15th March 2017
Sky Sports’ Guillem Balague: ‘England and Spain could learn from each other’
We’re often told that the Premier League is the best league in the world. It might be the most competitive and be able to throw up the odd Leicester-style surprise, but La Liga sleeps easy at night knowing it has higher quality players such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, Gareth Bale and Antoine Griezmann gracing the competition each week.
It’s not just domestically where teams are performing. Five of the last ten Champions League winners have come from Spain, and five of the last six finalists have come from the country. An English team hasn’t reached the final since 2012.
But despite all this, and following his recent Executive Guest Speaker session with students at UCFB Wembley, Sky Sports’ Spanish football expert Guillem Balague still believes there is a lot Spain can learn from England, especially in a commercial sense.
He said: “There’s no doubt about it. How the Premier League product is sold, how the money is raised and how the English league might not have the best players but it looks like the best league in the world. The product has been sold that way and everybody is buying it now. The stadiums are always full and are modern. The match day experience is so much greater than what we have in Spain.”
In an engaging session with students, Balague went on to challenge the preconceptions that the Spanish top flight is a two-team league, adding that, tactically and personnel wise, English football could also learn a thing or two from Spanish football. He emphasised that despite La Liga not having the financial resources of the Premier League, it makes better use of the individuals involved. Citing the Spanish philosophy that if a player isn’t performing, his club will often hire a coach to make the player better as opposed to spending millions on a replacement. The cost is fractional and brings long term benefits to the club and the Spanish game.
Balague said: “England could learn how Spain applies ‘the process’ – the process of learning, getting better, developing, creating coaches and creating philosophies. All of this for a start makes things cheaper. Secondly the process maximises your potential. You don’t depend only on results, because you’re giving something else – a package, a philosophy, a way of doing things, a way of thinking. These are all things that fans in Spain buy into.”
Guillem Balague is a key fixture in Sky Sports’ coverage of Spanish football, appearing regularly on live match coverage and the weekly round-up show, Revista de la Liga. He is a regular contributor to a number of UK and international newspapers and is also an award winning author with books published on Ronaldo and Pep Guardiola.