For most clubs, Spanish league not about winning the title

For most clubs, Spanish league not about winning the title
CHAMP: FC Barcelona players celebrate on the team bus their victory in the Spanish league title in downtown Barcelona, Spain. (AP)
Updated 20 May 2016

For most clubs, Spanish league not about winning the title

For most clubs, Spanish league not about winning the title

GETAFE, Spain: The race for the Spanish league title went down to the wire for Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid. For the other clubs, it never even began.
The majority of Spanish clubs started the season with no realistic expectations of winning the championship, already knowing that it would be one of the two powerhouses, or surging Atletico, lifting the trophy when it was all over.
Barcelona was the one celebrating last week after clinching its second consecutive title, and sixth in eight seasons. Madrid was second, Atletico third.
The rest of the teams weren’t even close.
Year in and year out, most Spanish teams begin the season fighting to either avoid relegation or, at the most, earn a spot in European competition. Fourth place usually feels like a title, as it guarantees participation in the Champions League.
“It’s not feasible to try to compete with the top teams in the league,” Alex Aranzabal, president of small club Eibar, said in a statement sent to The Associated Press. “The financial gap is too big. Our goal isn’t to challenge the top teams, we just want to try to remain in the first division and compete as best as we can in every match, including against Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico. But we know we are at a disadvantage.”
Barcelona and Real Madrid have won 27 of the last 32 league titles, including 11 of the last 12. Atletico lifted the trophy twice in that three-decade span, including in 2014. Valencia won it in 2002 and 2004, and Deportivo La Coruna was the outsider in 2000.
The difference between the top teams and the rest of the league is clear when looking at the standings the past few years. The average gap between the champion and the fourth-place team in the last four seasons has been nearly 25 points. Villarreal was fourth in 2016, finishing 24 points behind third-place Atletico and 27 points behind champion Barcelona.
The disparity is also seen on some of the score lines this past season. Barcelona scored six or more goals in five matches, including an 8-0 rout at Deportivo La Coruna. Real Madrid netted at least six goals four times, including in a 10-2 thrashing of Rayo Vallecano and a 7-1 trouncing of Celta Vigo.
“It’s very easy to be a fan of Real Madrid or Atletico, but not so much of a team like Getafe,” said 43-year-old Esteban Rivero, a supporter of the relegated club from suburban Madrid, shortly after watching his team lose 5-1 to Real Madrid last month. “Fans who come here at this stadium to support Getafe deserve a lot of credit. They could just choose the top Madrid clubs, but they stick to Getafe as their first team even though they know that it will likely finish 60 points behind the champion.”
Second-to-last place this season, Getafe finished 55 points behind Barcelona. Last-place Levante was 59 points off the lead.
“The top teams play for the title and most of the others just try to survive, it’s how it is,” 10-year-old fan Hugo Montalt said while watching one of Levante’s games this season as it tried to avoid demotion.
The Spanish league has been working to help the smaller teams improve financially and become more competitive, including increasing their revenues from television contracts. Barcelona and Real Madrid earned nearly 140 million euros ($158 million) in television rights this season, twice as much as Atletico and at least four times more than the smaller clubs. This difference is expected to gradually decrease over the next few years.
“It’s true that if we had a little more competitiveness, it would be easier to sell our brand, but it’s not an essential element for the league’s success,” Spanish league president Javier Tebas said. “We already have two very strong brands, now three (with Atletico), and we want these brands to remain strong, but we also want to develop other brands and to help the league’s own brand become more of a reference.”


Chelsea fires coach Frank Lampard halfway through second season

Chelsea fires coach Frank Lampard halfway through second season
Updated 25 January 2021

Chelsea fires coach Frank Lampard halfway through second season

Chelsea fires coach Frank Lampard halfway through second season
  • Chelsea has lost five of its last eight Premier League games and dropped to ninth place

LONDON: Frank Lampard was fired by Chelsea on Monday halfway through his second season in charge of the London club after being unable to replicate his success as the club’s record scorer in his first Premier League managerial job.
Chelsea has lost five of its last eight Premier League games and dropped to ninth place, despite Lampard benefiting from nearly $300 million spent on new players for this season.
Chelsea said the performances had not shown “any clear path to sustained improvement” — making a change of managers necessary.
“This was a very difficult decision for the club, not least because I have an excellent personal relationship with Frank and I have the utmost respect for him,” owner Roman Abramovich said. “He is a man of great integrity and has the highest of work ethics. However, under current circumstances we believe it is best to change managers.
“On behalf of everyone at the club, the Board and personally, I would like to thank Frank for his work as head coach and wish him every success in the future. He is an important icon of this great club and his status here remains undiminished. He will always be warmly welcomed back at Stamford Bridge.”
As the pressure has grown, the cracks were showing ahead of this weekend’s FA Cup win over Luton, when Lampard hit out at perceived negative coverage of the club.
But his own shortcomings of a fledging coaching career were being exposed and sentimentality counted for little despite being instrumental to the trophy-laden revival of the club as a player since the takeover by Abramovich in 2003.
Chelsea brought back its midfield great as coach in 2019 despite him having only a single season’s experience in management in the second division with Derby.
He achieved Champions League qualification in his first season by securing a fourth-place finish in the Premier League. The rush to dismiss Lampard is indicative of the impatience shown by Abramovich, particularly when the team is slipping away from the Champions League spots.
After securing one of the biggest jobs in English management so early in his coaching career, Lampard leaves Stamford Bridge without any success having lost the 2020 FA Cup final to Arsenal.
Lampard is a Chelsea great after scoring 211 goals from central midfield from 2001-14, during which he won every major honor at the club including three Premier League titles and the Champions League. He was associated with some of the best moments in the club’s history and admired for his work ethic and making the most of his talent.