My friend John, the greengrocer in my neighborhood, is one of those who believe that the European Union will lose much more than the United Kingdom with Brexit. And he explains very seriously that Spanish agriculture lives off its British exports. In reality, it is the other way around: it is the United Kingdom that risks losing its main supplier of vegetables (31% of total imports) and fruit (19%). The exposure of Spain is much lower because its main export market is not the British (14%), but Germany (28%) and France (19%).
John’s problem is analyzing Brexit based on what happens in his store, which distorts reality. The same thing happens with football. The English are convinced that the Premier is the best league in the world and sweeps the League on all fronts because they only see their own. And two things are certain: the Premier is the most popular football league in the world, the one that moves the most money, although that is not because its football is superior on the grass, but because it is much more attractive in the stands ( and without gimmicks like gruesome entertainment stands), the business is better built and benefiting from the UK’s immense global media influence.
The other certainty is that the League is in a crisis of results (that is why the Premier reached it a few days ago in the UEFA coefficient) and that the catastrophic economic effects of the covid-19 in Spain do not invite optimism. Perhaps that is why it is a good time to draw on the figures to dismantle the thesis of the Premier’s historical superiority and realize that, in reality, the League has been devouring, literally devouring, the Premier for more than 25 years.
Between 1999 and 2020, the League has led the UEFA coefficient for 17 years, compared to five for the Premier (2008-2012). This superiority is even greater if we examine who has led the European club coefficient year after year since the creation of the Premier: 15 times Real Madrid, four times Barcelona, one Chelsea (2008) and one Manchester United (2011). Madrid and Barça put La Liga ahead in the number of Champions League wins since 1992 (12 to 5). That seems to reinforce the thesis that in reality the League is a race of two horses that pales before the splendor of the competition that exists in the Premier. That may be true when deciding the champion in Spain (although with the permission of Atlético de Madrid and with many, many nuances), but it is flatly false in Europe.
For example, the League has won the Europa League 10 times since its creation in 1998, compared to the Premier four times; thanks to Sevilla (6) but also to Atlético (3) and Valencia. Another example: although Madrid and Barça monopolize the Spanish triumphs in the Champions League, we must not forget that Atlético have lost two finals (both against Madrid: in one they won until minute 93 and in the other they lost on penalties) and Valencia others two (Madrid and Bayern). In total, eight teams from the League have played European finals (and five of them have won) against six from the Premier (with three champions and three runners-up).
Are there any doubts? Let’s go through them hand in hand. Liga and Premier have played eight finals against each other. Of the four finals in the Europa League, the Premier have won one (Liverpool against Alavés, 5-4, in 2001) and League three: Sevilla-Middlesborough, Atlético-Fulham and Sevilla-Liverpool. In the Champions League, the balance is 4-0: Barça-United (two), Barça-Arsenal and Madrid-Liverpool. Balance in eight finals, 7-1 for LaLiga, with 24 goals in favor and 9 against.
The future can be of the Premier, we will see. But the past is overwhelmingly of the League. It must have been for something.