For as long as I can remember, La Liga has been bipolar. No, I don’t mean in the sense of having an emotional disorder, but rather that it’s been dominated by two poles, or centers of influence and power: Real Madrid, the team that Franco built, and Barcelona, the team that Franco built Real to destroy.
For various reasons, not least of which is that I once lived in Madrid for a short time, I was happy to see Mourinho’s men put a stop to Barcelona’s hegemony last season—in dramatic fashion at Camp Nou, at that. I thought that maybe, just maybe, Madrid’s deconstruction of the Barça mystique would open the door for other teams to make legitimate runs at the title in the future: teams like Bilbao, Atlético Madrid, and Valencia.
With the first jornada complete in 2012/13, the race for the top is still of course as clear as mud, but despite Madrid’s slip-up I fear another bipolar year, with the true battle being for third and the only question remaining being which center of power will see the trophy come home once again. Real Madrid racked up 100 points last season. Barcelona trailed with 91. Third-place Valencia ended up 30 points back of that, with 61. How boring is that?
And so, while the most recent Clásico (which doubled as the first leg of the 2012 Supercopa de España) was an interesting game by itself, its implications are becoming not only trite but detrimental to the league and to all of Spanish football. On the face of it, a 3-2 thriller at the Nou sounds like one for the books, and indeed, there was some superb football being played. But shouldn’t all, or at least more games between other teams be like that? While Madrid and Barcelona play out their never-ending chess game, where does that leave the rest of La Liga?
I’m not saying that the Clásico is categorically bad, for either the fans or players. This most recent one was one hell of a match, with Ángel Di María’s late goal reminding me of the ones I used to score in FIFA 1994 for SEGA with the off-sides turned off. Fantastic stuff, really.
However, the game would be just as good (if not better) if the teams were mid-table, wouldn’t it? And either bench would also be playing at this same level elsewhere in the league, making everything more interesting, right?
I can’t help but wonder if I can realistically stomach another season in which Real and Barcelona play their games in the clouds, hovering 30 points above the rest. Yes, there was a similar situation in the Prem last year, but at least one of the cloud-floating teams was a newcomer, albeit the New York Yankees of English soccer. In terms of the Madrid-Barelona “debate,” one team has tons of money, warms its benches with remarkable talents who would and could shine on other squads, and delivers to American shores the most intolerable of fans. Can’t tell which team I’m talking about? I rest my case.