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Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atlético Overrun Small Clubs in Spain

The race for the Spanish league title went down to the wire for Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atlético Madrid. For the other clubs, it never even began.


The majority of Spanish clubs started the season with no realistic expectations of winning the championship, already knowing that it would be one of the two powerhouses, or surging Atlético, lifting the trophy when it was all over.

Barcelona was the one celebrating last week after clinching its second consecutive title, and its sixth in eight seasons. Madrid was second and Atlético third.Photo
Antoine Griezmann and Atlético Madrid finished third in the league. The fourth-place team, Villarreal, finished 24 points behind Atlético. CreditSusana Vera/Reuters
The rest of the teams were not even close.
Year in and year out, most Spanish teams begin the season fighting either to avoid relegation or, at the most, to earn a spot in European competition. Fourth place usually feels like a title because it guarantees participation in the Champions League.

“It’s not feasible to try to compete with the top teams in the league,” Alex Aranzabal, president of a small club, Eibar, said in a statement. “The financial gap is too big. Our goal isn’t to challenge the top teams. We just want to try to remain in the first division and compete as best as we can in every match, including against Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atlético. But we know we are at a disadvantage.”

Barcelona and Real Madrid have won 27 of the last 32 league titles, including 11 of the last 12. Atlético lifted the trophy twice in that three-decade span, most recently in 2014. Valencia won it in 2002 and 2004, and Deportivo La Coruña was the outsider in 2000.

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The difference between the top teams and the rest of the league is clear when looking at the standings the last few years. The average gap between the champion and the fourth-place team in the last four seasons has been nearly 25 points. Villarreal was fourth in 2016, finishing 24 points behind third-place Atlético and 27 behind Barcelona, the champion.

The disparity is also seen on some of the score lines this past season. Barcelona scored six or more goals in five matches, including an 8-0 rout at Deportivo La Coruña. Real Madrid netted at least six goals in four games, including a 10-2 thrashing of Rayo Vallecano and a 7-1 trouncing of Celta Vigo.

“It’s very easy to be a fan of Real Madrid or Atlético, but not so much of a team like Getafe,” said Esteban Rivero, 43, a supporter of the relegated club from suburban Madrid, shortly after watching his team lose, 5-1, to Real Madrid last month. “Fans who come here at this stadium to support Getafe deserve a lot of credit. They could just choose the top Madrid clubs, but they stick to Getafe as their first team even though they know that it will likely finish 60 points behind the champion.”Photo
Álvaro Arbeloa and Real Madrid finished in second in the league. CreditPaul White/Associated Press
Second-to-last place this season, Getafe finished 55 points behind Barcelona. Last-place Levante was 59 points off the lead.

“The top teams play for the title, and most of the others just try to survive; it’s how it is,” Hugo Montalt, 10, said while watching one of Levante’s games this season as the team tried to avoid demotion.

The Spanish league has been working to help the smaller teams improve financially and become more competitive, in ways including bolstering their revenue from television contracts. Barcelona and Real Madrid earned nearly $158 million in television rights this season, twice as much as Atlético and at least four times as much as the smaller clubs. This difference is expected to decrease gradually over the next few years.

“It’s true that if we had a little more competitiveness, it would be easier to sell our brand, but it’s not an essential element for the league’s success,” said the Spanish league president, Javier Tebas. “We already have two very strong brands, now three, and we want these brands to remain strong, but we also want to develop other brands and to help the league’s own brand become more of a reference.”
Source: www.nytimes.com
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