In a league of our own, as two are not enough

a league of our own


One of the more peculiar problems faced by countries throughout the developing world is called the “talent drain”. Both young and not so young people who have enjoyed higher education and/or are performing specialized jobs are increasingly lured abroad to countries where things like inflation, homicide rates or lack of asphalted roads don’t get in the way of one’s hopes and aspirations.

Off go the brightest and smartest: health care workers, engineers, economists, researchers, professors, journalists, businessmen, and so on ad nauseum. Some don’t even leave for a “better” job. That middle-aged Bangladeshi who delivers your groceries might very well have been a veterinarian back home, and the gentleman who answers your billing questions after your cell phone company shafted you used to be an editor at one of Mexico’s bigger newspapers.

And while the pursuit of happiness is an undeniable and fundamental human right, the countries that depend on these people to improve their suffering economies, inadequate infrastructure and miserable health care systems are left to do less with less.

In similar fashion Spain, which, crisis not withstanding, cannot in any shape or form be considered a developing country, has suffered a significant talent drain of its own over the last few years. If you are young, moderately to very talented, and desire to win big and shiny things and/or earn a lot of money by kicking round black and white objects into football nets, more often than not your best option for success is to leave Iberian shores and fulfill your dreams abroad.

The list of footballers who have abandoned La Liga over the last three years is nothing to scuff at. It includes (but is not limited to) men like, Juan Mata, David Silva, David De Gea, Michu, Radamel Falcao, Sergio Aguëro, Javi Martinez, Santi Cazorla, Joaquin Sanchez, Fernando Llorente, Gonzalo Higuain, Raúl Albiol, José Callejon, Jesús Navas, Álvaro Negredo, Iago Aspas, Marc Muniesa, Andrés Palop, Roberto Soldado and, last but not least, our very own Thiago de Alcántara. Then there are the ones who made the jump in previous seasons, like Fernando Torres, Pepe Reina and Mikel Arteta, or those who are simply on loan in foreign leagues, like Bojan Krkic, Isaac Cuenca and Gerard Deulofeu. The staggering amount of talent that has left the Spanish league could easily form a Champions League challenging squad. And probably another one to win the Europa League.

And it is not just about the players that don’t stay. It is also about the ones that don’t come. The biggest problem is that the Liga’s selling clubs cannot afford to reinvest the transfer fees in their squad, as they are forced to use significant sums of their earnings to service their debts, the total of which runs in the billions. Atlético Madrid sold Falcao for a reported sixty million euros (of which a large part went to the company who owned the rights on the player – food for another article altogether) and replaced him with a hopefully not over the hill David Villa for around two million. Of the hundred and thirty million Valencia have received for selling their crowd favorites year after year they have used about a fifth on replacements.

Of course, if you are very to extremely talented at kicking round black and white objects into football nets and would really like to hear the crowd yell ¡olé! while doing so, you might get offered another option altogether: a move to one of the two European powerhouses still standing on the block, Fútbol Club Barcelona or Real M*drid, institutions where big money and pretty shiny things are pretty much guaranteed. And when I say standing on the block I really mean towering over it and putting all the other little houses in the shade.

Without having the facts at hand (cough, no self-respecting writer does research anyway, cough) I would wager that most summers, together with RM, we outspend all the other teams in the league combined. And we don’t just take the cream of the foreign crop either. In the last three years, Barça relieved Valencia from David Villa and Jordi Alba. And in 2008 we bought Dani Alves and Seydou Keita from Sevilla, while later addding Adriano Correia. Our rivals put their great white hopes on Sergio Canales, before letting him rot in the stands, and went on a domestic shopping spree this summer in which they picked up Isco, who has a dog named Messi, and Illaremendi, whose beautiful name will bask in capital sunlight (see what I did there?).

Indeed, “ungrateful” canteranos aside, we and that other team sure think alike. We are drainers, not drainees, so to speak, always buying more of the exceptional, to the point that we have become two giant peas in an pod that is about to burst. It is true that we have always been bigger, richer and more handsome than the rest. Our stadiums and trophy cabinets can attest to that. It is the logical consequence of being the major teams of the two major cities in Spain. But at least we faced competition. We didn’t win leagues with 100 points. Our forwards did not break scoring records every single year. Draws did not feel like season-threatening defeats because of knowing that it could take months for the other team to drop a point or three. And third- placed teams did not lose the title challenge on the first jornada.

