- La Liga
Infobox football league
pixels = 140
country = Spain
confed = UEFA|
founded = 1929
teams = 20
levels = 1|
Copa del Rey
confed_cup = Champions League
champions = Real Madrid
season = 2007–08|
most successful club = Real Madrid (31 titles)|
website = http://www.lfp.es
current = 2008–09 seasonThe "Primera División" of the _es. Liga de Fútbol Profesional ("Professional Football League"), commonly known as "La Liga" or "Liga BBVA" [cite news|url=http://www.lfp.es/noticias/noticia_desarrollo.asp?n=2308&i=esp |title=Presentado el acuerdo por el que Primera División se llamará Liga BBVA y Segunda, Liga Adelante |publisher=lfp.es |date=04-06-2008|languages=Spanish] , is the top professional football league in
Spain. It is contested by 20 teams, with the three lowest placed teams relegated to the Segunda Divisiónand replaced by the top three teams in that division.
A total of 58 teams have competed in La Liga, nine of which have been crowned champions. Since the 1950s, Real Madrid and
FC Barcelonahave dominated the championship. The former have won the title 31 times while the latter have won it on 18 occasions. However, during the 1930s and 1940s and in the last two decades, La Liga has seen other champions including Atlético Madrid, Athletic Bilbao, Valencia, Sevilla, Deportivo de La Coruña, Real Sociedadand Real Betis.
La Liga is one of the most popular professional sports leagues in the world, with an average attendance of 29,029 for league matches in the 2007-2008 season. This is the sixth highest of any domestic professional sports league in the world and the third highest of any professional
association footballleague, behind the Bundesliga and the Premier League. [cite news|url=http://www.european-football-statistics.co.uk/attn.htm|title=European football statistics|date=2008]
La Liga follows the usual double round-robin format. During the course of a season, which lasts from September to June, each club plays every other club twice, once at home and once away, for a total of 38 games. Teams receive three points for a win, one point for a draw, and no points for a loss. Teams are ranked by total points, with the highest-ranked club at the end of the season crowned champion. If points are equal between two or more clubs, head-to-head results usually determine their placement. The first tiebreaker used when two teams are even on points is the
goal differenceresulting from the two matches between the clubs in question. When more than two teams are tied, the points accumulated from the games between those teams are used to rank them, then goal difference if needed. If head-to-head results are not sufficient to separate teams, goal difference over the entire season, then total goals scored in the season may be used. [http://www.lfp.es/competiciones/2008-09/primera/reglamento.htm]
A system of
promotion and relegationexists between the Primera División and the Segunda División. The three lowest placed teams in La Liga are relegated to the Segunda División, and the top three teams from the Segunda División are promoted to La Liga.
Qualification for European competitions
The top four teams in La Liga qualify for the
UEFA Champions League, with the first and second placed teams directly entering the group stage and the third and fourth placed teams entering the third qualifying round. The fifth and sixth placed teams qualify for the first round of the UEFA Cup.
Beginning in 2009 qualification for the Champions League will change slightly, with the top three teams in La Liga qualifying for the group stage directly and the fourth placed team entering the third qualifying round. The UEFA Cup will also be restructured in 2009, with the fifth and sixth placed teams in La Liga entering the fourth and third qualifying rounds of the tournament, respectively.
In April 1927 Jose Maria Acha, a director at
Arenas Club de Getxo, first proposed the idea of a national league in Spain. After much debate about the size of the league and who would take part, the Real Federación Española de Fútbol eventually agreed on the ten teams who would form the first "Primera División" in 1928. FC Barcelona, Real Madrid, Athletic Bilbao, Real Sociedad, Arenas Club de Getxoand Real Uniónwere all selected as previous winners of the Copa del Rey. Athletic Madrid, RCD Españoland CE Europaqualified as Copa del Reyrunners-up and Racing Santanderqualified through a knockout competition. Only three of the founding clubs, Real Madrid, FC Barcelonaand Athletic Bilbao, have never been relegated from the "Primera División".
FC Barcelonawon the very first "Liga" in 1929 and Real Madrid won their first titles in 1932 and 1933, it was Athletic Bilbaothat set the early pace winning "Primera División" in 1930, 1931, 1934 and 1936. They were also runners-up in 1932 and 1933. In 1935 Real Betis, then known as "Betis Balompié", won their only title to date. "Primera División" was suspended during the Spanish Civil War, but clubs in the Republican area of Spain, with the notable exception of the two Madridclubs, competed in the Mediterranean League. FC Barcelonaemerged as champions in 1937.
