All posts by pranavwadhwa14

La Liga: The Best of the Major Leagues?

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.

Real Madrid

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.


Atlético Madrid

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.


What Kind of a Future Can We Expect for FC Barcelona?

Over the course of three years, Luis Enrique has transformed F.C Barcelona into the most powerful team in Europe. Many wondered if there would ever come a time when Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona, which doubled as the rise of Lionel Messi, could be recreated. After the disastrous seasons that followed his departure, the world thought that Barca’s golden age was over. But all of this changed with the introduction of Luis “Lucho” Enrique as manager of F.C Barcelona. In his first season at Barcelona, Enrique led the Basque men to an international treble, a feat only accomplished before by Guardiola’s Barcelona.

Luis Enrique (middle) celebrating Barcelona’s historic comeback against PSG earlier this month.

The 2016-2017 season marked the start of Enrique’s third and final season at F.C Barcelona. In just 2 seasons, Lucho was able to win eight major trophies, and he still has his eye on another international treble this season. Nothing could characterize Barcelona’s miraculous run under Enrique better than Barcelona’s historic 6-1 triumph at the Camp Nou against PSG. The past two years of magic leave one question in the mind of Barca fans and soccer fans all around the world: What will become of F.C Barcelona after the retirement of the glorious Luis Enrique? Apart from the emerging uncertainty stemming from the departure of Enrique, many sources are insinuating that Messi is having some issues with re-signing his contract with the club. From cryptic messages to the club President at times to his complete silence regarding the issue at other times, many fans of Barcelona are fretting the possible exit of the best soccer player in the world.

Who will take the reins of F.C Barcelona?

This is a question on the mind of all Barca fans, but one with no definitive answer just yet. After their victory against Sporting Gijon on March 1, 2017, Enrique announced his departure from the club and ever since, the pundits have been hard at work trying to predict the next manager at Barcelona. Possible candidates include Laurent Blanc, Jorge Sampaoli and Ronald Koeman, among others. Of these possible candidates, Jorge Sampaoli of Seville has emerged as the heavy favorite for taking up the reins at F.C Barcelona.

Jorge Sampaoli (pictured), manager of Sevilla, is currently the front-runner for the Barcelona job.

For most Barcelona fans, Jorge Sampaoli would seem like an outsider. His connections to the club are far and thin. He is an Argentine national and therefore has familiarity with star defender Javier Mascherano and living legend Lionel Messi. What makes Jorge Sampaoli such an enticing pick for the hot seat at Barcelona are his unparalleled credentials. In 2015, Sampaoli took the Chilean national team to the Copa America trophy for the first time in their history. Further, in just his first season at Sevilla, Sampaoli made them a fiercer contender for La Liga and took Sevilla to the brink of the Champions League quarterfinal. A feat which could have only been a dream just five years ago for Sevilla has felt like a reality under the management of Sampaoli. The only catch is the fact that Sampaoli has just signed on with Sevilla, and being that it is only his first season managing the club, it may take the European giants some convincing to bring Jorge Sampaoli on board so quickly as their next manager.

Laurent Blanc is another manager who fits the manager mold at Camp Nou. Blanc spent some of his soccer career playing for Barcelona in the 90s as a defender. He is one of the most respected managers across the globe and would certainly be qualified to take up the hot seat at F.C Barcelona. Starting off his career as a manager, Blanc led French club Bordeaux to a league title in 2009 and managed the Paris Saint-Germain team that won 11 trophies in a span of just three seasons. This makes Blanc one of the most qualified people to take over as manager of Barcelona. Furthermore, he is currently out of a job, making it easier for him to accept the offer.

Laurent Blanc left PSG in 2016 after a very successful run and currently does not manage a team.

Another option that Barcelona may consider is Ronald Koeman. He is a great managerial talent, but is not the most likely option for the Spanish giants. Koeman is a familiar face at Barcelona. He played for them in the 90s and even served as an assistant for quite some time. He coached Valencia to a Copa Del Rey title and has brought on prominent changes at both Southampton and current club Everton. Though Koeman is a worthy candidate, his lack of champions league experience and lack of credentials with bigger-name clubs will ultimately make him a less desirable option for taking over as manager of F.C Barcelona.

Koeman (pictured) has generally been successful in his time at Everton, but has never made the Champions League as a manager.

Again with the Messi hoopla?

It seems as though every season, Barcelona fans are barraged with breaking news stories claiming that superstar Lionel Messi will be leaving their club, usually with little truth to these rumors. However, this time around we see a very different attitude from the Argentine star and the club itself. The club knows the value of Messi and understands that their domestic and international level of supremacy cannot be met without the magic of the maestro Messi. One may then ask themself, “why then would Barca even risk having Messi disgruntled regarding his contract?”. After scoring a late goal in a 5-0 rout against Celta Vigo, Messi made a gesture to the stands in the form of a phone call. Many analysts and football pundits have found this to be a sign to club President Josep Maria Bartomeu. Throughout his presidency at Barcelona, Baromeu has been subject to much dispute with Messi regarding contract issues with the club. Many have begun to understand that Messi needs more support from the leadership at Barcelona.

Lionel Messi’s eyebrow-raising celebration.

Though Leo has dismissed his gesture as nothing more than a quirky celebration, many fans are wondering if their beloved “La Pulga” will abandon them at the end of the season. This seasonal concern by Barcelona fans has happened before, and looking at past trends and Messi’s faith towards F.C Barcelona, it can be concluded that he will not in fact be leaving Barcelona this Summer. Messi has spent his entire career and most of his life at Barcelona, and the club has become an integral part of his daily life and identity. At his stature and level, it is highly doubtful that Messi could be lured away from Barcelona by money. So rest assured Barcelona fans, the club will remain in good hands – for now.