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Spain is DOMINATING 21st Century European Club Competitions

5 minute read Published March 28, 2024

As we’re approaching quarter finals in the Champions League, three Spanish teams are still in the competition while England and Germany each have two, and then there’s PSG. It’s the usual suspects. If you were just given the nationalities you could probably guess all of the teams. Well, maybe except Arsenal.

Spanish teams doing well in Europe certainly isn’t new. In the 00s and 10s, the Iberian country has absolutely dominated European football. They’ve won just shy of half of all European competitions since 2000. 23 out of a possible 48. If it weren’t for the European Conference League being introduced in 2021, they’d be there.

  Spain England Germany Italy
Champions League 11 6 3 3
Europa League 12 3 1 0
Europa Conference League 0 1 0 1
  23 10 4 4

What’s not counted here is the UEFA Super Cup as it’s only one game, not an actual knockout competition. But Spain has won 13 out of 23 of them as well.

The Spanish national team is also the only team to have won two Euros since the start of the new millennium.

Heading into the quarter finals, there are still three Spanish teams in the competition. And it’s the usual suspects; Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid.

Real Madrid and Barcelona in the Champions League

Those three teams have been the top three teams in La Liga for ten years straight. In the past few years, the Champions League has been Real Madrid’s competition, the crowning achievement being their three-peat. Out of the eleven Champions Leagues Spanish teams have won since 2000, Barca has four, Real the rest. So, why is that?

Real Madrid winning the 2022 Champions League. Photo: ph.FAB, Shutterstock

Financial Strength

Sure, Barcelona are struggling financially at the moment, but throughout the 21st century, much like Real Madrid still are, they’ve had one of the biggest wage bills in world football, with the biggest stars playing for them. Real Madrid has, despite the financial doping for PSG and Manchester City, the highest revenue out of any football team. 

Recently, Barcelona have had their salary cap slashed by La Liga and are having to sell assets and players. We’ll see if they’re still able to challenge in the coming years.

Strong League Position During Knockouts

Usually, they’re way ahead of the rest of the league as it nears the end. Come the Champions League knockouts, their lead is often commanding enough to let players rest. The two clubs are dominant enough to win against the other teams on a rotated squad. The only time they absolutely have to play the other two teams out of the top three. And Sevilla.

Europa League

Sevilla are as big a contributor to the Spanish dominance in European titles as the big guys. Albeit in Europa League. Since the year 2000, the team from the fourth largest city in Spain has won seven Europa League titles. 

They’re specialists in the competition. No team has won it more. They managed to win it three times in a row. Considering that the winner of the Europa League gets automatic qualification to the Champions League and that the only way to get to the Europa League the following year is to finish third in the group, this takes some precision. It’s a feat that’ll be hard to repeat.

They’re nowhere near Real and Barca in terms of revenue and quite far behind West Ham United, who won the competition last season.

Also, a special shout out to Aston Villa's Unai Emery who was not only part of the Sevilla three-peat in the Europa League, but also led Villareal to lift the cup in 2021. Other Spanish winners of the Europa League are Atletico Madrid, who’ve won it three times, and Valencia who won it once, in 2004, managed by Rafa Benitez.

Unai Emery, the Europa League expert. Photo: Aleksandr Osipov, Flickr

What’s next?

Real Madrid and Barcelona are, yet again, first and second in La Liga, after Girona dropped a little off the pace. Real Madrid have gotten a comfortable eight point cushion down to Barcelona. They’ll be able to put La Liga on cruise control and rest up their most important players for their Champions League games. That speaks in their favour. There is, however, a certain, odds favourite, Manchester City to beat.

In the coming years, we’ll see if the repercussions of Barca’s financial mismanagement will stunt their Champions League performances. We’ll also see if it impacts their league form and maybe let Real keep getting that cushion, year after year.

Thanks to the TV money, English teams are getting closer and closer in terms of financial power. That could help close the gap in terms of trophies in the coming years. However, in the Premier League there’s very rarely possible to rotate in the same way that for example Real can this season with an eight point lead.

In the Europa League this season there will not be a Spanish winner. Villareal was the last Spanish team in the competition and they lost to Marseille in the round of 16 after a heavy 4-0 loss in the first leg.

It’ll be interesting to see if Spain can maintain their strong position in Europe in the coming decade.

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