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Opinion

Newcastle United v Getafe – Premier League v La Liga

10 months ago
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There is a widely repeated assumption among the mainstream sports media that the Premier League is the ‘best league in the world’. Yet there is no visible evidence to justify this nationalist rhetoric. Our own top division is vastly inferior to the Spanish La Liga, in particular.

Although Spanish supremacy has been established for roughly the past decade, this current season has marked the contrast more clearly. Commentators and pundits usually make two justifications for their claim about the English league. Firstly, that our competition is the most competitive and, secondly, that it contains the best quality of teams.

As a Newcastle fan, these boasts simply don’t match the reality that I am seeing every weekend. In terms of competitiveness, the league table is currently a segregated two-tier system; a top six or seven clubs versus everyone else.

Newcastle have so far played five of those seven ‘big’ teams (at the time of writing – 30/11/18) with the Merseyside clubs still to come. Every single one of those five games ended in defeat for the Magpies. Even if the final scorelines were still relatively close, the unchallenged position of those top teams is not competitive at all.

In fact, only one this season have any of the five highest teams in the table been beaten by any of the other fifteen sides (Watford 2 Tottenham 1).

In contrast, La Liga, which is often criticised for being monopolised by two dominant clubs, has a much more interesting table. Sevilla, Alavés and Espanyol have all benefited from the poor form of Barcelona and Real Madrid this season to sit healthily within the higher positions. A mere 19 points separates first to twentieth place in Spain whereas it is 27 between Manchester City and Fulham in England.

A more competitive league might, therefore, imply a lack of quality compared to the best teams in the Premiership. At least, that is what people like Richard Scudamore and Sky Sports want you to believe.

How do they then explain, for instance, that the last five Champions League finals have all been won by Spanish teams? In the Europa League too, Spanish sides have established a monopoly over it, winning in four of the last five years.

The difference in quality is not just confined to the top teams in each nation. With Newcastle as it stands in 13th (before this weekend’s fixtures), their Iberian equivalent would be the likes of Getafe, Valencia or Real Sociedad. If NUFC were to play any of those in a two-leg tie I would not expect the result to be favourable.

Survival from relegation may yet be achieved by Rafa and his team this season, but I reckon that they would definitely be relegated if they played in La Liga.

The final aspect of the media’s complacent trotting-out of claims is when the argument is adjusted to say that, despite Spain’s achievement in European competitions, the Premier League remains the best ‘product’. What does that even mean though?

The term derives from football administrators and corporate figures. It merely serves as marketing-speak for the fact that the Premier League is the most profitable. As far as I’m concerned, I couldn’t care less about the ‘product’. I am a supporter, not a consumer.

English football has persuaded itself it is the best for too long and has lost its soul, not just its quality.
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