Is La Liga becoming a one-man race?
Among Europe's top five Leagues, La Liga is widely regarded as the best. UEFA disagrees at the moment, but that isn't the argument I want to make.
Alright, if you insist. Spanish teams have dominated the Champions League for the past five years. They don't only lift the trophy, they usually show the world they're boss by trampling on champions from other top leagues. The last time Barcelona won the Champions League, they defeated all Champions from the remaining top four Leagues on their route to claiming the title. Last season, Real Madrid trampled on Bayern Munich and Juventus, kings of Germany and Italy respectively. PSG is the biggest club in France but fell to the Merengues, too. In fact, the Ligue 1 champions lost both legs in the Round of 16.
La Liga dominance doesn't end at the Champions League. Spanish teams have also ruled the Europa League more than any other country and the UEFA Super Cup trophy for an unrivalled14 times. So, I don't care what UEFA thinks.
Competitive depth within the Spanish top flight must improve, however. La Liga has been under the thrall of three teams in recent years. Only four Premier League clubs have won that division this decade, but preseason predictions in the past few seasons agree there are six contenders. Barcelona has dominated La Liga recently, winning five of the eight titles this decade. Real Madrid has won twice, Atletico once. If you followed the 2017/18 season, when Los Colchoneros went unbeaten into spring or watched this week's UEFA Super Cup, you know how strong Diego Costa's side is. That said, they still can't match the Blaugrana player for player.
It's players who have defined Spanish football this era, even though Pep Guardiola's tiki-taka and Diego Simeone's relentless press have gained notoriety. Regardless, the title question has always been who will come out on top in a given season between Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo? With the Portuguese superstar at Juventus now, the question can no longer be asked. And that's a problem for the league.
True, there are exciting players beyond the Messi-Ronaldo duality. Toni Kroos, Andres Iniesta, Isco, Luka Modric, Luiz Suarez, Gareth Bale, Ousmane Dembele, Antonio Griezmann and Inaki Williams, to list a comparative few, also make La Liga interesting with their spine-tingling dribbles, goals and eyes for a pass that few can rival. La Liga has it all. Yet no one on that short list or anyone I've overlooked can approach Messi's talent level.
Ronaldo's exit weakened Real Madrid. Barcelona's grip on La Liga is firmer for it. RM hasn't looked to replace their demigod. Who could? It is what it is. Julen Lopetegui must cope with the [immense] talent still in his roster.
The point, however, is that with no rival, La Liga is now solely Lionel Messi's kingdom. At 31, Leo is still a lion. He dragged Barcelona to the peak last season with 34 goals and hasn't shown any signs of decline.
Ousmane Dembele, Philippe Coutinho, Luiz Suarez, and Ivan Rakitic provide sufficient support to make La Liga a one-team race. With Messi leading the way, we can just call it a one-man race.