Best league in the world? Ronaldo’s exploits show how poor La Liga is

by Will ODoherty

Friday, March 4th, 2011

The big news in Spain last night was the hamstring injury that would keep Cristiano Ronaldo out of contention for a fortnight, denting Real Madrid’s continental and domestic campaigns.

Ronaldo scored a hat trick in a 7-0 demolition of Malaga, bringing his total tally this season to 38 goals.

While the weekly preening, pouting and, er… prickishness have not been missed since Ronaldo departed for the Spanish capital, it is sad to see a player of such quality leave arguably before peaking.

To have bagged almost 40 goals in early March is a tremendous achievement, and, provided he can avoid the injuries that befell his generously-built, Brazilian namesake, he will go down as one of the great forwards.

But should we be reading something else into this?

The capture of Ronaldo and Kaka was seen by many as the sealing of La Liga’s claim to the mythical ‘best league in the world’ title.

Spain were World Champions elect and Barcelona European Cup holders when the transfers were completed, ushering in the dawn of a new galacticos era.

But the incredible record of Ronaldo and Barcelona’s Lionel Messi – the Maradona to the Portuguese’s Pele has a staggering 40 goals so far – hint at a league which is an appalling mismatch.

Malaga are second from bottom in the table, so anything other than a convincing defeat would be noteworthy, but a quick look at the top shows just how uncompetitive things are.

Barcelona, on 71 points, are +64 in goal difference, which happens to be Real’s point tally (GD: +43). Valencia, in third, sit another 13 points back and 20 behind the leaders, on 51, with a goal difference of +13.

To put that into context, a look at the SPL, the most ridiculous two-horse race ever devised, sees Celtic on 64 points (+42), Rangers on 59 (+34) with two games in hand and Hearts on 55 points (+19).

Admittedly both are snapshots, but when there’s more competition between teams in Scotland you know your league is a bit of a joke.

Obviously the game in Spain is played at a higher level than north of the border, and it has the attraction of many of the world’s current greats but the evidence suggests you cannot know how great they are while they ‘compete’ against whipping boys so often.

The Premiership is a truer testing ground where the only easy games are between Manchester United and sides managed by Sam Allardyce or ex-United players and Wolves may have the dubious privilege of beating the Champions and going down.

People may say our top teams have gone backwards and that defenders are allowed to get away with more to stifle attackers, but few would argue that in terms of competitiveness, supporters of any Spanish team other than the big two must look enviously at England.

The football – and footballers playing it – on offer in the Nou Camp or Bernabeu might be peerless, but in terms of a league, Spain has got nothing on us.

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  • Darren

    La Liga is like the Scottish Premier but worse.

    Real an Barca usually finish at least 20 points above the rest

  • Matt Quinn

    If the English league has so much supposed strength in depth then why do our clubs never win the Europa League? Surely that is the test of the strength of a league? I believe Atletico Madrid won it this year – beating Liverpool and Fulham en route.

    Also, 3 years ago, Ronaldo scored 31 goals in 34 league games for Manchester United. This year he has scored 27 in 27 league games. Is there such a wealth of difference???

    Fernando Torres averages around 16 goals a season for Atletico in Spain. His first season in the Premier league and he bagged 24 goals in far less games. He is now the most expensive player in the Premier league – yet he is not first choice for his national team. Often playing second fiddle to David Villa who, until this season, has plied his trade at Zaragoza and Valencia. Can you imagine that happening in England?

    Who has been the best midfielder this season in the Premier league? Probably David Silva. Again, a player who played for Valencia for many years.

    As they showed last night, the real issue is that Barca and, to a lesser extent, Real Madrid are just so much better than most other teams in the world. However, this doesnt make the rest of La Liga weak. In fact, quite the contrary.

  • Sense

    The debate of “the best league in the world” has just become so tiresome and boring. Usually brought about by Bpl fan/s(seething with jealousy) trying to run down La Liga; this article clearly another. Man Utd have been rotten this year and yet they sit 5pts clear at the top of the league(AGAIN) going for their 12th league title in 19. So what does that say about the overall quality of the Bpl? The only reason the top teams are a litle more packed at the top of the Bpl is becuase there are no outstanding teams; which serves up mediocrity over quality. I’ll take class and technical skill over kick and chase, hoof it up the park action every time.

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