Sevilla won the Europa League for the third time in as many years after beating Liverpool 3-1 in Basel. This was the fifth time they have lifted the trophy in the past eleven seasons.
The Andalusians title means that with Real Madrid and Atlético Madrid clashing in the Champions League final in Milan, Spanish clubs will have won both European competitions for the last three seasons.
This dominance extends further as eight of the last thirteen teams to win the Europa League have come from Spain, whilst the Champions League will go to a La Liga side for the fifth time in eight seasons.
What makes Spanish teams so successful in Europe and why have they started to dominate? After all, isn’t La Liga dominated by two behemoths and the rest of the league is just weak and would struggle to finish in the top half of the Premier League?
The success of Barcelona and Real Madrid is the easiest to understand. Their colossal spending power is only matched by a handful of clubs in Europe. In their quest for constant silverware they buy the world’s best players. This means that numerous canteranos are forced to move on to develop their careers and get playing time at other Spanish clubs.
Whilst Spain’s big two spend tens of millions each year, the same cannot be said for the rest of their clubs. Unlike clubs from England’s cash rich Premier League, the majority of Spanish clubs cannot simply go out and spend £10M on a new defender. Instead they rely on successful scouting and recruitment.
Before the Europa League final, Jürgen Klopp praised Spanish clubs for having better scouting, coaches and player development than those in the other major European leagues.
This is certainly true of Sevilla who have bought the likes of Dani Alves, Luís Fabiano, Adriano, Federico Fazio, Martin Cáceres, Ivan Rakitic, Júlio Baptista, Seydou Keita, Christian Poulsen, Grzegorz Krychowiak and Carlos Bacca for a combined fee of approximately £30M. Then there’s canteranos such as Sergio Ramos, Jesús Navas, Alberto Moreno, Luis Alberto and José Antonio Reyes that they have developed.
You can argue that Sevilla are the exception. That their success if down to the director of football, Monchi. However, numerous clubs in Spain now have long standing sporting directors who oversee their club’s scouting and recruitment and they have remained in place as coaches have come and gone.
Atlético Madrid have reached their second Champions League final in three years. This has come on the back of them winning the Europa League twice in the space of three years. It is no coincidence that during this period, they have been stable in terms of management and recruitment. This has allowed them to thrive.
Atlético’s first team is made up of canteranos such as Koke and Saúl Ñíguez, supplemented by clever signings such as Diego Godín (signed for €6.6M), Juanfran (€4M) and Gabi (€3M). This prudence allows the club to splash out on the odd marquee signing such as Jan Oblak and Antoine Griezmann who have pushed Atlético to the highest level of European football.
At this moment in time Spain and La Liga are miles ahead of the rest of Europe and it appears that they will continue to dominate for years to come.