The Premier League has begun, and I’m not sure which sentiment it provokes more in Spain: admiration, intimidation, jealousy… the debate over which is the best league, LaLiga or the Premier League, rages constantly. Looking at the Fifa club ranking there is no doubt: Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atlético occupy the top three places. Sevilla are sixth. The Premier League has only representative in the top 10, Manchester City, who are ninth. Arsenal are 12th, Chelsea are 13th and Manchester United 16th. There is little debate in that sense at least. But we know that the Premier League has the largest global audience and their income from television revenue almost doubles ours. It is a constant threat.
We look towards Pep Guardiola and José Mourinho, for example, and their duel in Manchester, now entering its second year. In his first season Guardiola spent 213 million euros and recovered 35 million in sales. This summer he has spent 240 million and sold players worth 79 million. That is a net spend of 339 million in two years. In Mourinho’s case the balance is 200 million and 47 million, plus 164 million and eight million – a net spend of 307 million. It is curious that they claim poverty when talking about Real Madrid. This level of spending is, as Guardiola has stated, unsustainable. In general, the entire Premier League has an enviable purchasing power. LaLiga is able to attract players because of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, but the day that they are no longer at Madrid and Barça those clubs will struggle to sign the best.
And the Premier League has some admirable footnotes. This season a new regulation punishing players retroactively with a two-game ban for blatant diving has been put in place. It has been a long time since the English top flight was populated by British players. There are now a huge number of imports (Spain, with 33 players, is the biggest foreign market) but traditional respect for fair play remains intact. Every Spanish referee can only envy the way his Premier League counterparts are viewed and treated, by players, the press and the fans. And there’s more. They love their Premier League so much that the siren calls of the European Super League project – incubated within the International Champions Cup – consistently fall on deaf ears, which is not an advantage for LaLiga.