BARCELONA (Reuters) - Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid’s passage to the Champions League final and Sevilla qualifying for the Europa League equivalent for a third straight year has underlined Spain’s dominance of European soccer.
The nation’s hegemony can be put down to a blend of the financial muscle of Real and Barcelona, ranked the two richest clubs in the world according to the Deloitte Money League, and top-quality coaching from grassroots level to the elite.
Since 2000 there have been 12 Spanish finalists in the Champions League, more than any other European league, and the final in Milan on May 28 guarantees an eighth winner from the country during that spell.
Barcelona, who have won the Champions League four times in the past decade, have produced an array of skillful players from their academy who grew up playing possession-based soccer that the first team still practices.
The club have supplemented home-grown talents such as captain Andres Iniesta, Lionel Messi, Sergio Busquets and Gerard Pique by buying world-class individuals like Luis Suarez, Neymar and Ivan Rakitic.
Atletico’s 2014-15 earnings of 187 million euros ($210.68 million) are well below the colossal incomes of Real (557 million euros) and Barcelona (560 million), and their success has hinged on Argentine coach Diego Simeone who has turned the club’s fortunes around since taking charge in 2012.
“An interesting aspect of Spanish soccer is its diversity, fomented by a new generation of coaches,” wrote journalist Santiago Segurola in the Marca newspaper on Friday.
“La Liga is a kaleidoscope of styles, something unusual in the rest of Europe. The sensation is that Spanish soccer, with all its organizational deficits, has transformed into an ideal laboratory for teams in European competition.”
The success of Sevilla, who meet Liverpool in the Europa League final in Basle on May 18, can also be put down to coach Unai Emery who has been at the helm since 2013.
“Spain is pulling further away from the rest of the pack all the time,” added Alfredo Relano, writing in the AS newspaper.
“La Liga has been embracing the best influences from South America and Europe for a long time and possesses top-quality managers.”
Spain’s consistency in Europe is a consequence of their astonishing record in knockout rounds, having won 47 of their last 50 ties against non-Spanish sides.
Liverpool’s triumph over Villarreal on Thursday was the second time a Spanish team had lost a tie to English opposition in 18 meetings since 2009, the other being when Chelsea beat Barcelona in the 2012 Champions League semi-finals.
Spain’s dominance over England is despite the huge gap in earnings in terms of television income and average attendances.
La Liga signed its most lucrative deal ever in December and will earn 2.65 billion euros ($2.68 billion) over the next three years.
That pales in comparison to the 5.1 billion pounds ($7.4 billion) three-year deal penned by the Premier League in 2015.
“I’ve always said the best league in the world is the Premier League, for various reasons: the fans, the organization, but the best soccer is played in Spain,” said Manchester City coach Manuel Pellegrini this week.
La Liga president Javier Tebas responded by stressing the importance of Spain’s successes in Europe.
“If he’s saying the Premier League is the most powerful because it earns the most then he’s correct, it’s a mathematic number, but I don’t think it’s the best,” said Tebas.
“You have to balance economic and sporting results and if we do that then the Spanish league is the best in the world.”
Editing by Tony Jimenez