005-2006   1 pt between Madrid (2) and Valencia

*In 2009, both Barca and Real Madrid brought in some remarkable players, and a few, in Barca's system at least, seemed to come in to their own at just the right time. Madrid's 2009 shopping spree included Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaka, Benzema, Albiol, Lassana Diarra, Arbeloa, Xabi Alonso, Esteban Granero, and a goalkeeper called Adan. Ay Caramba!

I like to think that there is hope, but that means some hard decisions need to be made, specifically something on the order of salary caps and/or some sort of redistribution of wealth. Fine to say, nearly impossible to implement. It would require the leaders from Barca and Madrid to pony up to the table and offer to sacrifice a significant percentage of their earnings to create a more balanced league. As things now stand, the big two will continue to bring in the most talented and most expensive ball players, leaving the others to the remaining scraps. While football is a funny game, and one can regularly see examples of Davids beating (or drawing) Goliaths -- reference the most recent match from either Barca or Madrid -- the current course if unaltered is untenable.

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