The last nine league championships were won by either the good guys (6) or the bad guys (3). Ain’t no other guy in the picture – maybe a dark horse or two, upon whom the light shined for a quick second before it got tired and bowed out of the race. We also won three Champions League titles during these nine years. To be completely honest, if we continue at this ratio, I don’t really care about the rest. Their mismanagement is not our problem and nor is it our fault.

Valencia built half a stadium and can’t sell the one it has. There are plenty of sponsorless shirts that refuse to contribute to the salaries of the players wearing them. Various clubs in the league are beyond the brink of bankruptcy. They would be better off with chimpansees on their director chairs. Why should we share more TV money with those morons? They’d squander their newfound riches faster than I can say dumbass.  Why don’t they find their own banks who never ask for their money back?

Besides, we have to compete with juggernauts like Bayern Munich, PSG, Chelsea, Manchester City and United. I believe Arsenal have set themselves up to be a force within five years, too. In addition, renegotiating the TV rights means that we lose financial ground vis-à-vis M*drid, because they receive more income from other sources than we do.

But also consider this. How great would it be if Valencia could have built around a core of Mata, Silva, Villa, Soldado, Rami, Matthieu and Jordi Alba? If Atletico added a star signing every summer instead of lose one? If Pellegrini had brought Navas and Jovetic to Málaga instead of Manchester? And that’s just the coolness factor. What we really should be asking ourselves is: “Where is the limit?”

Do we want to end up playing in a league where we win every game with three to four goals? Would that be fun on a weekly basis? Will the lack of competition finally bring down the quality of the top two teams, and will we suffer in Europe as a result? I know neither answer nor solution to the questions I ask. I suspect that a more equitable partition of TV-rights is inevitable, but I think that the problem runs deeper.

What I do know is the following. The talent drain is one characteristic of the Third World. Out of control debt is another. The hallmark, however, is the gaping gulf in wealth and opportunities between the haves and the have-nots. Just what that says about a league which only one of two teams will win again this season, I leave up to you.

Categorized as Barcelona

By Levon

Culé since way before football boots were of the neon yellow and lizard green variety, Levon is a deep thinker with increasingly shallow thoughts. He lives in Barcelona with his gorgeous wife and daughter. The lucky bastard...


  1. UK’s Mail Online and The Independent have both reported that David Luis has asked Chelsea for a move to Barcelona. But Chelsea wants north of £40m, which RoSell finds pretty too expensive (but didn’t, for a lesser priority, for a Europe-untested Neymar). There are also reports that Agger’s agents and Liverpool would give in to an offer north of £25m. And somewhere sits PSG’s Mamadou Sakho, who readily fits into our profile, and also makes for a cheaper alternative.

    Quote per, Javier Faus: “Money won’t be a problem in terms of making a signing.”

    If Javier Faus says Tata has got enough, enough monetary backing to make signings, I wonder what the exegesis is, for this disgusting tardiness.

    The major raison for the push for a defender (or two) is per the depth it savors.
    What happens if Pique and Masch get a lay-off, and Puyol continues his lovey-a-dovey with his shoulder, arm, and cheek-bone injuries, et c?

    We need a defender now, very.
    Tata is getting it all wrong if he thinks these present crop of defenders will make it through this first Season Half without picking up injuries (where International Friendlies and WCQs lie waiting). And thinking he will get some defensive reinforcements during the Winter Window is just preposterous, with a bearer that the Window is short, and that Clubs would be reluctant to let-go of their best defenders for the final lap of the season. There is also the UEFA Rules thingummy; where the defender had already played in a UEFA competition, which would mostly be the case.

    This is just farcical as it is pathetic.

    Oh, well. C’est la vie.

    1. i love reading your posts. your english is very good, and while there are certainly errors, you use words such as “exegesis” which almost no americans know or use. awesome.

    2. That’s right, as ooga aga said, I had to google “exegesis”! 😉
      Bravo, c’est du haut niveau!

  2. I struggle to accept the fact that we won’t sign a centreback considering that it was the only thing we were promised at the start of the season and after the Bayern defeats everyone in the footballing world knew we needed it.
    From the start of the summer I had said that we should be buying 2 centrebacks because of the situation of Puyol, the losing of Abidal and the seeming lack of trust in Bartra’s abilities. The fact that we now don’t look like we’ll even sign one is a joke without a punchline.

    You know, I’d be happy if we still had Martin Caceres in our squad but the lack of depth and quality in our defense is a disgrace.

