In six of the last nine Champions League finals, a Spanish team has won.
Indeed, since 2001, the only times in which a La Liga team has lost in a Champions League final was when Atletico Madrid lost to the team who will be Liverpool’s opponents later this month, Real. On both those occasions, a Spanish team had to lose.
And when Inter Milan beat Bayern Munich in 2010, or when Chelsea beat the German giants in 2012, both times Barcelona had been sensationally ousted from the competition at the semi-final stage by teams who would go on to win the competition.
That’s the scale of the dominance Spain has over Europe: when their teams don’t win the Champions League, everyone seems to agree the best team didn’t win.
But that could be about to change.
Liverpool are the team tasked with stopping Real Madrid from becoming the first side to win the competition three times in a row since Bayern Munich in the 1970s. But stopping this Real Madrid side looks like it is shorthand for stopping Spanish dominance in Europe.
Liverpool may have already done that.
A period of English resurgence was foretold after the Premier League’s recent media rights riches made their clubs much wealthier than their European counterparts. Leicester City, West Ham, Southampton and Everton all made the top 20 of the 2018 Deloitte Money List.
In that research, 14 of the top 30 richest clubs are English, and the biggest number of clubs any other league can boast in the list is five, from Serie A. They have the money, the players, and the coaches to make a serious impact.
And yet, so far that hasn’t happened. Despite Liverpool making the final, only Manchester City joined them in the quarter final stage, as the others had all been knocked out before then.
But the final Liverpool eventually made won’t just be a shootout between Madrid and Liverpool, Spain and England – it will also, on some level, probably decide the Ballon d’Or, too.
Mohamed Salah is picking up awards left, right and centre, but if Madrid win the Champions League again it will surely be Cristiano Ronaldo who bags another golden ball. But if Salah is in the final three – and especially if he wins – he’ll have proven something which could change how we view football over the next few years: that you don’t have to be at Real Madrid or Barcelona to land a Ballon d’Or.
Up until Neymar left Barcelona for PSG, it appeared that way, and the pair’s dominance over the top continental competition seemed to solidify that belief. But if Salah can do it from a team who finished fourth in the Premier League last season and scraping qualification into the play-off stage of this year’s Champions League then that fact alone surely proves the cracks in the dominance of the El Clasico clubs are ready to burst open.