As we prepare for the dramatic end to both La Liga and the Premier League, with both divisions having unanswered questions in crucial positions and only the Spanish still representing their nation in Europe, we take a look at the most successful footballing cities top clubs in both England and Spain to see how we compare, city to city. With the huge tie tonight between the two Madrid clubs in the Champions League, we will compare the Spanish capital’s sides to the Premier League’s top two clubs in London and Manchester.
La Liga: (42) Real Madrid – 32 Atletico Madrid – 10
UEFA Champions League: (10) Real Madrid – 10 Atletico Madrid – 0
UEFA Europa League/UEFA Cup: (4) Real Madrid -2 Atletico Madrid -2
Cristiano Ronaldo – Real Madrid
Now entering his sixth season at Real Madrid, Cristiano Ronaldo is widely considered to be one of the best players in world football, if not the best. The two-time Ballon d’Or winning Portuguese international has enjoyed fantastic success in Madrid with Real, winning a La Liga trophy, two Copa Del Reys and one Champions League. Besides his impressive club CV, Ronaldo has cemented himself as one of the most memorable and decorated players in the game since his move to Madrid. The former Manchester United winger has been named in the UEFA Team Of The Year six times since making the change from England to Spain.
Gareth Bale – Real Madrid
Now in only his second campaign for Real Madrid, Welshman Gareth Bale has already built on his fantastic reputation earned whilst at Tottenham Hotspur. Although Bale has not had the warmest of welcomes in Madrid from the Real faithful, his performances have moved him into the upper echelon of world players. With a huge hand in Real’s Champions League success of last season as well as a Copa Del Rey title, Bale has hit the ground running in Madrid and is considered to be one of the most highly coveted and valued players in World Football today.
Antoine Griezmann – Atletico Madrid
24-year-old Frenchman Antoine Griezmann joined Atletico Madrid from Real Sociedad back in July and has not looked back. With 20 goals already in La Liga for Atletico as well as two in this year’s Champions League run, Griezmann has quickly established himself as one of the most valuable and crucial players in the Atletico Madrid set-up. The attacking midfielder has helped Atletico maintain their pressure on the at times runaway top two of La Liga and is certainly a player that will grow in ability, confidence and value as the seasons progress.
Real Madrid: Already a club dripping in history both domestically and in Europe, Real Madrid yet again find themselves on the brink of another Champions League semi-final, with only their local rivals Atletico standing in their way. Domestically Real are also, as ever, very much in the race for the La Liga title as they sit just two points adrift of league leaders Barcelona and seven points ahead of third placed Atletico. Top scorers in La Liga, Real Madrid boast 95 goals in only 32 games domestically and have thus far suffered just one defeat in this season’s Champions League, coming against Schalke in the second leg of the first knock-out round of the competition.
Atletico Madrid: Seven points behind local rivals Real Madrid and third in the La Liga race, Atletico are cemented as the third best side in La Liga, with that position known to fluctuate season by season. With only five games lost in La Liga this season, Atletico have the joint second lowest amount of games lost this campaign, one better than Real Madrid. Preparing for a huge Champions League quarter final second leg against the other half of Madrid, Atletico are just 90 minutes away from consecutive Champions League semi-finals.
Premier League/First Division: (17) Arsenal – 13 Chelsea – 4
UEFA Champions League: (1) Arsenal – 0 Chelsea – 1
UEFA Europa League/UEFA Cup: (1) Arsenal – 0 Chelsea – 1
Mesut Özil - Arsenal
A fan favourite at The Emirates, if not always appreciated elsewhere, Mesut Özil is a quiet but very effective operator on the field. His arrival at the start of last season symbolised a new big-spending, star-catching era at Arsenal and while his influence isn’t always as direct and obvious as some would expect for his price tag, the World Cup winner oozes class and there’s little question that his club are better when he is on the pitch. His tally of five league assists is impressive when you consider the German missed three months of the season with injury and their rise up the Premier League table since his return is no coincidence.
Eden Hazard – Chelsea
The 24 year-old Belgian is favourite to clean up at the Premier League’s end of season individual awards, and anyone who has followed his progress this campaign knows exactly why. Eden Hazard has provided the match-winning magic so many times this season for the Blues that he has firmly established himself as one of the world’s best players, with Zinedine Zidane going as far as saying Hazard is on the same level as Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. High praise indeed, and Chelsea fans are excited (and hoping) to see him fulfil his huge potential at Stamford Bridge.
