Villarreal's Arnaut Danjuma celebrates scoring against Bayern Munich. REUTERS
On-pitch priorities

On-pitch priorities


La Liga players continue to quietly impress on the big stage


Friday, 8 April 2022


If 'Farmers' League means you spend more time expressing yourself in a grassy field rather than posing for photo-shoots and strutting down cat-walks, then La Liga can correctly be described that way.

Alas, it is intended as an insult from a generation who have bought into the slick marketing of organisations such as the Premier League.

Yet again, Spanish clubs are embarrassing their continental counterparts at the critical moment in the European competitions. Real Madrid drove their tractors all over Stamford Bridge and the toes of the Chelsea players in the Champions League quarter-final. In rural Spain, Villarreal were humbling the city slickers from Munich. Cast your mind back two years to Atlético knocking title-holders Liverpool out of the Champions League in front of their own fans at Anfield.

Agricultural may yet describe Atlético's approach to turning around the tie with Manchester City next week in Madrid. You just know that Simeone is going to revel in the scrap with the footballing aristocracy of Manchester City. It's possible they can repeat the feat of 2020 when they shocked Klopp and the Kop.

Spanish football may undersell itself, but it certainly doesn't underachieve. For the past three decades, the Balon d'Or has been dominated by players who have performed in La Liga. You must go back to Shevchenko in 2004 to find a winner who didn't strut his stuff in Spanish football.

If there was a vote today, Benzema would be added to that list. His form is incredible, scoring back-to-back hattricks against PSG and Chelsea. I'm not sure what the opposite expression of flat-track bully is.

He's managed by the masterly Ancelotti. He doesn't have the profile of Klopp or Guardiola, but his résumé is equally if not more impressive. He's about to add the Spanish league title to those secured in Italy, England, Germany and France. You wouldn't bet against him leading a team out for a fifth Champions League.

The only man to outsmart him recently is the brightest young coach around. Xavi has led a speedy revolution at Barcelona. He's used his imagination to recruit players within a very restricted wage structure while allowing young talent to flourish.

The wonderkids who were fast-tracked into the senior team are now being allowed to develop at their own pace and the future looks incredible at the Camp Nou.

While some stars fight to earn modelling contracts and appear on magazine cover s, La Liga players are happy to continue dominating headlines in the sports pages of publications around the world.


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