Spain looks to Real Madrid and Atletico to halt La Liga decline
“Sign him up Florentino,” Real Madrid’s fans wrote on Twitter before Zinedine Zidane was asked if he sent a message to the club’s president Florentino Perez.
Kylian Mbappe had just destroyed Barcelona at Camp Nou and 24 hours later Erling Haaland did the same to Sevilla at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan.
By the time Real Sociedad trailed 4-0 on Thursday evening to Manchester United, the feeling in Spain became clear: La Liga was in freefall.
Later that night, Granada beat Napoli and Villarreal saw off Salzburg in a competition it should be remembered that was only six months ago won by Sevilla, for the fourth time in seven years.
In fact, a Spanish team has won the Europa League seven times out of the last 11.
Three of those titles belong to Atletico Madrid, who take on Chelsea in the Champions League on Tuesday, after knocking out the English champions Liverpool last season.
Real Madrid face Atalanta, hoping to prevent a third year without winning the tournament, after winning all of the previous three.
“Spanish teams are still strong, it’s just a moment,” said Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman last week. “You can’t draw conclusions.”
If there is a need for perspective – that the speed of the fall is in part due to the heights previously reached – Spain’s dominance in Europe has also been receding for some time.
It perhaps began when Barcelona lost to Roma in 2018, continued with the departures of Neymar and Cristiano Ronaldo, before becoming entrenched, as financial impotence has prevented a revival.
Certainly for Barcelona and Real Madrid, hesitation in refreshing their squads has been punished to the full, the coronavirus pandemic enforcing a year without spending when they arguably needed to spend most…..read more