Over the past couple of years, La Liga has gained prominence in an unprecedented manner. It is no secret that much of this is due to the awe-inspiring rivalry between Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, the two widely recognized best players in the world. It is becoming hard to deny the dominance of La Liga teams across international competitions, which arguably used to belong to teams in the Italian and English leagues. Many fans still argue that the increased variability in domestic competitions makes the EPL the true “Premier” League, but if one looks at the performance of these same teams in international competitions, it is clear that this increased domestic competition is due to a fall in stature of once great EPL teams. This leads us into the top four of La Liga who have dominated the global stage for more than 3 years now: Barcelona, Real Madrid, Atlético Madrid, and Sevilla. All four are coming off of successful years, further establishing their club brands.
Barcelona ended this season with a single domestic title and a short spell in the Champions League quarterfinal and a failed last attempt to win La Liga. However, the star-studded group can still brag about having a more successful year than most other Premier League teams. This year, three of the eight quarterfinal-qualifying teams were from the Spanish league, with only one representative from the EPL. Barcelona ended the Spanish league in second place, a mere 3 points away from a domestic double. Luis Enrique confirmed earlier this year that this would be his last season as head coach at Barcelona. Many fans can see the early red flags, but the young talent in the club and the overall pedigree of the FC Barcelona name can surely lead them to a repeat of the treble in the following season. The disappointing league performance can be attributed to the trying and wavering Champions League performances. The club often found itself in impossible positions in midweek Champions League fixtures, and the team was forced to make a historic comeback against PSG to just barely make the quarterfinals this year.
The more prominent of the two Madrid heavyweights made sure to make this year theirs. Real Madrid claimed both the Champions League title (their second consecutive year doing so) and the League title after years of domestic struggle. Los Blancos find themselves in an ideal position to continue this success next year under the stellar leadership of gaffer Zinedine Zidane. As always, Madrid need to be wary of Barcelona, who are returning next season with a new coach and a renewed vigor to win it all next year. However, the international and domestic champions had an excellent year, culminating in several titles and accolades, including the Ballon d’Or trophy for the best player in football, given to who else but Cristiano Ronaldo. Their consistent performances made them the league leaders for the entire season, and were crowned champions at the end. On the whole, Madrid had stellar performances in both the Champions League and La Liga, but yet again fell out of the Copa del Rey early on, ending hopes for a sweep of Spanish accolades.
The less experienced Madrid side have yet again finished third in La Liga. They managed to have a good year in the league, but again produced nothing special. The rise to prominence of Diego Simeone’s Madrid has taken a backseat as city rivals Real Madrid maintain dominance with FC Barcelona a close second. The Champions League eluded this Atlético squad for a third time as they again lost to none other than Real Madrid in the semifinals. If Atlético wants a chance at international and domestic success, they need to make sure that they return next year with a spirit, which they haven’t displayed since the 2013-2014 season. Retaining star player Antoine Griezmann along with recruiting more talent up top to support the Frenchman looms at the top of their bucket list as they prepare for another year.
Sevilla ended La Liga in fourth place, ensuring that they are indeed a force to reckon with both domestically and internationally. Sevilla were a mere goal away from the Champions League quarterfinals this year, which is an amazing feat for a team that could not imagine international European football just 10 years ago. Sevilla have improved quite a lot from their performance last season when they finished the league in seventh place. This year, they broke the top four and automatically qualified for the Champions League once again. This sets up strong momentum for the upcoming season and one can expect Sevilla to be very busy during the transfer market.
La Liga has evolved immensely from the two-team league it used to be a couple of years ago. Not to say that Barcelona and Real Madrid don’t dominate the league in an unheard of way, but other teams have gained prominence over this time, and continue to flourish. The greatest success story of last season had to be Atlético Madrid, but at least five clubs in La Liga have the opportunity to establish themselves as international powerhouses next season. With all said and done for the 2016-2017 season, the top four of La Liga can all claim somewhat successful years. When one looks at the international soccer situation, it is clear that the Spaniards are producing the best football clubs.