surinenglish

A LOOK AT LA LIGA

The inquest in Spanish football begins

Mendy (l) secured a last-gasp win for Real against 10-man Atalanta.
Mendy (l) secured a last-gasp win for Real against 10-man Atalanta. / REUTERS
  • There is a distinct possibility that La Liga won't have a team in the quarter finals of the Champions League for the first time since 2005

The demand for a post mortem on Spanish football is a little premature. Its health is in a very serious situation but there is still a faint heartbeat. The prognosis isn't good, and action needs to be taken as La Liga's clubs have struggled against their European counterparts.

First it was Barcelona suffering against Paris Saint Germain, followed by Real Sociedad also letting in four against Manchester United, Sevilla conceding three at home then Atletico failing to show up against Chelsea.

Only Real Madrid saved any face by beating Atalanta by a single goal. "Saving the honour of La Liga," claimed a headline in one newspaper. It hardly saved the honour, nor is Spanish football 'finished' as one British pundit put it.

Six of the last ten Champions League titles and seven of the last eleven Europa Leagues have been won by Spanish clubs but the truth is that La Liga and its members are not evolving. As the Germans, French, Italians, and English are all taking steps to improve, their Spanish counterparts are still basking in recent glories.

I've touched on Barcelona's mismanagement and their early Champions League exit means they need to start from scratch. Life after Messi isn't far away, and they need a whole new plan.

A couple of years ago an American associate was invited to examine the club's commercial viability. He concluded that although crowds were impressive, there were so many empty seats for every game except the Clásico. The powers just shrugged off his suggestion that they needed a marketing overhaul and his report was ignored. The ways that have worked for decades will not work in future years. A revolution is required.

Real Madrid left Bergamo celebrating a single-goal victory against the ten men of Atalanta and the relieved Spanish press joined in the mood. We must consider that this was the most celebrated team in the history of European football nicking a victory against a club competing for only their second season in the Champions League. Madrid needs to get a grip.

Real Sociedad added to the narrative by getting hammered by Manchester United but this is a historic mismatch and the game was played in Turin, so the Basques didn't have the advantage of familiar surroundings. In normal times, with screaming supporters at the Anoeta and a night in their own beds I suspect the margin may not have been so great.

Atlético Madrid completed the misery by losing to Chelsea. Again, there were mitigating circumstances as they had to call Bucharest home and half a dozen players were unavailable to Diego Simeone. It's possible that they can spring a surprise at Stamford Bridge - who would bet against a one-nil win and taking it to a penalty shoot-out?

The obituaries are a little early, the inquest needs to be suspended for now but there is a distinct possibility that La Liga won't have a team in the quarter finals of the Champions League for the first time since 2005.