    By contrast, Bayern Munich’s squad has the following centrebacks:
    Dante, Van Buyten, Boateng, Badstuber, Kirchhoff & Javi Martinez

  3. We should have paid for an expensive but quality CB last season. Now all the good guys are gone, we might have to spend 40 milion POUNDS to get David Luiz. What a bad joke. That’s just wasting money and if that’s the only option we have (we don’t seem to have a working scouting department), I’d rather we don’t buy anyone at all.

    Rosell and ZUbi should have signed Marquinhos early this summer but no, it had to be Thiago Silva or no one. Oh well. They got their wish.

    1. I have been saying from the begining, Chelse doesn’t have to and cannot sell David Luiz. Look at their other CB options, they can’t let him leave. I read it somewhere that Luiz is paid less than Cahill and all these rumours were done to get a better pay.

  4. Looks like we’ll just have to pray Bartra can deliver and that Puyol can stay out of the recovery room. On top of that we’ll have to make sure our players play like angels otherwise our new more aggressive style of pressing will certainly attract more yellows and inevitably more suspensions.

    1. His buyout clause is €30million by all accounts but remember that there is VAT on top of it so it’s significantly higher.
      As with Madrid’s purchase of Illarramendi or Bayern’s purchase of Thiago, you can pay more than the buyout clause in order for the seller to get more money and the buyer having to pay less.

      I don’t see us paying that kind of fee at this stage

  5. In terms of price,
    Sakho + Vertonghen = Luiz
    Mathieu + Rami = Vertonghen
    Like I’ve said before, it’s not like there’s a huge lack of options.
    There is just a huge lack of doing what’s necessary.

  6. So we have enough money to sign Neymar but not enough to spend on the defense? This is beyond pathetic now. It’s downright criminal to leave essentially the same team that was hammered 7-0 dependent on a 35 year old with cronic injuries.
    Villanova didn’t like Hummels (though in retrospect Rosell probably didn’t want to dish out the money). Too much time was wasted chasing T. Silva when everyone from his camp was saying the previous year would have been possible. Marquinhos? Nope. They can’t even sign Agger, not exactly a mover and shaker in the footballing world. David Luiz is simply being dangled to give fans hope.
    I think the administration doesn’t really want to spend money on defenders. They won’t make money selling jerseys that way, and the club might be a contender again in the CL, meaning they’d have to pay players bonuses. This cynical shorttermism will ruin his presidency.

    1. So we’re now suggesting that the club doesn’t want to succeed in the CL because it will cost them money ?

      I somehow doubt that…

    2. Then what? The defense has been in a terrible shape since the loss to Chelsea and nothing has been done. They spent $20m on Song, fot pete’s sake, rather than a proper defender.

    3. The loss to Chelsea wasn’t, in my opinion, any more than a failure to tighten up once we got our goal. I’d put it more down to Pep than the defence but maybe that’s just me.

      I think we have been very slow off the mark this summer as I do feel we need a defender – but not at any price and I’d rather one we can rely on for five/six years. They also have to have a rare skill set to play for us. However, the slowness may have been down to Tito insisting on TS for too long – I don’t know.

      I do know that now there is nothing I fancy on the table at a price I could stomach. I’m curious as to why Tata isn’t interested in Vergini. He must know him well so we need to go with that but from the little I’ve seen he is at least worth a gamble at the price which is virtually nothing.

      Lets look on the bright side. Maybe the docs are optimistic that Puyol has another decent season in him !

    4. Sorry, forgot a out your Song comment. For me, if he was bought as a CB the scout should be shot. If as a DM stand in I can see some logic but not at the price.

    5. And to be clearer, we lost the Chelsea tie because Messi tried to nutmeg an experienced defender and lost the ball, then our Gala XI couldn’t finish any of the 4-5 gilt-edged chances they had. That tie should have been over at the Bridge.

      Then at home, Messi missed a crucial penalty. The Torres goal came because the team was pressing all out for that decisive goal. That’s going to happen.

      On a macro level, now that I am 2/3rds of the way through last season’s re-watching, we rarely conceded goals that any CB in the world could have stopped. They were usually systemic breakdowns rooted in the riskier tactics that the club employed.

      The Malaysia goal was very typical, btw. Bust-out counter, defenders scrambling, and boom. Lots and lots of those goals last season.

      As for Song, the jury can’t be in on him after a single season with the club. Not with our system. Look at Henry after his first season, compared to his second, by way of example. To my view, the club doesn’t “need a proper defender.” It has them, and they couldn’t stop leaking goals because the system was flawed, rather than the parts of the system.

      The club needs depth at CB, which it presently doesn’t have. And I would rather sign no CB than the wrong CB.

