Following Spain’s win in the 2012 European Championships to complete their third major honour in four years, it almost seemed impossible to see this group of players not win another major trophy. However, fast forward seven years and disappointment has followed in major competition, with the one saving grace was the fact that their clubs were still the most dominant in the world.
Real Madrid had been dominant in the competition by winning the past three Champions League’s, but this year will be the first year in which there hasn’t been Spanish involvement in the final in six years.
The Spanish 2018 World Cup campaign was tarnished by the departure of Julen Lopetegui, who left just days before the start of the competition after being pursued by Real Madrid. The fact that the most famous club in the country and the national federation went to war before the tournament only deepened the divide between the players from the Madrid club and Barcelona.
With Real Madrid adjudged by the Catalonian’s as favouring their own needs over the country’s also created political unrest in day-to-day life due to the ongoing debate over Catalonian independence. However, back on the field, it seemed to affect. Two draws and a win ensured that the Spanish qualified for the next stage, but defeat against the hosts in the next round showed just where they were.
The RFEF put this down as a blip and vowed that the Nations League would put this right. However, defeats against England and Croatia meant that it was the Three Lions that progressed into the finals, even bet victor have made the Three Lions the favourites for the competition in the summer.
The contrasting differences between the England and Spanish set-ups couldn’t be more different. The England camp is united with youthful vibrancy, whereas the Spanish look dated and players look slightly unhappy when they are wearing the famous red shirt.
The one saving grace since Spain’s disappointing appearance at the 2014 World Cup was the level of their club teams. Madrid, Atletico Madrid and Barcelona were a level above anything else on the planet. This led to the Champions League going to Spain every year since the Brazil World Cup.
This was combined with dominance in the Europa League also, with three of the four winners coming from Spain. However, this season has seen the question raised whether they are still the best and whether La Liga has the quality that it previously did.
Real Madrid was humbled by a young and exuberant Ajax team and crashed out after a 4-1 defeat at the Bernabeu. Barcelona fared better and made it through to the semi-finals, and they took a comfortable 3-0 lead back to Premier League side Liverpool.
However, the cracks soon appeared, and the Catalonian club fell apart at Anfield. A 4-0 defeat meant that they crashed out, and both finals of the European competitions would be all-English affairs.
While this could be put down to a blip, it’s more likely that all the Spanish clubs are falling behind their European counterparts. It will be a colossal summer for them if they are to once again catch up with the Premier League side’s that have dominated Spain on both the club and international scenes.