Watching Real Madrid inside the Bernabeu stadium for La Liga

The Spanish Football League – La Liga

There’s something in the Spanish water. Since football became a professional sport in the nineteenth century, Spain has consistently graced us with some of the best players in the world.  At an international level, they are vicious in attack, refined in defence and, throughout the years, they have had a sprinkling of gold dust which makes them a constant threat in any professional tournament.

But what about at club level? Plenty of countries shine on the world stage while their club divisions fail to make an impact – whether that be through disinterest or disassociation – but it seems that, even here, Spain continues to shine. 

This is largely thanks to the continued success of the Spanish Premier League – known as Spain La Liga – which plays every year from August through to July.

Spain La Liga is the pinnacle of Spanish sport. Beginning in 1929, it has been a hot spot for the most talented players to take on the best the country has to offer and to refine their craft into a thing of beauty.

If you have had the sorry misfortune to never visit Spain, however, then you might be unaware of exactly what the Spain La Liga is. For this reason, we have concocted a full account of the league’s history, how it works, why it’s successful, and how it has managed to sprinkle that gold dust onto every Spanish boot that it touches. Whistles at the ready, let’s get into it:

The 101 of Spain La Liga:

  • The La Liga was founded in 1929 and is the first of two divisions – primera division (first division) and segunda division (second division).
  • When it started, there were only ten teams, but today there are twenty teams in all, with each season conducted in a double round-robin format.
  • All teams in the league – if they qualify – will be able to play for international cups including the Champions League and the UEFA Europa League.
  • Despite a cancellation in 1936-37 due to the Spanish Civil War, the La Liga has continued from 1929 through to 2022.
  • Today, average spectators per season is around 8.7 million, with a 2019/20 audience peak of 2.8 billion globally.

A History Of The La Liga And How Spain Adopted Football 

The Spanish relationship with the beautiful game goes way back to the late 19th century, when Spanish workers and students returned from their travels in England and brought with them a ball and a deceptively simple set of rules. From this ball, came the first Spanish football club, Recreativo de Huelva, which was founded in 1889 by the workers of a Rio Tinto company. Interestingly, this club still exists today and is sitting comfortably in the second division.

After just a few spectators came to see them play, word spread like wildfire and clubs began popping up all across the country. Thirteen years later, in 1902, the coronation of King Alfonso XIII brought about an idea to have a single-elimination knockout in his honour. This ended up being called the Copa de la Coronacion, and although it was performed as a tribute to King Alfonso XIII, its success meant that it was brought back for a second time in 1903.  It was, however, awarded a different moniker – the Copa del Ray – and it was won twice by a team named Bilbao (which was the original title for the modern team Athletic Bilbao).

Over the years, this tournament kept going, with more and more spectators turning up to get a glimpse of their local teams in action. This eventually led to a ground-breaking decision in 1929, when the tournament was turned into what is now known as La Liga, the Primera Division. It was decided that ten teams would make up this tournament – six teams who had already won the Copa del Ray, three teams who had qualified for at least one final and a tenth that was decided in a unique, specialised tournament. The clubs were as follows:

  • Arenas
  • Athletic Bilbao
  • Barcelona
  • Real Madrid
  • Real Sociedad
  • Real Union
  • Athletic Madrid
  • Espanol
  • Europa
  • Racing Santander

From this point on, La Liga has grown from strength to strength, with a total of 62 teams which have made it up from the second division and into the first. In 1936-37, the season was cancelled due to the Spanish Civil War, but even this did not affect the spread of admiration throughout Spain and the rest of the world. Today, the league has doubled its capacity to 20 teams, with Real Madrid having the most success with 34 league wins and 23 silver medals.

Spain La Liga Timeline

  • In the late nineteenth century, travellers from England brought the game to Spanish shores.
  • In 1889, the first club, Recreativo de Huelva, was founded.
  • In 1902, a tournament was conducted to honour the coronation of King Alfonso XIII.
  • In 1903, the tournament was put on again due to the interest and excitement that was generated.
  • In 1929, the national league, known as La Ligas, was created. 
  • In 1936, the league was suspended due to the Spanish Civil War.
  • In 1939, it recommenced with the ninth season since its establishment.
  • From then on, the Spanish league has gone from strength to strength, with incredible turnout to games and huge audience figures worldwide.

A Fresh Season: The Spain La Liga 22/23

Over the years, the trophy of the La Liga has been hard fought – mostly between two key players:  Real Madrid, who have won the league 34 times, and Barcelona, who have won it 26 times. In terms of this season, that rivalry does not look to have changed a bit.

At the time of writing, Barcelona are sitting at the top of the table, with twelve wins from fourteen matches. Real Madrid are close behind with eleven wins and Real Sociedad are coming in at third with eight-from-fourteen.

But it’s not all about the top two teams. In terms of the players, there are many who have stood out so far. Arnaut Danjuma – for Villarreal – has taken the league by storm ever since his whopping £21 million signing, and Joao Felix has been Atletico’s new superstar with a total of seven goals and two assists in his last eight games alone.

As mentioned previously, one of the most impressive things about the La Liga is that it not only breeds, but nurtures key talent. For players across Spain – and the world – it is a shining beacon that can set stadiums alight and thrust the most deserving players into the spotlight. As for this season, there is a nine-week break for the Qatar World Cup, but when it comes back, there are sure to be some fireworks as each team continues to battle it out to earn the right to not only stay in the first division, but climb their way to the very top.

The Spain La Liga: Famous players

In a tournament so competitive, it’s not a stretch to suggest that the alumni-book holds some pretty impressive names. That’s without mentioning the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo – who knocked in a total of 311 goals and 96 assists across 292 games for Real Madrid – or Lionel Messi – whose goal-count stands at 463 and is best known for his single-season goal return of 50 from 37 appearances in 2011/12.

