The only reason why the notion that La Liga is the best league on earth is even an argument is because of the English language. British and American fans like what feels familiar to them, and they pour their money into the English Premier League resulting in the most profitable TV contracts in the world. This results in a TV production product that is second to none, and huge transfer fees by even middling clubs year after year after year.
Meanwhile, La Liga dominates European competition. And when I say dominates, I don’t just mean Real Madrid, Barca, and Atleti. I do not just mean the titles. I mean they dominate every stage of the competition.
The Champions League and the Europa League
Let’s break down the numbers for the two biggest competitions in Europe, the Champions League and the Europa League (we’ll ignore Super Cups even though La Liga dominates that too). Since the beginning of 2010, La Liga has won the Europa League six times. They’ve had both finalists once. (They’ve beaten English clubs twice in that time. England has the other two titles.)
But here’s where it gets interesting. Seven different La Liga clubs have won Europa knockout ties in that time, and the combined record in knockout ties of the league is 53-21. 8 of those 21 losses were against fellow La Liga sides, and their record against English sides is 5-2. That’s an astonishing dominance.
Notions that La Liga is a three-team league ignores facts like Villareal having been in those knockout stages for six different years. Few outside of Spain know anything about Villareal as a club and yet they have experienced an era of sustained quality not matched by anyone in England outside of their top six since 2010.
In the Champions League, the dominance grows. Keeping in mind that the Champions League has one fewer knockout rounds than the UEL, here’s what the numbers look like: 51-21 overall knockout record, six of those losses were to fellow La Liga sides, and against English sides they were 12-2. Four different teams have won knockout ties.
Overall, ten La Liga teams have won European knockout ties since January 2010 (one of those teams being Malaga, who aren’t even in La Liga at the moment, and as good as Villareal has been they’ve spent a year in Segunda themselves). Not counting ties that pit La Liga against La Liga, they are 90-28. Overall, they’re 104-42 and 17-4 against their biggest competitor for best league in the world.
It’s staggering. The fact that so many Spanish teams can progress in Europe but not survive in the dogfight that is La Liga says a lot about the quality of this league, from top to bottom.
There’s strength in depth in both leagues
At this point, some might complain that I’ve focused on knockout ties. They’ll point to things like this past season’s group stage, where Tottenham earned four points against Real Madrid, Chelsea took four points against Atletico, and Liverpool and Sevilla drew both their games. That’s certainly true. But I’m not arguing that the English Premier League is bad, in fact, it’s excellent. But when the chips are down, when it’s ‘win here to keep the trophy dream alive,’ La Liga owns them.
Understand that Sevilla won three straight Europa Leagues while never finishing higher than fifth in this league. This year, they finished 7th, in a year they defeated an incredibly expensive Manchester United in Europe. It wasn’t a clear 7th, either. Down the stretch, Getafe, Eibar, and Girona all pushed the Andalusian club and they weren’t even the best team in their own city. It’s just an example of how competitive this league actually is.
A quick rundown of the EPL and La Liga tables show they’re similarly competitive with one another. Barcelona and Man City ran away with the leagues, putting huge gaps between them and the second teams. Second to sixth in each league is approximately the same; it’s a 19 point gap in La Liga, 18 in EPL. Seventh to Fifteenth in La Liga is 12 points, the same positional spread in England is 14. There’s strength in depth in both.
If you’ve read this far and you still think the English Premier League is better than La Liga, tell me, honestly: how many La Liga games have you watched in the last five years? It’s an incredible league. It’s far more than two or three deep. It’s the best league in the world.
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