Tito Vilanova has made a good start to his task of winning back the Liga title from Barcelona’s arch-rivals Real Madrid, but not all is going smoothly.
The Nou Camp side find themselves five points ahead of the team that took their title last year, thanks to Jose Mourinho’s side failing to win either of their first two games.
An already below par start at the Santiago Bernabeu was made worse at the weekend when Cristiano Ronaldo, following Real’s first league win of the season, revealed to the Spanish press that he was feeling ‘sad’ at the club.
A meeting took place between the player and president Florentino Perez to discuss his dissatisfaction, but nothing has been said with regards to what was spoken about in the meeting.
Reports have ranged from him being unhappy with certain team-mates claiming Iker Casillas deserved to win the Ballon d’Or over him, to the straightforward desire to be the best paid player in the world.
Ronaldo scored twice in the 3-0 win over Granada on Sunday, but did not celebrate after either goal, which raised suspicions over his state of mind before his post-match interview confirmed his feelings.
This is a huge blow for Spanish football, not just Real Madrid.
Financial problems are crippling many La Liga sides at the moment, which is causing a number of the league’s best players to depart, to the detriment of the league itself.
A television money issue threatened to delay the start of the season when smaller clubs protested at Real and Barça taking the majority of that which was made from the television rights being sold.
The big two were always supposed to be immune to the travails of the rest of the league and they should be, provided they continue to deliver the entertainment for which most of the interest in Spanish football is down to – El Clasico.
Barcelona v Real Madrid is the money-maker when it comes to football in Spain and if the gleam on that fixture begins to fade, then the game there is in serious trouble – if it isn’t already.
El Clasico is about huge rivalry, but recently it has also become about the clash of the world’s two best players and it would be a headache for the Spanish FA if one half of the main attraction left.
Both teams will always be able to attract the best players in the world due to their huge revenue incomes and prestige, but the quality in their respective squads could well begin to degrade due to other teams in La Liga.
Javi Martinez, one of Athletic Bilbao better players, left to join Bundesliga side Bayern Munich in a €40million deal last week, seriously damaging Marcelo Bielsa’s side in the process and their Champions League hopes will have suffered.
Arsenal’s capture of Santi Cazorla, who almost single-handedly got Malaga into the Champions League places, for a knockdown price, was equally as damaging.
Malaga’s financial troubles were well documented, but another of the league’s best players leaving must have been hard to take for its organisers.
With so much of the best talent leaving for distant shores, La Liga becomes more and more about Barcelona and Real Madrid, even more so than it already was.
The best players from the competition that do not play for one of the big two, will either join them or move abroad where they can find bigger salaries.
Real and Barça have hoarded talent to such an extent that it is leaving fewer and fewer quality players in the league outside of them.
This is not to suggest there are no quality players outside of the pair, there are many, but the flow of talent abroad is steady and it is undeniable.
Esteban Granero is a very talented midfielder, but was unable to claim a regular berth in Mourinho’s side, so he moved, to Queens Park Rangers. The same QPR that only just managed to avoid relegation from the Premier League last term and were only promoted the season before.
It is quite obvious as to why he went there: QPR owner Tony Fernandes can easily outbid most teams in Spain other than Real and Barça.
Being able to acquire good young players who have not quite made it at a league’s bigger clubs is a important source of personnel for those clubs that are less well off.
With every player that leaves, the league’s average ability drops a little further and how can the big teams maintain their levels when the weekly opposition is so inferior?
Scotland and the Scottish Premier League should be a warning to countries that have a league dominated by two teams; both could spend reasonably big with their revenue streams but the quality of the league has seen them decline heavily over the last ten years.
The decline is signified by the Old Firm's dwindling participation in the Champions League, which becomes harder and harder with each passing year made to survive without the money that comes from UEFA’s premier club competition.
Poor management has seen Rangers go bust and get relegated to the third tier of Scottish football – the ultimate humiliation.
Rangers’ fate is unlikely to befall either Real Madrid or Barcelona, but there is a warning there for leagues that operate at such a huge imbalance between their best and worst teams.
There needs to be some parity in revenue streams for La Liga to be able to keep its best players outside of the top two, or the overall quality will continue to decline.
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