Who can stop Spain’s top two? Real Madrid and Barcelona are the Iberian versions of Celtic and Rangers. Just a hell of a lot better with tons more money.
As Europe’s top leagues are preparing for the beginning of their domestic campaigns in recent weeks, with the Premier League kicking off in just three days time, that is the question on everyone’s lips. No duo on Earth comes near the Spanish pair in terms of dominating the game at club level. And this summer’s transfer activity ensures that the Iberian nation remain the pinnacle of the world’s game.
It can be argued in recent seasons that the Premier League has proved to be the strongest when competing for Europe’s top prize, the UEFA Champions League trophy. Including Liverpool’s memorable win over AC Milan in 2005, seven finals have elapsed. Seven English outfits have competed in them, including an all-English affair in 2008 between Manchester United and Chelsea. The 2008 season also proved to be England’s greatest in the tournament with Sir Alex Ferguson’s side in the semi-finals along with two other English opponents’, Liverpool and Chelsea. However they have only emerged victorious in two of those finals. Their glaringly poor success rate on the continent is due to some sporadic Italian dominance in 2007 and 2010 in the form of AC Milan and Inter Milan respectively. However competing in three of the last six finals, winning on each occasion, has been Barcelona. And each time they win the trophy, they look more and more unbeatable.
Beating Arsenal 2-1 in 2006, Manchester United 2-0 in 2009 and the English champions once more last May by 3-1 has seen the Camp Nou dwellers add three more Champions League trophies to their overall haul of four. Their dominant display earlier this year in which they brushed aside England’s best team on offer portrayed the gulf in class between the two sides just as much as the one-sided 2009 encounter. However to get to last season’s final, Barcelona had to negotiate past Jose Mourinho’s Real Madrid. The second coming of the Galacticos, managed by one of the greatest coaches of modern football in his maiden season at the club, were a fractionally lesser side than their fierce rivals in the semi-final. The tie was evenly poised until Pepe’s sending off in the first leg. That decision tipped the game in Barcelona’s favour as they triumphed 2-0 on the night thanks to a brilliant brace from Lionel Messi. The return leg seemed impossible for Los Blancos to turn around but by drawing 1-1 at Camp Nou, they showed they are totally capable matching their El Clasico enemies as long as it’s 11 vs. 11, which Mourinho gleefully pointed out to the world’s media after his side’s elimination.
But Real Madrid have wasted no time in trying to gain the upper hand on Barcelona as their purchases of Nuri Sahin, Fabio Coentrao and Raphael Varane signal Los Merengues intentions for the coming season. Likewise the European champions have sought to consolidate their position as the continent’s top side by ruthlessly hoovering up world class talent such as Alexis Sanchez and they have now focused their attentions on finally bringing home Arsenal’s Cesc Fabregas. Meanwhile England are destined to be feeding off the scraps of Spain’s top two’s unwanted. Manchester United have bought Phil Jones, Ashley Young and David de Gea as they struggle to attract the services of Wesley Sneijder. Although the trio will prove shrewd buys, they are not the type of players which will turn them into Europe’s elite club. Arsenal are content on buying youngster with potential, Manchester City are hell bent on buying the best of whatever Barca or Madrid don’t want or can’t afford and Chelsea are having to be content with signings of potential in a similar vein to United. Romelu Lukaku, although a prodigious talent, will not mature for several years and by that time, who is to say that he will not express a desire to move to Spain then? In addition, Chelsea feed off Barcelona’s leftover’s from the academy as they signed Oriel Romeu from the Catalonians recently. As the cream of the world’s footballing talent flock to the Primera Division, it’s looking increasingly unlikely that any side on the continent can disturb the Real Madrid-Barcelona dominance in the near future.
The rest of Europe has been forced to look on ominously during the summer months. Italy’s best talents have been raided, Germany’s next generation of midfield magicians have been plundered from their homeland and there isn’t a thing anyone can do about it. While German and Italian clubs are still very much in the doldrums and after a brief renaissance period among English clubs, the Spaniards have asserted themselves as the Kings of Europe. And nobody can dispute that title as Barcelona and Real Madrid get ready to fight until the end for all honours, both at home and abroad.