La Liga’s myopic marketing strategies aside, the question still lingers:
What’s going to happen when those two depart? The truth is that the repercussions will be felt both on the field and off.
A return to the norm
La Liga is much maligned for it’s apparent “lack of competition.” Madrid and Barca usually romp to a bevy of 5-0 victories over the course of the season and inevitably finish at least 10-20 points clear of their nearest competitors. Still, I’m often befuddled by those who deride La Liga for that while ignoring the obvious: Ronaldo and Messi have taken any gap that may have previously existed between Real, Barca and the rest of the league and complexly exacerbated it to ghastly levels. It should be no surprise that the competition has been skewed in the era where the two players who are going to go down as the most prolific scorers in history have competed.
Madrid and Barcelona have always been home to some of the greatest talents in the sport, from the artistry of Zinedine Zidane and Ronaldinho’s spellbinding mastery of the ball, to the likes of Raul, (the original) Ronaldo, Figo, Rivaldo et al. Real Madrid and Barcelona have hoarded some of the world’s greatest talents like playing cards.
Yet throughout all of these instances, both Madrid and Barca endured hardships in the league. True, today these teams are stacked beyond belief with a couple world class players at each position – a far cry from the days when Real Madrid trotted out a Fransico Pavon and a past it Ivan Helguera as a central defensive partnership. But ignoring the outsized impact of Messi and Ronaldo would a travesty.
Consider Barcelona’s and Real Madrid’s goal tallies in the five years before Messi and Ronaldo and after.
The attacking furor of these two massive clubs has reached unprecedented heights in the past six seasons. In fact, Madrid, a club that had previously never scored 100 goals in La Liga throughout their illustrious history, has now completed the feat each of the last six seasons.
And if it’s down to “La Liga competition,” why hasn’t anyone else been able to replicate these feats? There’s this erroneous truism bandied about by armchair analysts that La Liga is some sort of goal bonanza where any striker with a sliver of scoring acumen can bang them in at will. But if you remove both Messi and Ronaldo from the league, the remaining top scorers look, decidedly … normal.