Okay, well, maybe you can’t mention Spain La Liga’s alumni without mentioning these two players – but there is definitely more talent to celebrate beyond Ronaldo and Messi. 

So, who else has made their name in the prestigious Spain La Liga? Well, there’s Laszlo Kubala, arguably one of the best players La Liga has ever seen, who hit 26 goals into the net during his first year at Barcelona. There’s also Iker Casillas, who appeared as Real Madrid’s goalkeeper a total of 510 times in the league alone. 

Alfredo Di Stefano, too, can’t go without a mention. Talking of gold dust, he likely spent those few minutes before a game polishing up his boots with the stuff, as he scored for Real Madrid a total of 308 times in 396 matches. As well as this, he was one of the best passers and tacklers the league has ever seen, and he led Real Madrid to a total of eight titles during his time in the number 9 shirt. 

Of course, there are many other notable alumni, but we could be here all day if we try to cover them all. The point is, every stadium in Spain is a cauldron of magic and talent, which has led the league to become famous and the players themselves to go down in the history books for as long as books still exist.

The Spain La Liga: DAZN Bet’s Pop Quiz

If you’ve never been to Spain but you’re thinking of going, then it’s likely one of the twenty stadiums hosting the La Liga is on your to-do list. But hold off on buying tickets. Before you can even think of stepping into a stadium like Camp Nou, it’s important that you know the league inside out. Don’t worry, you won’t have to take a quiz to gain entry or anything – at least, you don’t usually – but it will be good to get a few more facts under your belt before you jump head-first into the excitement.

Q: What Teams Play In Spain La Liga 22/23?

A: There are now a total of 20 teams in La Liga overall. Brace yourself and grab some memory cards. 

  • Barcelona
  • Real Madrid
  • Real Sociedad
  • Athletic Bilbao
  • Atletico Madrid
  • Real Betis
  • Osasuna
  • Rayo Vallecano
  • Villarreal
  • Valencia
  • Real Mallorca
  • Real Valladolid
  • Girona
  • Almeria
  • Getafe
  • Espanyol
  • Celta Vigo
  • Sevilla
  • Cadiz
  • Elche.

Q: Who Is The Strongest La Liga Club?

A: It’s hard to argue a case against Real Madrid being the strongest La Liga club. Historically, they have won the most league trophies and have been runner up 23 times. Comparatively, Barcelona have won the league 26 times, with Athletic Madrid behind on ten victories and Athletic Bilbao on eight. 

Q: Who Is The Weakest La Liga Club?

A: As of right now, the weakest club award would have to go to Elche, who are currently at the bottom of the table with ten losses, four draws, and zero wins. Ouch. Having said that, the league is a marathon and there’s every chance they can nab a few wins before the second leg of the 2022/23 tournament ends.

Q: Who Is The Top Scorer So Far In Spain La Liga 22/23?

A: Robert Lewandowski is the leading goal scorer of the league, having signed for Barcelona earlier in the year. So far this season, he has scored a total of thirteen goals. Coming joint second is Borja Iglesias – for Real Betis – and Vedat Muriqi – for Mallorca – who have eight goals between them. 

Q: Has Any Team Gone The Whole Way Without Relegation?

A: Given the ferocity of the competition, you would have thought that no team has escaped relegation, but that’s not true. Since 1929, Real Madrid, Barcelona and Athletic Bilbao have all managed to stick around and ensure that their place in La Liga is scribed into concrete. Quite the achievement in a competition as hot as this.

A Fresh Season: The Spain La Liga 23/24

Real Madrid and Barcelona often define La Liga. The latter restored themselves to the summit in the 22/23 season after a tumultuous period of financial uncertainty that they are not yet out of. Their delicate survival and, subsequently, their delicate position in the transfer market is in stark contrast to what Real Madrid has to flex. Acquiring Jude Bellingham for a potential €133.9 million to complete their midfield rebuild – with Camavinga, Tchouameni, and Valvedere the other constituents – seems a precursor to the inevitable Kylian Mbappe signing – this summer or next. Barcelona, of course, can attract stars. However, Real Madrid’s new generation of Galacticos promises a fierce threat.

Below them, the league struggles for stability. It doesn’t have access to the same money, but, routinely, clubs making shrewd signings have been able to recently cement themselves in the ‘Next Best’ section of the league. Atleti have slipped, but under the tutelage of Diego Simeone, they’ll always be present. Real Betis and Real Sociedad, though, are the shrewd, smart teams. The former’s squad is ageing faster than the latter’s, which may be cause for concern, but with Manuel Pellegrini signing a new deal recently, the consistency of style will persist, and the recruitment team will know which players to target. Real Sociedad’s more youthful team, supplemented by stars like Mikel Merino, Mikel Oyarzabal, and David Silva, puts them on a good path to push for more UCL finishes this year and those following. All these three teams will want the two UCL spots.

Sevilla and Valencia will want to put 22/23 behind them – and do so quickly. Both teams were miserably bad last season. Losing Monchi is a big blow for Sevilla, but after yet another Europa League win, newly permanent coach Jose Luis Mendilibar will have hope he can turn this squad into a domestic force. Valencia has been routinely surprising for a number of recent seasons – that is, no one knows whether they’ll be decent or terrible. The tenure of Peter Lim has not been successful. Now led by Rubén Baraja, a legendary player for Valencia, there is more accountability and hope at the club.

Almeria, Getafe, and Cadiz will be looking below them at Granada, Las Palmas, and Alaves, expecting to be better than them and hoping they pull no surprises. 

Up and down the league, there will be battles, little and big. La Liga is in for another season of upset, surprise, and shake-up.