Recently I’ve been reading a book entitled The Ball is Round, one of the sections in Chapter 9 of this book outlines the climate of soccer in Spain during the 1930s and 40s (World War II). In 1943, during a semifinal match of the Copa del Generalísimo (the renamed Copa del Rey), FC Barcelona played Real Madrid, and as a result of intimidation from the Director of State Security, José Escrivá de Romani Barcelona was forced to lose 11-1, and the popularity of the face off between Barcelona and Madrid. One of the quotes that resonated with me while reading this section was “With that, Real Madrid’s rise to the very pinnacle of global football began.” This struck me as I thought about how Real Madrid and its fiercest rival, FC Barcelona are the arguably the most powerful sports teams in the world.
Looking back on Real Madrid and FC Barcelona’s win records its clear that both teams dominate La Liga by a huge margin, with 32 and 22 La Liga championship wins respectively. Both of their records are significantly higher than the next runner up, Atletico Madrid, which has 10 La Liga wins. After some investigation it seems like these teams have drastically better performance due to their dominance in popularity and political significance in Spain, especially over the last half century. Through the support of the government and people of Spain, both teams have been able to secure significant advantages over other teams in La Liga. As mentioned earlier, Real Madrid had the support of a government which used intimidation tactics to support their victories in the early 1940s. Later, in the 1950s, when most teams in La Liga had a cap of three imported players, both Barcelona and Real Madrid were able to maneuver around this cap to secure the best players for their teams. Leniencies such as these combined with the popularity of both teams have snowballed into making these teams far more powerful than they may have otherwise been. Furthermore some leniencies continue to this day, with many arguing that Cristiano Ronaldo’s 2 game ban during Real Madrid’s match at Cordoba this year was far too lenient for hitting another player. Both teams have benefitted hugely from their rivalry, the money and popularity associated with it, and its early beginnings which have propelled both teams significantly ahead of all other teams in La Liga.