La Liga vs. Premier League: Top-5 Differences

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Leicester City winning the Premier League title raised an eternal debate about English top-flight being the best football league in the world due to its unpredictability. On the other hand, Barcelona claimed the Spanish La Liga crown for the sixth time in the last eight seasons, drawing calls of boring repetition. But which of the two is better: the Premier League or La Liga? Here are the top-five differences that may settle the debate once and for all.

Competitiveness

The strength of a domestic division is often judged by the overall quality of the teams involved in that league. Leagues with more sides capable of challenging at the top rank higher than the one with low competition for the top slot. Premier League clearly trumps La Liga in this regard.

In Primera Division, Barcelona and Real Madrid have dominated the division by winning 12 of the available 16 titles post millennium. Atletico Madrid are the only side since 2004 to break the monopoly of the two rivals which shows that there exists a huge performance gap between top-three and the rest of the teams. The story is no different in the 2015/16 season either with Barcelona and Real winning 29 and 28 games respectively, compared to the 18 games won by fourth-placed Villarreal.

The English top flight presents an entirely different story where top-two sides were different in six of the last eight seasons. The top-three have also changed every season for the last decade. Such a high level of competitiveness at the top showcases just how many top teams are fighting for glory in England.

Players

The strength of a league also depends on the quality of talents in that division, and the Spanish La Liga undoubtedly boasts the best players in the world. Barcelona have Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, and Neymar who are amongst the top-five players in the world. Real Madrid have Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale, who are perhaps the two remaining players in the top-five, and it sums up how good is the level of the players in Primera Division.

In the EPL, the standout star is Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero, who would be regarded as the ‘best of the rest’ in Europe.  After the Argentina international, Arsenal’s Alexis Sanchez, Chelsea’s Eden Hazard and Manchester City’s Kevin de Bruyne would certainly make a top-20, but the Premier League’s best talents don’t come close to that of La Liga’s.

Managers

The Premier League boasts a real variety of top coaches, ranging from different ages and nationalities, and arguably pips La Liga as a result. Claudio Ranieri (Leicester City), Arsene Wenger (Arsenal), Mauricio Pochettino (Tottenham Hotspur), Manuel Pellegrini and Louis van Gaal (Man Utd) make up this season’s top-five alone without even mentioning Ronald Koeman (Southampton), Slaven Bilic (West Ham Utd) and Jurgen Klopp (Liverpool).

La Liga have Luis Enrique (Barcelona) and Diego Simeone (Atletico Madrid) as standout bosses while the likes of Zinedine Zidane (Real Madrid) is still unproven at the top level over the long-term. La Liga has a lot of managers from the country, but less prestigious clubs fail to attract the biggest names like the Premier League clubs does. The likes of Jose Mourinho could be the next man returning to England, which further highlights the pull in the country.

Playing Style

The playing style in the two divisions couldn’t be more different. The Spanish La Liga is easier on the eye, but the Premier League is perhaps more practical. La Liga encourages free-flowing entertaining and attacking football where players take risks in possession, while the Premier League is more physical, pays more attention to the tactical shape and the threat of their opposition.

In La Liga, players are much more svelte due to the lack of physical challenges – for instance, Sergio Busquets and Andres Iniesta for Barcelona – while Premier League stars are very strong as strength remains vital in England. Technical play and individual ability still are important in Spain even though it leads to sides being defensively weak (with nine clubs conceding more than 55 goals), while in England players are much fitter and robust with higher combative attributes (with only five clubs conceding over 55 goals).

Finances

Indeed, the biggest difference between the two divisions is the TV money. Premier League clubs will receive a minimum of 55 million pounds of next season while gaining an extra £1.2M per final position in the league. Champions Leicester will earn an added £25M for winning the title and an additional £13M (facility fee) for having 15 live matches this season. The money has certainly boosted the lower league sides as well as the league giants while La Liga hasn’t benefitted in the same manner. Barcelona and Real Madrid remain the biggest draw in Spain and therefore they are in a position to negotiate their own deals per season. But the 2016-17 season will see a change in style as a new distribution was introduced.

Before the new distribution, Barca and Real would take 50% of the La Liga TV money (£2.7Bn), but now the lower clubs will get a fairer return. As for club brands, Real Madrid are the richest in the world (worth £2.5Bn approx.), while Barcelona are second with £2.4Bn. The two giants remain the biggest clubs in the world, trumping the Premier League’s most prestigious; Manchester United (£2.3Bn), Arsenal (£1.4Bn) and Manchester City (£1.33Bn). It’s clear that La Liga are much more reliant on their two top sides, but the Premier League have many more elite clubs capable of disrupting the status quo.

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