“Can we change the channel? I have seen this movie a thousand times. I know it from beginning to end by heart”. That’s the constant moan of football fans while watching the Spanish football league, or “La Liga”. Every season La Liga is a two horse race for the title (Real Madrid and Barcelona) with the rest of the field fighting just for a profitable European berth.
How a league, with most of world’s best players, including 90 percent of the World/European’s Champions national team (Spain) and Messi plus Ronaldo, can be boring? Simple, the main purpose behind any league/cup is to exalt the human trait of competitiveness while, in the process, finding the best competitor. The greater the challenge to obtain the title as the best, the greater the reward, not only for the winner but also for those of us not included in the competition too (the fans/source of the pride that comes with the reward). It is there, in the challenge, where La Liga becomes a parody of itself year after year. To be accurate, it is not year after year since La Liga has been that predictable from its inception.
Through the history of the Spanish football’s league, 54 out of the 82 leagues played have been won by either Barcelona or Real Madrid, an astonishing 66 percent. Only during the decades of 1930 and 1940 there were more than three different teams proclaimed as champions. Also, none other league among Europe’s “big five” (England, Spain, Germany, Italy and France) has such a concentration of titles in so few teams. The closest comparable case amongst them would be the Italian League, dividing most of its titles between: Juventus (29 titles), Internazionale (18) and AC Milan (18).
Still, there is a more extreme example of trophy monopolization than Spain, just a single step west – the Portuguese league. Since its birth, in 1934, the coveted Portuguese title has only been in the hands of five teams: Benfica, Porto, Sporting CP, Belenenses and Boavista. From this select group of teams, Benfica and Porto had been crowned champions 59 out of the 79 tournaments played (75 percent of the time). While, from the three remaining teams, only Sporting CP has won more than once.
Moreover, the Portuguese case becomes increasingly rare, with Porto winning almost non-stop for the last 15 years, if we have in mind the fact that every season the team’s best player are sold to the biggest club in Europe (ex: Carvalho, Deco, Hulk, Falcao, etc.). Even a coach has been sold in the departure of Vilas-Boas from the city of Porto. Yet, an influential factor to consider in the “trophy concentration process” has to be the smaller number of teams playing the tournament- the Portuguese league is played by only 16 teams since 2007 compared to 18+ in the other leagues-, but with 70 teams playing throughout La Primeira Liga’s history the extremely low number of different champions remains appalling.
Finally, there are some things in life that you just have to leave to the British, secret agents (James Bond) and football. Where the Iberian Peninsula fails the English Premier League excels. With 4 to 5 teams on average every season fighting for the title, the Premier league tells the story we all want to see. Not in vain it is the most watched football league in the world (4.7 billion people in 212 territories according to the premier league site). So, let us leave the anticlimactic tournaments to the king of boredom: the Iberian Peninsula.
PD: The dominance exposed by Porto in its local league talks volumes about the excellent administration and the remarkable scout system that the “Dragões” possess. Also, with the transfer of Gotze, Alcantara and the arrival of Guardiola, the Bundesliga may suffer from the Iberian virus in a not so distant future.