When the Primera Liga resumed after the
Spanish Civil Warit was Atlético Aviación, Valencia CFand Sevilla FCthat initially emerged as the strongest clubs. Atlético Aviaciónwere only awarded a place during the 1939-40 season as a replacement for Real Oviedo, whose ground had been damaged during the war. The club subsequently won their first Liga title and retained it in 1941. While other clubs lost players to exile, execution and as casualties of the war, the Atlético Aviaciónteam was reinforced by a merger. The young pre-war squad of Valencia CFhad also remained intact and in the post-war years matured into champions, gaining three Liga titles in 1942, 1944 and 1947. They were also runners-up in 1948 and 1949. Sevilla FCalso enjoyed a brief golden era, finishing as runners-up in 1940 and 1942 before winning their only title to date in 1946. By the latter part of the decade FC Barcelonabegan to emerge as a force when they were crowned champions in 1945, 1948 and 1949.
Di Stéfano, Puskás, Kubala and Suárez
Atlético Madrid, previously known as "Atlético Aviación", were champions in 1950 and 1951 under " catenaccio" mastermind Helenio Herrera, the 1950s saw the beginning of the FC Barcelona/Real Madrid dominance. During the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s there were strict limits imposed on foreign players. In most cases clubs could only have three foreign players in their squads, meaning that at least eight local players had to play in every game. During the 1950s, however, these rules were circumnavigated by Real Madrid and CF Barcelona who naturalised Alfredo Di Stéfano, Ferenc Puskásand Ladislao Kubala. Inspired by Kubala, Barça won the title in 1952 and 1953. Di Stéfano, Puskás and Francisco Gentoformed the nucleus of the Real Madrid team that dominated the second half of the 1950s. Real won "Primera División" for the first time as "Real Madrid" in 1954 and retained it in 1955. They were winners again in 1957 and 1958, with only Athletic Bilbaointerrupting their sequence. CF Barcelona with a team coached by Helenio Herreraand featuring Luis Suárez gained the title in 1959 and 1960..
The Madrid Years
Between 1961 and 1980, Real Madrid dominated the "Primera División", being crowned champion 14 times. This included a five-in-a-row sequence from 1961 to 1965 and two three-in-a-row sequences (1967-69 and 1978-1980). During this era only
Atlético Madridoffered Real any serious challenge, adding four more titles to their tally in 1966, 1970, 1973 and 1977. Of the other clubs, only Valencia CFin 1971 and the Johan Cruyff-inspired FC Barcelonaof 1974 managed to break the might of Real Madrid.
Madridwinning sequence was ended more significantly in 1981 when Real Sociedadwon their first ever title. They retained it in 1982 and their two in a row was followed by another by their fellow Basques, Athletic Bilbaowho won back-to-back titles in 1983 and 1984. Terry Venablesled FC Barcelonato a solitary title in 1985 before Real Madrid won again another five in a row sequence (1986-90) with a team, guided by Leo Beenhakker, and including Hugo Sánchezand the legendary "La Quinta del Buitre" - Emilio Butragueño, Manolo Sanchís, Martín Vázquez, Míchel and Miguel Pardeza.
The 1990s Barça years
Johan Cruyffreturned to FC Barcelonaas manager in 1988, and assembled the legendary "Dream Team". Cruyff introduced players like Josep Guardiola, José Mari Bakero, Txiki Beguiristain, Goikoetxea, Ronald Koeman, Michael Laudrup, Romarioand Hristo Stoichkov. This team won "Primera División" four times between 1991 and 1994 and won the European Cup in 1992. Laudrup then moved to arch-rivals Real Madrid after a fall-out with Cruyff, and helped them end Barcelona's run in 1995. Atlético Madridwon their ninth "Primera División" title in 1996 before Real Madrid added another Liga trophy to their cabinet in 1997. After the success of Cruyff, another Dutchman - Ajax manager Louis van Gaal- arrived at the Camp Nou, and with the talents of Luís Figo, Luis Enrique and Rivaldo, Barcelona again won the title in 1998 and 1999. Meanwhile, Real Madrid also experienced success on the intercontinental stage, winning the UEFA Champions Leaguein 1998.
