Hundreds of millions of football fans across the globe tuned in to watch the latest thrilling instalment of ‘El Clasico’.
Out of all the footballing superstars on show, it was Lionel Messi that ultimately grabbed the headlines with a hat-trick to seal the victory for the Catalans.
Bearing in mind that it is likely the biggest club fixture in the world, it probably seems odd to suggest that the Premier League is better off without an equivalent.
Surely English football would benefit from a similar match-up in pitting so many of the world’s finest players against one another? Cristiano Ronaldo, the current Ballon d’Or holder. Messi, a record four time winner of the award. Gareth Bale, the world’s most expensive player. Andres Iniesta and Xavi, recent regulars in FIFA’s World XI.
Quite simply put, there is no fixture currently in English football which can match the star appeal or significance of ‘El Clasico’. Period.
But that isn’t a bad thing.
English football fans should be thankful that their league isn’t dominated by two footballing powerhouses. Although Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid are performing admirably this season, ‘El Clasico’ is traditionally the fixture which bears the greatest influence upon the final destination of the La Liga title.
Eleven of the last thirteen championships have been won by either Real Madrid or Barcelona. Only four of the last twenty eight have gone elsewhere, with Atletico, Deportivo La Coruna and Valencia twice lifting the La Liga title in that time.
Simeone’s side currently sit at the summit but the odds are likely still in favour of either Real or Barcelona continuing this dominant streak.
It is a grip upon La Liga which could be threatened if the Spanish government decides to pursue laws which would deliver a greater parity in television revenue. As it stands, Real and Barcelona both rake in approximately 150 million euros through their sale of their respective rights. According to figures cited at Inside Spanish Football, this figure is roughly three times the size of the next highest earner.
In comparison to the Premier League’s collective deal, so many of La Liga’s lower sides do not receive the income necessary to effectively challenge or even compete with this duopoly. It’s a debate which has existed for some time and is likely to rumble on for the foreseeable future. But as it stands, the task of toppling Spanish football’s dominant pair is simply impossible for far too many in the country.
Of course, there are clubs in English football that dominate ahead of others. Before David Moyes, you may remember Manchester United possessed an almost vice-like grip upon the Premier League crown. Roman Abramovich and Sheikh Mansour’s takeovers at Chelsea and Manchester City respectively means that the clubs are able to effectively blow any of their domestic rivals out of the water in the transfer market.
But with the amount of money available to all participants in the Premier League, every team in the division is far more competitive than their La Liga counterparts.
And as it stands, there is no equivalent English pair that can boast a similar stranglehold on the Premier League title. With the less said about Manchester United’s defence of their title the better, the race for this year’s crown is one of the most open and exciting in years. Manchester City lifted the trophy in 2012 for the first time in 44 years. Chelsea triumphed in 2010 whilst Arsenal last topped the table in 2004.
With the constantly shifting dynamics of the Premier League’s elite, no fixture is ever able to retain a similar domestic importance to ‘El Clasico’. For example, the Manchester derbies a couple of seasons ago was arguably the decisive pair of fixtures in the 2012 title race. But while still important, City’s recent 3-0 victory at Old Trafford didn’t hold anywhere near the same significance.
At the beginning of the 2000s, Arsenal versus United was the supreme fixture in English football. But as the years continue to pass since Arsenal’s last Premier League triumph, the match-ups between the pair in recent times have failed to possess the same decisive influence.
And it isn’t like the Premier League suffers financially for the absence of an ‘El Clasico’. With Sky and BT Sport willing to spend such vast sums on television rights, the English top flight is the most lucrative division in the world, even without the one of the biggest spectacles on the footballing calendar.
In ‘El Clasico’, Spanish football boasts the most viewed club fixture in the world between two of the globe’s largest clubs. But English football is certainly better off without their own version of the match-up.