La Liga on top
Guillem Balague defends La Liga and says Barcelona may be the best team the world has seen.
Last Updated: 09/12/10 1:56pm
It seems as if I triggered something of a debate on the blog when I suggested last week that this current FC Barcelona side might just be the best team we've ever seen.
Now, I love an argument about football as much as anybody, but if you're going to disagree with me, you're going to have to avoid churning out the same old clichés!
According to many of you who commented on last week's blog, there's no way we can possibly rate this Barcelona side because La Liga is a two-horse race and that winning it proves absolutely nothing, because the rest of the competition aren't even at the races. Those who have disagreed with me also claim that the Premier League is a far more open, even and tougher opposition. Is that so?
Well then how come it's been six years since anyone other than Chelsea or Manchester United won the Premier League title? Arsenal were Champions in 2003-04, the same season that the La Liga title was won by Valencia.
And what about this myth that the rest of the chasing pack are much closer to the leaders in the Premier League? In the six years since Arsenal were Champions, the gap between first place and sixth place in the Premier League has averaged 28.8 points. In Spain that gap between Champions and the European contenders averages 24.8 points.
The argument usually goes something like this: "Ah, but the teams down the bottom of La Liga are rubbish; there are no easy games in the Premier League!" Is that right?
The gap between first and last in the Premier League? 65 points on average - while in Spain, the average points gap between top and bottom is 56.6 points over the same six year period.
I imagine many of you will argue that even if La Liga is more competitive, the Premier League is more exciting. Well, quite how you measure excitement is impossible to define; but if it's in terms of goals scored, again, La Liga just about comes out on top over that same six year period.
Quality? Well that's impossible to measure with statistics. But judging by the 23-man shortlist for the Ballon D'Or, La Liga wins hands down. The Spanish competition had 11 Ballon d'or nominees out of 23, while the Bundesliga (five) and Serie A (four). The Premier League had three. And now that the winners have been announced, all three play for FC Barcelona.
We should probably also mention that there were no English players on that shortlist, compared with seven Spaniards. Ten of those on that shortlist took to the field in last week's el Clasico, and half the players on the pitch were world Champions with Spain. It's rare for half the players on the pitch in a Premier League match to be English, let alone World Cup winners!
No doubt some will respond by stating that all of this proves that La Liga simply throws money at attracting the biggest players in the game. If it were that simple, Man City spent more than anyone on the planet. How many Ballon D'or nominees turn out for them at Eastlands every week? None. Meanwhile Barcelona take to the field with possibly seven, even eight academy players week in week out.
If the best players are choosing to play in Spain, it's not only about the cash. José Mourinho told Revista a fortnight ago that managers, players, even referees have a 'the responsibility to make sure el Clásico will be a super game, that the world will get the show they deserve'.
Two days later, Johan Cruyff added that Mourinho used to consider winning the only priority, but that now he has changed - he has realised that there is far more to football in Spain than grabbing three points every weekend.
Guillem answers your questions...
Got a question for Guillem? Then send it in here or use the feedback form below, and then look out for his answer next week.
Hi Guillem. With respect to Ballon D'Or, we in Myanmar think that for obvious reasons, it would be the best decision to award it to all the three players jointly, namely Messi, Xavi and Iniesta. Don't the organizers have the means to award the honour collectively to these great footballers, who invariably offer beautiful and breathtaking spectacles playing together? In other words, are there no provisions or rules to present a collective award? Thein Sun Tun
GUILLEM SAYS: We are talking about an individual trophy. This is the closest it's ever been to a collective reward, in that the three of them belonged to La Masia (Barcelona youth academy). You cannot just give it to them all. Captains and coaches of national teams vote, so it is impossible to pre-organise it.
My line is that Xavi may get it and pass it on to Iniesta - because he always passes it to him! I'll be very happy if either Iniesta or Xavi win it. In terms of Xavi, this will probably his last chance that to win it. With Iniesta, he is the favourite, but will probably be able to win it again in his career.
ENRIQUE FOR SPAIN?
Hi Guillem, I love the blog and love listening to your opinions on TV. I'm a Newcastle fan, and over the last season-and-a-half, we've seen the rise of Jose Enrique. Besides Evra and Cole, he has to be the best left-back in England. He is starting to get attention from the media as being a quality player and is being linked with a move to Spurs (which frightens me as we need him). What is the view of Enrique in Spain? Could he be a possible replacement for Capdevilla in the National Team? The way Enrique plays is so 'Spanish' and I think he would fit into the national team well. Thanks, David
GUILLEM SAYS: It happens a lot that if you move to England, you go off the radar in the national team. This is a strange case, because playing in the Championship automatically means you will not be considered for the national team. I enjoy watching him play, as he has a mixture of English and Spanish - he is tall and strong, but can play the ball. He has got to play at this level for a little while. Capdevilla is a European Championship and World Cup winner, and of course needs a replacement and the position is up for grabs. Canella and Jose Angel, both from Sporting Gijon, could take it. Monreal from Osasuna, and why not Jose Enrique. But, he disappeared from the radar of the newspapers, who are probably too centered on the players in Spain.
Again we see who are really are the best team in Spain, or even the world. People forget that Jose Mourinho didn't win everything in his first season, whereas Guardiola had the best start a manager could want with six trophies in one year! 5-0 to FC Barcelona cancelling out any doubts as to who the better team is. In all honesty, the Barca players are better, e.g. Messi v Ronaldo, Xavi v Alonso, Villa v Benzema. Madrid are like the Man City of the La Liga and Barca are like United. They spend big and have a star studded team, but they can't buy the spirit and friendship in a team. Mourinho is a great manager, but he isn't God and he can't stop Barca. Leon O'Reilly
GUILLEM SAYS: Mourinho had difficult times at Inter in his first year. He tweaked here and there and the team became stronger in the second season. He has seen his limits at Real Madrid, and he didn't know who he could count on but, after the last week, he now knows. He faces the biggest challenge of his career because Barcelona are the best team in the world, and, in my eyes, probably in the top three teams of all time. It is becoming a bit of a head-to-head. It will come down to the two games that happened last season, and will probably happen this season, so you need to beat Barcelona. One thing that happened in el Clasico is that Mourinho will have played in a different way. I'm not sure if it was down to instructions or mentality, did they know they needed to push up or defend deep? They could not do it like Inter did against Barcelona.
DE GEA TO UNITED?
Hi Guillem, I was wondering if you could clarify the David de Gea to Manchester United rumours. Are United prepared to match his buy-out clause and, despite de Gea recently rebuffing suggestions of a transfer, is he open to moving? Finally, were he to move next June, I take it he would arrive as United's new first-choice keeper with the other new goalkeeping arrival Anders Lindergaard playing back-up to de Gea? He is a top class keeper and one of only a few who I think could take over the mantle from VDS. Thanks, Shane Farrington.
GUILLEM SAYS: According to my sources Atletico Madrid know that de Gea could move to an English side - that being Manchester United. There is an issue with his agents that may make things a little bit complicated. His agents have a mandate until the end of June, and after that he will probably be taken over by new agents. If that's the case, it looks like the new agents may have a deal with United, and if they take over, this may well be respected. If it's with the old agents, it's up in the air. I think they have been to see him and liked him. Somebody at Atletico told me that he is practically gone. I may be being a little bit ambiguous, but I think that this could be the case.
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