Cesc Fabregas – Chelsea
The hearts of Arsenal fans collectively sank last summer at the news that Cesc Fabregas was joining Chelsea, and not just because he wasn’t returning to The Gunners. What was more devastating is that they knew Cesc’s arrival in west London would almost certainly lead to Chelsea becoming a dominant force in the Premier League once again. The Spanish midfielder’s explosive start to the season proved that, with goals and assists aplenty as it felt as if he had never left England. While his role and contribution in the opposing penalty area has changed somewhat more recently, the former Barcelona man has nonetheless been a key part of his side’s inevitable league title success.
Arsenal: Currently second in the Premier League, this campaign represents a big step forward for a club associated with maintaining fourth spot each year. It also says a lot for their more recent form that Arsenal looked in danger of falling out of the European qualification places at the start of the season after some poor results. Arsene Wenger’s side are renowned for strong finishes to the season, and with no major injury concerns they are a force for anybody domestically. Beyond that, however, there’s still the Champions League hex over The Gunners that means they can’t get beyond the first knockout stage, and some star additions in the summer will be required to break through.
Chelsea: The imminent champions of England have cruised this Premier League season, with the signings of Fabregas and Diego Costa providing exactly what Jose Mourinho was in need of in order to make Chelsea the force they are. There was even a point where it looked like the club could go the campaign unbeaten, and while that didn’t prove to be the case their record of two defeats in such a competitive league is mighty impressive. They would have been expected to make an impact on the European stage this season, but a limp display against ten-man PSG saw to their surprise early exit. Something tells us they will be around for the later stages next time around, though, as Chelsea are almost certainly one of Europe’s best football clubs.
Premier League/First Division: (24) United – 20 City – 4
UEFA Champions League: (3) United – 3 City – 0
UEFA Europa League/UEFA Cup: (0)
Wayne Rooney – Manchester United
Manchester United’s captain may be prone to a transfer request every other summer but the England striker has become part of the fabric at Old Trafford. Always showing up for the big games, Rooney is a talisman for United even if his current manager needed a while to realise that the goal machine he was looking for was doing a job in midfield. The 29 year-old is as crucial to United as he is for his country, and his recent form for the Three Lions has him just two goals short of the all-time England record, which he is certain to smash in the next year. His technical ability and bulldog English spirit is a rare combination, and one appreciated around the world even if rarely seen in major international tournaments.
Yaya Toure – Manchester City
It’s looking increasingly likely that the Ivorian midfielder will be leaving City this summer, which is a big shame for the club as his influence has been stark at times. Toure’s absence was sorely felt when he went to (and won) the Africa Cup of Nations, and when he is on form there’s nobody stopping him. We’ve seen recently though that when the player is not in the mood, City are really poor and his disinterest is unavoidable. In a strange way, his summer exit may end up doing City a favour long-term, but only once they find a replacement for those powerhouse runs he became known for during City’s title-winning campaigns.
Sergio Aguero – Manchester City
While Toure is an inconsistent figure for Man City, there are no allegations of the sort that can be directed at his teammate Sergio Aguero. The Argentine striker has been dependable throughout his time at Eastlands and his goals-per-game ratio is to be equally admired and feared. His display against Bayern Munich this season in the Champions League showed that Aguero is a game-changer even at elite level, and all the time he chooses to remain at City (and stays fit) they have a chance of becoming the established European force they want to be.
Manchester United: There was a long spell this season where United kept winning games despite seemingly poor performances, but we’ve now seen how good and effective the same side could be once it improved. This too, without the club’s biggest summer signings, as Louis van Gaal has overseen success on the pitch with maligned figures such as Ashley Young and Marouane Fellaini rather than Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao. With no European football this year for the club after their desperately poor display last season, it’s been difficult to assess how United compare to the continent’s elite right now, but with the Reds currently in third in the Premier League we’ll surely see them tussling with Europe’s best again in the next campaign.
Manchester City: The Premier League holders have had a dreadful 2015, which put pay to any hopes of silverware this season and may well signal the end of manager Manuel Pellegrini’s time at the club. City didn’t take full advantage of United’s recent stuttering years and the opportunity to become Manchester’s torch-bearing club in Europe was lost. While they have riches to keep trying, City’s recruitment over the last two or three years has done little to improve the team – certainly in Europe, where they continue to have little impact – and with an ageing squad the club faces a key period in successfully transitioning to a new generation of quality players. For now though, they have fallen right back under the United shadow they were for so long in their history.
What’s your verdict? Which city has the strongest pair of clubs? Let us know at @JDFootball
Words by Ben Fawcett and Joe Walker