Spain’s most notable teams?

THE SPAIN team that won three consecutive major titles between 2008 and 2012 will go down in history as the most successful national team in those years. Spain also had an important role in changing football in that period, the so-called tiki-taka, a game built around short-passing and constant movement. This system turned Spain into perpetual under-achievers into trend-setters. In Qatar 2022, Spain will be one of the more fancied sides to win the World Cup.

1920 – The Olympics

Spain created their national team for the Olympics and they won the silver medal after a tournament that was disrupted by Czechoslovakia, who were losing the final to Belgium, walked off the pitch. A hastily arranged series of play-offs were initiated to determine the silver and bronze medals. Spain beat Sweden, Italy and the Netherlands to secure silver.

Ricardo Zamora, Luis Otero, Mariono Arrate, Jose Samitier, Belauste, Ramon Eguiazabal, Pagaza, Felix Sesumaga, Patricio Arabolaza, Pichichi, Domingo Gomez Acedo, Pedro Vallana, Agustin Sancho, Joaquin Vazquez.

Coach: Francisco Bru, Madrid-born football man who was a player, referee and highly respected coach. He was manager of Peru in the 1930 World Cup.

Ricardo Zamora, the legendary Spain keeper whose name has lived on in the form of the Zamora trophy, awarded to the top goalkeeper in La Liga each season. Zamora was from Barcelona, but played for both Barca and Real Madrid. He won 46 caps for Spain, his career in Spain ending during the civil war, during which he was imprisoned. Rafael Moreno Aranzadi, “Pichichi” – Athletic Bilbao striker who died in 1922 at the age of 29 due to Typhus. To honour his name and memory, the Pichichi award was inaugurated and is given each year to the top scorer in La Liga.

1950 World Cup

Antonio Ramallets, Gabriel Alonso, Gonzalvo II, Jose Parra, Gonzalvo III, Antonio Puchades, Estanislao Basora, Agustin Gainza, Silvestre Igoa, Zarra, Jose Panizo, Luis Malownhy, Ignacio Eizaguirre, Rosendo Hernandez, Jose Juncosa.

Coach: Guillermo Eizaguirre, a goalkeeper with Sevilla as a player, he took over the national team in 1948 and had two spells in charge.

Achievement: Spain won all three of their group games in the 1950 World Cup, including a 1-0 victory against England. They qualified for the final group that included Sweden, Uruguay and Brazil. They drew 2-2 with Uruguay, but were beaten 6-1 by favourites and hosts, Brazil.

Zarra – Bilbao striker, born 1921, who won the Pichichi award six times during a prolific career. He scored more than 300 goals for Athletic Bilbao and won 20 caps, averaging a goal a game. Estanislau Basora – one of Barcelona’s greatest wingers, he scored over 100 goals for the club and won 22 caps. He also represented Catalonia five times. Agustín Gaínza –  captain of Spain and one of the players of the 1950 World Cup. Played around 400 games for Athletic Bilbao and was capped 33 times.

1964 European champions

José Angel Iribar, Feliciano Rivilla, Isacio Calleja, Ignacío Zoco, Ferran Olivella, Josep Maria Fustré, Carlos Lapetra, Luis Suárez, Marcelino Martinez, Jesús Maria Pereda, Amancio Amaro.

Coach: José Villalonga

Achievement: European Championship winners 1964, beating USSR in the final and before that, Romania, Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland.

Jesús Maria Pereda, Barcelona midfielder who also played briefly for Real Madrid. Catalan-born players who won 15 caps for Spain. Had a very good eye for goal; Luis Suárez, Galician-born inside forward or attacking midfielder, an elegant player possessing an explosive shot. Starred for Barcelona and also played for Inter Milan and Sampdoria; Amancio, outside right who was known as El Brujo (the magician). Played 14 years with Real Madrid and won 42 caps for Spain.

After their performance in 1950, Spain failed to qualify for the World Cup in 1954 and 1958. In both 1962 and 1966, they were eliminated in the group stage and then they missed out again in 1970 and 1974. Since then, they have qualified for every World Cup. In the 1980s, they threatened to challenge in both 1982 and 1986, but in the latter, after beating Denmark 5-1 in the round of 16, they surprisingly went out to Belgium. In between those two World Cups, they reached the final of the European Championship, losing to France.

1984 – Euro finalists

Luis Arconada, Santiago Urquiaga, Ricardo Gallego, Salva, José Antonio Camacho, Victor Muñoz, Juan Señor, Julio Alberto, Francisco, Santillana, Francisco José Carrasco, Manuel Sarabia, Roberto, Antonio Maceda.

Coach: Miguel Muñoz – won the European Cup with Real Madrid, later managing the club.

Luis Arconada – Captain and goalkeeper of the team who won 68 caps for Spain. A brave and athletic keeper for his club, Real Sociedad and country. Extremely acrobatic style. Santillana – An outstanding forward who played 645 times for Real Madrid, scoring 290 goals. Excellent in the air, he was one of the best strikers of his generation, winning 56 caps for Spain. Ricardo Gallego, versatile performer who could play in midfield or as a sweeper. One of Real Madrid’s key players in the 1980s, winning four La Liga titles.

