One of the more incredible things at the FIFA awards gala was the team of the year, with 11 players from the Spanish La Liga, only one of them not from Real Madrid and Barcelona.
Yes, it’s turned into that kind of world. The two Spanish powers create so much interest and take so much of the words written on paper and on screen; so much of the air time when football’s being discussed, and not just in Spain, that it’s almost impossible to see beyond the forest of superstars these two teams posses, not to mention the Spanish national team stealing the show once every two years, based on these two clubs, by winning the Euro or the World Cup three times in a row.
Radamel Falcao of Atletico Madrid was the only player not from one of the two giants to make the team, squeezed in the forwards section between Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. And what about some players like Giorgio Chiellini of Juventus, arguably the best centre back in the world last season? Someone from Dortmund? Robin van Persie? Andrea Pirlo? There are other names deserving consideration, but the award, voted for by footballers across the world, is blinded by the shining lights of two teams, who make it look like the league is a tad better than it really is.
Since the FIFPro began in 2005, there has never been a player from a league that’s not the La Liga, the English Premier League and Italian Serie A. Last year was rather similar, with Real Madrid and Barcelona sending 10 players again, while Wayne Rooney got to represent Manchester United and the English Premier League.
In the past few years, the dominance of the English teams over the Champions League (despite Chelsea winning last season) has weakened, and so has their purchasing power when compared to the two biggest teams in the continent. Just look at who Real Madrid have purchased – Cristiano Ronaldo and Xabi Alonso, while Barcelona have signed Cesc Fabregas and even Alex Song from Arsenal. The best in the world all want to play for these two teams, so sometimes it’s no wonder they send out most or all of the representatives to the world’s best XI.
It’s also a game of publicity. No club match in the world gets covered like the Clasico. This effects even people of the trade, who keep hearing and seeing the best two teams in the world. Barcelona have set some sort of golden standard for how football should be playing over the past few years, even though there are many who have grown tired of the “tiki-taka.”
There isn’t a name on that list that’s outrageously out of place. One can argue for Marcelo and Iker Casillas as not the two best in their position over the past year, but they didn’t come out of nowhere. It’s weird to think football is getting bigger and bigger, but the more it grows the less teams and players it focuses on.