The Spanish La Liga, which was once likened to a monarchy within the country, is once again facing financial challenges. This is evident from the underwhelming transfers, especially in the case of Barcelona and Real Madrid. Despite financial difficulties caused by Pedro Sanchez’s social policies, which prioritize the welfare of the less fortunate over football millionaires, La Liga is managing reasonably well and even excelling in some respects. It’s worth noting that almost every year, a Spanish club manages to secure a European trophy.
Late last night, simultaneously at two Andalusian stadiums, an exceptional and unpredictable edition of La Liga kicked off. Predicting the champion and the relegated teams requires extraordinary foresight, but certain aspects can still be roughly anticipated. In the previous season, nearly 10 or even 12 teams were entangled in the battle for survival until around March. Maintaining elite status is vital for over half of the clubs, as relegation to the second tier, equivalent to the Alcatraz prison, looms otherwise. This is why the new elite members Alaves, Granada, and Las Palmas are determined not to return to that predicament. Their hunger for staying in the top division presents significant challenges for those aiming to smoothly coast through the final stretch.
However, relegation is not the sole determinant of a championship’s dynamics. The question of who will emerge as the champion has three potential answers. Firstly, Barcelona could replicate its uneventful success from the previous campaign. The odds are not unfavorable, given Xavi’s successful coaching debut; it wouldn’t be surprising if he continues building his coaching career. Xavi demonstrated his ability to handle adversity, achieving success even in tough conditions. In Barcelona, Ilkay Gundogan’s arrival has been the only reinforcement. Even without Karim Benzema, Real Madrid could swiftly regain their top spot and celebrate at the “Cibeles” fountain in May. Financial strength enabled Florentino Perez to secure Jude Bellingham, while the “Mbappe” saga continued, and the script for the third season was already penned. Yet, the surprising fact is that, as a substitute for Benzema, 33-year-old Joselu arrived at the “Bernabeu”. His career might have ended in Segunda if not for his standout moment with Espanyol. The third contender for the title isn’t a team but a coach. Amidst the current challenges, Cholo Simeone might achieve significant success. After a shaky start last year, Atletico has gradually risen, and if the momentum persists, another title might land at the “Metropolitano” in Cholo’s era. Given the slightest chance, Cholo would leave the giants trailing behind.
Last season, Real Sociedad deservedly claimed the fourth Champions League spot. This was attributed to one of the many Basque talents flourishing in modern coaching. Imanol Alguacil accomplished something remarkable, but it wouldn’t be surprising if they couldn’t maintain their Top 4 position. Teams like Sevilla, Athletic Bilbao, Real Betis, and Villarreal needn’t be overly concerned about relegation. For Sevilla, the second season will likely mirror the previous one, but expectations of achieving more than fourth place are likely in vain.
A cluster of modest clubs garnered applause and attention last season. Girona, Osasuna, Mallorca, and Rayo Vallecano didn’t partake in the grand competition among the giants and won’t aim to do so this time. These four teams enriched La Liga, making it not only intriguing but also valuable in terms of football quality. Each club introduced new players who added vibrancy to Spanish elite football. However, at least one of them faces challenges.
Almeria, Valencia, Celta, Cadiz, Getafe, along with the new entrants, are under scrutiny. Some optimistic expectations are attached to Valencia and Celta. Yet, no one anticipated their struggle for survival last season. All indications suggest that “Mestalla” will again become synonymous with mismanagement, and owner Peter Lim shows no intention of departing. A fall into the abyss wouldn’t be surprising this time. Rafa Benitez’s arrival in Vigo has the Galicians dreaming of a new era. With a leader like Iago Aspas, as the saying goes, dreams come free.
Granada’s return to La Liga sends a clear signal to Almeria and Cadiz to be cautious, as Andalusia’s representation has almost reached its maximum. Only Malaga remains outside La Liga from the region, and everyone knows that Getafe, the Madrid team, never surrenders.
While La Liga has lost the financial competition with the Premier League, the allure of Spanish football remains undiminished. Every match in the Spanish top division is a unique showcase of genuine competition until the final moments. One thing is certain – loyal fans worldwide will always stand by their side. Because La Liga is an enduring classic.