    6. Nothing to do with Messi losing the ball and everything to do with Masch dashing out of the middle of a three man defence to chase Lampard who had his back to goal half way to the middle of the pitch, missed the tackle badly and the rest is history.

    7. See, I’m a “garbage in, garbage out” kinda guy. Wait, are we talking about the same goal, the first one at Stamford Bridge?

    8. Thiago silva wouldn’t have came to barca anyway last season, Milan wanted to get rid of ibra and his hefty salary, And PSG offered to buy him along TS (their main target), So it wouldn’t have mattered even if we offered 45 or even 50m euros for silva, Milan would’ve still declined our offer and accepted PSG.
      The problem relies in inadequate options provided by our sporting director, Who are either old and unconvincing (aggar), Or ridiculously expensive and simply not worth it (Luiz).

    1. And the first time he fluffs a chance for us, people will be saying that we should have sold him last season.

      He really is a different player this season. Let’s hope the trend keeps up. Whatever sparked his confidence burst (I suspect it was the Messi injury) is a good thing.

    2. The problem as I see it, Kevin, is that Sanchez has had two years of fluffed chances. So he’s not a striker. Awesome. Great. Terrific. Does he provide assits at least? Sure, but still only two more assists than Pedro in the league last year.
      Sanchez does not convice me, and it will take a hell of a good season to wash away the disappointments of the previous years.

    3. The problem as I see it is one of inflated expectations for a player who isn’t what people want him to be. If you give Sanchez and Eto’o the exact same pass at the exact same spot, two very different things will happen:

      — Eto’o will smoke it past the keeper, not even looking at a teammate. What’s the point of that, right?

      — Sanchez will take the pass, look for Messi, then look for another teammate making the run, THEN think “Hmmm, maybe I should shoot.” By then a defender is there, or he’s tentative and leaning back when he takes the shot, then who the hell knows where the ball is going to go.

      As for “two years of fluffed chances,” he has only been with the club for two seasons. His first year he had 15 goals and 5 assists. Last year he had 11 goals/11 assists.

      So in the Pedro comparison, he had more goals and only one fewer assist his first season with the club, more goals AND more assists, his second season with the club.

      It’s why I say people aren’t treating Sanchez fairly. “Two years of fluffed chances,” my eye. Put another way, I beg to disagree with a contention that isn’t supported by reality.

      Iniesta misses chances, and people say “Oh! But Iniesta isn’t a goal scorer,” and he is forgiven. Nobody ever says “Iniesta can’t finish.” Why? Because Iniesta creates chances for other players, and has the same problems when confronted with a goal scoring chance that Sanchez does. It isn’t a natural act as it is for players such as Messi, Pedro or Eto’o.

    4. Iniesta has scored two of the most important goals ever in the history of FCB and Spain. That means he receives a lot of credit when he does miss other chances. Sanchez has no credit because when we need him the most he’s likely to have a stinker. When the the league has been won, oh yes, Sanchez is the great player we all want him to be. It’s before that he disappears.

    5. It’s genuinely good to see him looking a bit more confident and nothing does that more than scoring goals. I’ve not seen much of the preseason games so comment would be misguided but I would say that like the rest of the team he will be judged once the serious stuff starts not against the sort of opposition we have been facing.

    6. @86ed
      2 years of fluffed chances?, Now you’re just exaggerating.
      He was great in his first season with us even though he spent a large portion of it injured, And still managed to bang 15 goals, The HIGHEST figure in his entire career, He sank in the 1st part of last season but picked it in the 2nd half and he seems to have maintained it.
      So ultimately he sucked for half a season with us.

    7. With that last response in mind, I have to bow out. Sanchez is, like Henry and Ibrahimovic, going to be tarred by some no matter what he does, it seems. And that’s unfortunate.

    8. Sanchez did score that memorable equalising goal against madrid in his first season. Sanchez showed a lot of potential while at Udinese, he showed glimpses that he could dribble, shoot and make assists (not just 1 of the 3). I think what let him down was that there was a slow improvement over time while at Barca. But ever since Messi’s injury hes been on the up and it hasn’t stopped.

  7. Now, actually, I wouldn’t cackle over any assist or goal scored by any Barca forward, since we’ve not signed a defender.
    Something isn’t just right.

    Hippie-ish? *sigh*

  8. Just watching Scotland losing to England. Rooney awful but playing whole game so trouble for Moyes in explaining this away. Also, anyone doubting the wisdom of the British obsession with marking posts wants to have a look at England’s third goal.

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