Liga: Has Atletico Madrid taken control of Real Madrid and Barcelona?
A second-half winner from Luis Suarez – who else? – won the Atletico Madrid title on a dramatic final day that saw Diego Simeone’s men finish two points above rivals Real Madrid.
Saturday’s 2-1 win over relegated Real Valladolid confirmed a deserved triumph for Atletico, with the Rojiblancos leading the league most of the season and surviving a spring swing scoring 13 points on the last 15.
And with their second league crown under Simeone at a time when both traditional greats Real and Barcelona are in financial crisis, it is questionable whether the balance of power in Spanish football has taken a decisive turn.
Sustained success under Simeone
With eight trophies won in the decade since Simeone’s arrival, this is the most consistently successful period in Atletico history.
The Rojiblancos have finished third or higher in La Liga for nine consecutive seasons, never having done so for more than three consecutive years, and have also reached two Champions League finals.
Over the past four seasons, they’ve averaged almost the same number of points (77.8 per season) as Real (78.8), and Saturday’s title triumph makes it clear that the gap between the two greats and their closest challengers is nowhere near as big as he is. has been before.
In addition to Simeone’s exceptional training, Atletico achieved their status by spending more money than ever – in particular with the capture of the Portuguese starlet Joao Felix for 126 million euros – which saw its debt approaching £ 1 billion.
The traditional powers, however, have spent even more time in a financial black hole in their desperate attempts to not only hold back Atletico, but also to keep pace with the new state-backed oil elite of Manchester City and Paris. Saint Germain.
This explains Real and Barca’s desperation to form the aborted European Super League in the hope of strengthening their finances and restoring what they see as their rightful position. But with those plans in disarray and Atletico now celebrating their second La Liga in seven years, a very difficult time is ahead for the two greats.
Messi and Koeman headlining Barca’s summer strangers
Barca’s lowest result since 2008 comes at a traumatic time, with the club in debt of more than £ 1.1bn and requiring an emergency loan of £ 100m this week to cover unpaid wages players.
Recently re-elected club president Joan Laporta has already publicly announced the ‘end of a cycle’ as local media report virtually all players are for sale if the price is right, while coach Ronald Koeman is expected be dismissed despite the stabilization of the team. this season.
Club legend Xavi has been linked to the post on several occasions, but speculation surrounding his recruiting has recently cooled, as outgoing Bayern Munich boss Hansi Flick reportedly rejected an approach by Laporta in favor of the national team. German.
Whoever Barca’s new coach will inherit a squad rebuilt through free transfers – Manchester City’s Eric Garcia and Sergio Aguero, Liverpool midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum and Lyon striker Memphis Depay are all in. their line of sight.
Above all else, of course, is the question of whether skipper Lionel Messi will be ready to go through the ongoing transition process or reject a new contract and go.
Like everything else at Camp Nou, there is enormous uncertainty about Messi’s status at the club, and for now, it’s hard to envision Barca returning to their former glory anytime soon.
A summer of transition for Real?
The situation of Real Madrid is not as desperate as that of Barça… but it is not far.
With debts approaching £ 1billion and club chairman Florentino Perez openly scrambling to create a new European league, the fallen champions are also entering a major transition period on the pitch.
Rumors are rife that manager Zinedine Zidane will leave this summer while iconic skipper Sergio Ramos could also be on his way after having so far failed to agree on the terms of a new contract.
With key players Karim Benzema and Luka Modric well into their 30s, signing big under Eden Hazard struggling to stay in shape for more than a fortnight and none of the squad’s many wingers scoring regularly, it’s difficult to predict how Real could line up next season.
Young local players Miguel, Gutierrez, Antonio Blanco and Marvin Park have all impressed in recent weeks, and Zidane’s successor – who could be the iconic former striker and current B-team coach Raul – should turn their backs on more and more towards young people.
Barring a sudden and unexpected funding injection, it’s certainly hard to see how Real or Barca could compete for a showcase signing like Erling Braut Haaland or Kylian Mbappe – they just can’t afford it.
This is all playing out perfectly for the new champions Atletico, whose behind-the-scenes team and infrastructure seem much more stable and sustainable.
So when the next season kicks off in August, perhaps – for the first time in living memory – Atletico could even be considered the title favorites.