PURPLE PUNDIT: After Real Madrid triumphed over their third Premier League opponent in this season’s Champions League, we look at why La Liga may be the superior league.
Many pundits and fans alike tend to overlook the quality and competitiveness of La Liga, and instead prefer to buy into the narrative that the Premier League is by far the best league in the world. Some onlookers go so far as to describe the Spanish top division as a ‘farmer’s league’, which is unbelievably disrespectful. Here we debunk certain myths and propose that in fact, La Liga is better than the Premier League.
The first place to start is undoubtedly the top end of both leagues. In Spain, Real Madrid were crowned champions with a tally of 86 points, 13 clear of their nearest rivals Barcelona. In England, Man City won the title on the final day with 93 points, one ahead of Liverpool. Initially this would make you think the Premier League is more competitive, but this sample size is too small. Let’s look at the top four. Sevilla finished fourth in La Liga, trailing Madrid by 16 points, in comparison to Spurs who, despite securing Champions League football for next season, still found themselves 22 points behind City. This means Antonio Conte’s side were as close to the top as they were to Newcastle United down in 11th place on 49 points. Meanwhile 15 points adrift of Sevilla were Athletic Bilbao, in eighth.
A common belief among Premier League pundits is that the bigger, more successful clubs face more difficult opposition in England than that of La Liga. The facts suggest otherwise. Taking the top four into consideration once again, the quartet of La Liga teams racked up 24 losses between them, whilst the Premier League equivalent was 22. The latter is heavily swayed by Spurs’ eleven defeats, so if you focus purely on the top three, which in reality provides a more accurate account of the league’s most elite sides, it reads 20 losses for La Liga versus just 11 for the Premier League. So Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atlético Madrid lost nearly double the number of domestic league games as Man City, Liverpool and Chelsea. The first sign of a more competitive league.
The Bottom Three
Switching attention to the other end of the table and it paints a similar picture. The three Spanish sides relegated this term were Granada (18th – 38pts), Levante (19th – 35 points) and Alavés (20th – 31pts). Not one of the Premier League’s relegated trio earned enough points to stay in La Liga – Burnley (18th – 35pts), Watford (19th – 23pts) and Norwich (20th – 22pts). The myth of needing 40pts to remain in the Premier League is no longer accurate. This year more points were needed to stay up in Spain than England. In addition, all three relegated La Liga sides won more games than any of their Premier League counterparts. Lastly regarding the drop zone, the points disparity between 1st-20th in La Liga was 55, whereas in the Premier League it was 72, a whopping 17 point (+31%) differential. The gap from top to bottom in Spain is closer, making for a more competitive league.
This discussion was originally triggered by Real Madrid’s recent Champions League success over Liverpool in Paris. Carlo Ancelotti’s men overcame not one, not two, but three English sides to claim the club’s unprecedented 14th Champions League triumph. La Liga has been home to six of the last ten Champions League winning teams, three times as many as the Premier League in that time. Two of the top five most successful clubs in Europe’s most prestigious club competition, Madrid and Barcelona, hail from Spain, compared to England’s sole occupant, Liverpool. Even when looking at runners-up in the competition, Spain dominates. Out of the club’s with the most runners-up medals, three of the top ten are Spanish whilst again, only The Reds feature from England.
Moving on to the Europa League, the continent’s secondary competition, again La Liga is king. As was the case with the Champions League, six of the past ten winners of the Europa League have been from Spain – Villarreal (1), Sevilla (4) and Atlético Madrid (1). As an aside, two of those wins came against English teams in the final. Comparatively, the Premier League has half as many Europa League wins in that same period – Chelsea (2) and Manchester United (1).
This debate about which is the better league will no doubt rumble on year after year, but what cannot be denied are the facts. The relegated sides in La Liga earned more points this season than those in the Premier League, whilst the top four was also more tightly packed together. Overall, the points disparity between first and last in England far exceeded that in Spain, demonstrating a far wider gap in quality. Finally, in competitions where Spain and English sides collide, it is La Liga who are producing more winners.