2008 – 2012: The treble winners

At the start of this glorious period, Spain was a country in some turmoil. They were badly affected by the global financial crisis, but at the same time, their national team was in the ascendancy and their clubs, Barcelona and Real Madrid, dominated Europe, winning the Champions League in 2006, 2009, 2011 and 2014. Spain won the European Championship in 2008 and 2012, and the World Cup in South Africa in 2010.

Iker Casillas, Sergio Ramos, Carlos Marchena, Carles Puyol, Joan Capdevila, Marcos Senna, Andrés Iniesta, Xavi, Cesc Fàbregas, David Silva, Fernande Torres, Xabi Alonso, Santi Cazorla, Dani Güiza, David Villa, Gerard Piqué, Sergio Busquets, Pedro, Jesús Navas, Juan Mata, Jordi Alba, Álvaro Negredo, Álvaro Arbeloa.

Coaches: Luis Aragonés, enjoyed success as coach of Atlético Madrid and Barcelona before leading Spain to the 2008 European Championship. Vicente del Bosque, won the World Cup in 2010 and European Championship in 2012. Achieved a win rate of 76% in eight years as coach. As a player, appeared over 400 times for Real Madrid.

Xavi – A product of Barcelona’s La Masia youth set-up, Xavi played 767 games for the club and was a key part of the great Barca team of the 2010s. A deep-lying playmaker who was adept at finding space on the field to produce decisive passes. Small and agile, he won 82 caps for Spain. Sergio Ramos – Aggressive and competitive defender who won 180 caps for Spain and played 671 games for Real Madrid, scoring over 100 goals. Won all three trophies with Spain as well as four UEFA Champions Leagues. Andrés Iniesta –  Scored the winning goal in the 2010 World Cup final against the Netherlands. A neat and skilful midfielder with superb balance and ball control, Iniesta was the ultimate box-to-box midfielder. Won 131 caps for Spain and appeared nearly 700 times for Barcelona. David Silva – A versatile and agile midfielder who can act as a false number 9 and a playmaker. Silva won 125 caps for Spain and starred with Valencia, Manchester City and latterly, Real Sociedad. A good dribbler and capable of creating and scoring goals.

Threat of Champions League exit fuels Barcelona’s anxiety

THE BARCELONA story is becoming as volatile as the British government’s approach to post-pandemic economics. After a summer of pulling levers, constructing virtuous circles and signing players, Barca’s president told the annual assembly that “together we have saved the club”. That statement was arguably true, but it did involve selling some of the family silver and allowing their prized asset to leave the Camp Nou.

The financial levers the club referred to involved selling part of their TV rights for a 25 year-period to Sixth Street, raising a huge sum of money that eased their financial pain. On the other hand, many felt Barca were merely kicking a problem down the road and taking a substantial risk.

Barca started the season well, but their Champions League form has not been good and they are on the brink of group stage elimination for the second successive year. The amount they could lose, which could be around € 20 million, would be offset against potential income from finishing third in the group and moving across to the Europa, but the psychological effect of being exiled to Thursday night football is just as significant. If Barca ever needed a good Champions League campaign to remind people of their elite status, it was this season.

The 3-3 draw with Inter Milan in front of 92,000 people was an exciting game that highlighted the appeal of the Champions League; when it’s good, it can be very good. But their failure to trigger another of their famous escapes also provided more evidence that Barca are a diminishing force on the European stage and the timing couldn’t have been worse. Barca are about to face Real Madrid in the first Clásico of 2022-23, and the gossip has centred on the future of coach Xavi – “The confidence in Xavi is intact” – the real agenda of Barca president Joan Laporta and the possibility the club may have to sell more assets or players to raise cash. Some of Barca’s players are long in the tooth, but essentially, the game at the Bernabéu is a meeting between the top two and Barca are on top of the La Liga table. There is not an awful lot wrong with the actual team, Barca’s problem is the past and a period of excess.

It is hard not to see the club’s finances and psyche as acutely precarious, even though they did make a pre-tax profit of € 124 million in 2021-22. Furthermore, they may have generated  € 1 billion in 2021-22, but € 344 million of that came from the sale of assets. Take the € 266 million initial TV rights sale out of the equation and revenues were € 750 million. That’s a very good figure, but the club’s sporting payroll totalled € 518 million, down from € 617 million in 2020-21, but still way too burdensome. At the assembly meeting, the club said it was working to terminate the contracts of some high-earning players who are a drain on the wage bill, but this is obviously a sensitive matter.

The club is confident, however, that it can continue to grow revenues in 2022-23 and anticipates an increase to € 1.3 billion, with a pre-tax profit of around € 366 million. At the same time, they see wages rising to € 656 million. This forecast includes the sale of 15% of TV rights for € 400 million. The club also expects to restore equity balance by 2025, slightly ahead of the five-year target they set when Laporta was elected president.

Laporta is still an advocate of a super league, but does not believe a closed league concept is the way ahead. Barcelona were one of the 12 clubs a scheme that was rightly aborted, but there has been renewed energy behind the project, although Laporta sees a structure where the big clubs repeatedly play against each other as an unattractive proposition that would soon become tiresome.

While the loss of Champions League income in itself won’t tip Barcelona into the abyss, it will raise some anxiety at the club. The securitisation of TV rights has been criticised for mortgaging the future, but its success does depend on the club being successful. In other words, Barca is something of a cash machine, but if the club endured a prolonged period of failure, it might cause problems around their long-term sale of TV rights. Hence, every setback will be the source of extreme angst, as we are seeing.