La Liga vs Premier League - Who is coming out on top this summer?

Ronaldo Penalty

Liverpool and Tottenham stars are both wanted by Real Madrid this summer, can they resist? Spurs and Manchester City have both made top additions from La Liga in Soldado and Negredo, and Manchester United want to bring back their former superstar. So what does it all mean?

This summer’s transfer window has thrown up a pattern that has been trending for the last decade – the most gifted players in the Premier League have been summoned by the giants of Europe in Spain.

Last term’s PFA Player of the Year and Young Player of the Year is the most wanted man on the continent this summer as Real Madrid use the full weight of their resources to lure the Welshman to the Spanish capital.

Liverpool’s Luis Suarez, despite clear interest registered from Arsenal, seems to be hankering after a move to the Bernabeu whilst last summer Tottenham’s Luka Modric was taken from the North Londoner’s like candy from a baby.

Meanwhile, in Catalonia, Barcelona have bought up the best of Arsenal’s midfield for the past two summers running – Alex Song in 2012 and former Gunners’ captain Cesc Fabregas in 2011.

In 2010 Chelsea’s Ricardo Carvalho reunited with former Blues’ boss Jose Mourinho at the Bernabeu and in 2009, there was of course the finest footballer to grace the stage at the theater of dreams in the last decade.

Cristiano Ronaldo’s transfer from Manchester United to Real Madrid remains a world record fee whilst the Los Blancos also snatched Xabi Alonso from Liverpool and brought back to his native Spain after five years at Anfield.

Back a little further and Arsenal’s stars were flocking to La Liga – the Gunners’ all time top goal scorer Thierry Henry swapped Highbury for the Camp Nou back in 2007 and Alexander Hleb followed in his footsteps in 2008.

In 2006, Eidur Gudjonson joined Barcelona from Chelsea and in 2004, Michael Owen joined David Beckham at Real Madrid after the former England captain had been ousted from Manchester United in 2003.

Back to the turn of the millennium, there was Arsenal’s Marc Overmars and in Emmanuel Petit to Barcelona in 2000 and Liverpool’s Steve McManaman joined Real Madrid in 1999. Back even further, there was England legend Gary Lineker who joined Barcelona from Everton in 1986.

Player’s move between clubs and leagues and one might argue the opposite – that the Premier League takes full advantage of the prospects on show in Spain.

This summer Jesus Navas and Alvaro Negredo have joined Manchester City and Iago Aspas and Luis Alberto have joined Liverpool whilst Tottenham await the imminent signing of Roberto Soldado and last summer there was Michu who was Swansea’s top scorer. In summer’s passed there was Juan Mata, David Silva, Sergio Ageuro, and Santi Cazorla but they all came from Spanish teams that don’t compete for the title in Spain.

Almost invariably the Premier League’s imports from La Liga are from clubs not considered title contenders – the above transferred this summer from Sevilla, Celta, Sevilla and Valencia, respectively, where the top teams in La Liga, Barcelona and Real Madrid have tended to pinch players from England’s top teams – Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool, predominantly and, crucially, oftentimes at the peak of their careers.

If Gareth Bale leaves White Hart Lane for Spain this summer (or next, even) and Luis Suarez makes the same trip their transfers will represent a clear pattern of the best the Premier League stars preferring to play in the Spanish top tier which is still regarded as probably the best league in world football.

It’s also important to note that very few of this summer’s most coveted players have selected the Premier League as their destination of choice. Radamel Falcao, Neymar, Isco, and James Roderiguez all opted for Spain or for France and the Bundesliga has emerged as the most effective talent production facility there is.

Looking at last season’s top four, not one ‘big name’ superstar player or even one member of a regular starting XI has come from Real Madrid or Barcelona to a Premier League club other than Yaya Toure who is the only notable exception.

I think it’s safe to conclude that the Premier League has indeed become something of a ‘feeder’ league for Real Madrid and Barcelona, not La Liga in general – especially when you consider the youngsters that have been farmed out here only to return – Cesc Fabregas and Gerard Pique are the most obvious.

image: © Jan S0L0

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