Sunny Spain’s La Liga has been home to a plethora of world-class footballers who have come to define and redefine the culture of their respective eras.
The two clubs synonymous with football across the globe, Europe’s most successful team Real Madrid and the artistry of the Barcelona-way have come to personify the league, and at times, the game in general.
For a long time in recent memory, these two glorious clubs were spearheaded by arguably the two most gifted footballers of our generation. Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.
The encounters between the players during their time in Spain are the stuff of folklore. Both generational talents have enthralled millions in their bid to get one over their counterpart. And El Classico days, without a doubt, were the biggest fixture in the football calendar.
But, the discussion about La Liga does not end there. It is enriched by the performances and traditions of other teams that can boast of producing or employing players who are now considered legends in their own right.
However, the unfathomable departure of Messi from his beloved Barcelona due to unfortunate circumstances, preceded by Ronaldo’s decision to seek pastures new a couple of years before the infamous ‘Messi-debacle’ left a huge question mark hanging over the heads of football lovers worldwide.
Can La Liga be as entertaining and engaging without two of the most successful players of the modern time?
Granted, the shoes are enormous shoes to fill. People could be forgiven for crumbling under the pressure of having to live up to the standards set by the two forwards.
But, therein lies the beauty of football. It is beyond individuals. It is about the collective effort and emotion of the teams and the fans that rally behind their favourite banners and colours.
And as a testament to that, the Spanish teams have put up a laudable show domestically as well as in Europe. Real Madrid’s march to the Champions League finals, time and again against all odds this season, and Villareal’s fairytale run to the Semifinals of Europe’s elite competition have shown La Liga teams are more than capable of going toe to toe with football’s finest.
Though Carlo Ancelotti’s Real Madrid unit raced to the league title this season in the absence of any clear title challenge mounted by the rest of the league, excitement could be found a bit down the table.
In the words of La Liga ambassador Gaizka Mandieta, who tries to explain the allure and potency of Spain’s premier level contest, “There is an increasing number of teams that are now competing for the titles with Madrid and Barca every year. The difference is smaller in terms of points in terms of the number of wins and also in terms of the quality of the game, Real Sociedad also failed.”
“They started the league very strong and of course, LaLiga has also tried to help the team’s financially, and this of course makes them stronger. So, the competition is increasing every year”, said the former midfielder.
Barcelona’s resurrection under club legend Xavi is applause-worthy as the midfield maestro took the club from a torrid place to the Champions League spots.
Real Sociedad turned heads at the start of the season with some scintillating football, but, unfortunately, their form fizzled out during the thick of the season.
Sevilla and Real Betis have churned out strong showings this season with both clubs still in the race for Europe.
Last year’s champions Atletico Madrid’s season did not go to plan, but Diego Simeone has built a formidable team that can trouble the mind of any opposition manager on their day.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, the relegation battle is a tightly contested affair too with no more than a couple of points separating the clubs at the fag end of the table.
Spanish football has proven time and again that its focus on sheer footballing technique and ability coupled with the strong grassroots development program can churn out magnificent talents year after year graduating from the academies.
And despite the threat of unforeseen circumstances such as the initial pandemic or the waves that followed, La Liga’s might of contest and organizational structure in conjuncture with the unique football tradition and culture of the Iberian nation ensure that the country’s top-flight football is never a dull affair, but, one that can hold its own on the grandest of stages too.