The new millennium
As "Primera División" entered a new century, the Big Two found themselves facing new challengers. Between 1993 and 2004, Deportivo La Coruña finished in the top three on ten occasions, a better record than either Real Madrid or
FC Barcelona, and in 2000, under Javier Irureta, they became the ninth team to be crowned champions. Real Madrid won two more Liga titles in 2001 and 2003 and also the UEFA Champions Leaguein 2000 and 2002, and won their third league title in 2007 after a three year drought. They were challenged by a re-emerging Valencia CFin both competitions. Under the management of Héctor Cúper, Valencia finished as Champions League runners-up in 2000 and 2001. His successor, Rafael Benítez, built on this and led the club to a Liga title in 2002 and a Liga/UEFA Cup double in 2004. The 2004-05 season saw a resurgent Barcelona, inspired by the brilliant Ronaldinho, win their first title of the new century, in addition to the Liga-Champions League double in 2005-06. Sevilla FCalso won the UEFA Cup in 2006 and again in 2007, when the Andalusians defeated fellow Spaniards RCD Espanyol3-1 on penalties. After 3 years Real Madrid finally won the La Liga in 2006-2007 and 2007-2008 season.
La Liga clubs in Europe
In addition to their success in Primera División, Real Madrid, FC Barcelona and Valencia are three of the most successful teams in European competition history. All three clubs are the only Spanish clubs to have won 5 or more
internationaltrophies. All three clubs are also in the top ten most successful clubs in European football in terms of total European trophies.cite web|url=http://www.uefa.com/printoutfiles/competitions/supercup/2006/e/e_84343_pk.pdf|title=UEFA club competitions press kit (.PDF archive, page 23)|accessdate=2006-08-25|publisher=UEFA Official Website] In 2005/06 Barça won the UEFA Champions League and Sevilla won the UEFA Cup. The "Primera División" became the first league to do the European "double" since 1997. [cite news|url=http://www.uefa.com/competitions/UCL/news/Kind=32/newsId=349183.html|title=Competition facts|publisher=UEFA|date=1-10-2006]
The Primera División is currently second in the UEFA rankings of European leagues based on their performances in European competitions over a five-year period, behind the English Premier League in first and ahead of Italy's
Serie Ain third. [cite news|url=http://www.xs4all.nl/~kassiesa/bert/uefa/data/method3/crank2009.html|title=UEFA ranking of European leagues|publisher=Bert Kassies|date=August 2008]
Clubs in 2008/09 season
Note on name changes
Spanish Second Republicclubs such as Real Madrid and Real Betisdropped the "Real" from their name, Real Sociedadbecame "Donostia CF". In 1941, a decree issued by Franco banned the use of non- Spanish languagenames. FC Barcelonaand Sevilla FCbecame "CF Barcelona" and "Sevilla CF", both Athletic Bilbaoand Athletic Aviaciónchanged the spelling of their prefix to "Atlético", Sporting de Gijónand Racing de Santanderbecame "Real Gijón" and "Real Santander".
Many individual awards are conceded relating to La Liga, although not sanctioned by the LFP nor the RFEF they're widely regarded as official.
Top scorer and best goalkeeper
The most notable of them are the
Pichichi Trophy, awarded to the top scorer of the season, and the Zamora Trophyfor the goalkeeper with the least "goals-to-games" ratio (with some extra rules, see the main article). Both trophies are awarded by the biggest sports newspaper in Spain, "Marca".
Real Madrid's Ruud van Nistelrooy("Pichichi") and Getafe CF's Roberto Abbondanzieri("Zamora").
*2007–08 winners: Mallorca's
Dani Güiza("Pichichi") and Real Madrid's Iker Casillas("Zamora").
In 2008, a new trophy has been awarded to the best player in the league overall: the Di Stéfano Trophy, also created by "Marca". The 50 top players, chosen by visitors to Marca's official website every week of competition, made it into a final ballot, where a specialized jury, which included former football stars
Jorge Valdano, Fernando Hierro, Emilio Butragueño, Andoni Zubizarreta, Spain's national team head coach Luis Aragonésand Alfredo Di Stéfano, decided the final winner. The first edition was won by Real Madrid star Raúl González, after three voting rounds since there was a tie between him and runner-up Sergio Agüero.
Real Madrid's Raúl González.
elected La Liga Players
Group for Spanish Football Statistics Compilation
All-Time La Liga table
List of football clubs in Spain
List of Spanish football transfers summer 2008
La Liga 2008–09
Supercopa de España
List of attendance figures at domestic professional sports leagues— the attendance of "La Liga" compared with other domestic leagues around the world
Notes and references
*es icon [http://www.lfp.es/ Official La Liga Site]
*es icon [http://www.rfef.es/ Official RFEF Site]
* [http://uk.eurosport.yahoo.com/football/spain/liga/ La Liga Results and News] at Yahoo! Eurosport UK
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