La Liga has usurped the Premier League as Europe’s most competitive league. - (2021)
One should always be wary of the comparison of leagues. There are simply too many factors, too many cultural and underlying elements, for any great parallels to be drawn, and yet comparison is sometimes irresistible when leagues like the Premier League proclaim themselves to be the best, the most competitive in the footballing world.
Indeed, it’s from this jumping off point that the rest of Europe has measured itself for years. It’s a myth that has permeated beyond these shores, with foreign players and managers repeating lines that have been spun to sell the Premier League as a product. At the heart of that sales pitch is a perceived competitiveness. The idea that everyone can beat anyone.
This season, though, that notion has been vanquished. The gulf between the Premier League’s best (top six) and the rest has never been wider, illustrated by the way the table has split in two this season.
There are still three teams unbeaten at the top of the table – Manchester City, Chelsea and Liverpool – with their combined total of 90 points the most collected by three times at this stage of the season. What’s more, the top five have won 19 of the 20 games they have played against the bottom, with the one exception being Arsenal’s away draw to Crystal Palace.
Contrast this to the way La Liga has unfolded this season. After 13 rounds of fixtures, there are no unbeaten teams with just four points dividing the top six. While there is now 12 points between Man City and Man Utd in the Premier League table, there is eight points between Real Betis in 12th place in La Liga and Barcelona at the top of the table.
Last week, Barca were toppled at home by Betis. Earlier in the season, Real Madrid suffered defeats to Levante and Alaves, with Atletico Madrid also dropping points to Celta Vigo, Eibar and Leganes. Meanwhile, Sevilla, Espanyol and Alaves are mixing things up at the top end of the table. The only thing predictable about La Liga this season is unpredictability.
So if football fans are looking to the Premier League for a level playing field, perhaps they should instead cast their eye to La Liga. There, this season, everyone really can beat anyone, as demonstrated by some of the results and shocks that have been pulled off over the past few weeks and months.
Of course, the argument could be made that even amid all this chaos it’s likely that one of Spain’s big two will finish top of the pile. Since 2005, only three teams (Atletico Madrid, Barcelona and Real Madrid) have been crowned Spanish champions. Excluding Atleti’s sensational triumph in 2013/14, only two have been champions in that timespan. In comparison, the Premier League has crowned three different champions (Leicester City, Chelsea and Man City) in each of the last three seasons.
Delve deeper, though, and the Premier League, the self-proclaimed ‘Best League In The World’ appears to be losing its shine, its appeal. The recently agreed TV rights deal worth £4.46 billion, which covers games from 2019 to 2022, means there is no immediate threat to the actual value of the Premier League as an entertainment proposition, but the brand could certainly take a hit in the long term.
Meanwhile, La Liga is doing all it can to usurp the Premier League as world football’s predominant division, scheduling fixture to catch primetime audiences in Asia and proposing that a contentious first ever league game on foreign sold be played in Miami next year. This has been a concerted effort to draw as many eyes to the Spanish game as possible.
“The Premier League seems better than it is because of the way it’s sold and the way they broadcast the product,” Pep Guardiola explained in an interview not long after joining Man City, nailing why the English top flight holds an advantage over La Liga. But with every shock defeat Real Madrid suffers, with every point dropped by Barcelona, that advantage narrows.
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