Barcelona's 4-0 defeat of Rayo Vallecano on Saturday probably didn't set off many alarms in the football world. We're not surprised when Barca defeats a fellow La Liga competitor by a large margin, but in watching this particular match it was hard not to be left with sickening reminder that this is the best we can hope for in Spain.
If you tuned in to the game you hopefully noticed that Rayo absolutely played their tails off against the Blaugrana. They were clearly inspired for the match and took the game to Barca from the opening whistle, refusing to allow them to sit on the ball and pass it around as we're accustomed to.
Rayo did nearly everything right. They got shots on goal, they didn't get overrun in the midfield, they even had more possession and better passing accuracy than Barca, which is practically unheard of these days.
Yet they still lost by four goals.
Perhaps if Victor Valdés hadn't saved Roberto Trashorras's 36th minute penalty and the match went to the half 1-1, things might have been different. Perhaps if Valdés hadn't made all those other insane saves throughout the first half, Rayo would have been defending a two or three goal lead.
"Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps," to steal a line from the band Cake.
But they didn't. In the second half, Rayo were simply worn down by a deeper and more talented Barcelona squad. Even on their best day when they did nearly all the right things, a team like Rayo still gets blown out.
This isn't some kind of new revelation about the state of the game in Spain. Saturday's match at the Campo de Fútbol de Vallecas was just another stark reminder of how big the gap is between the elite and average teams. There's essentially no room for error if you're Rayo, Levante, Real Valladolid or any of the 17 teams in Spain that probably aren't going to be able to get results against the league giants.
Villarreal's point against Real Madrid two weeks ago was an excellent result for the Yellow Submarine, but they should have won the game. Despite a near dominating performance, Madrid were still good enough to escape with a point thanks to their treasure trove of talent. The result was as anomaly and that's not meant to be disrespectful towards Villarreal, that's just the truth of the matter.
This is what happens when a majority of the teams in your league become selling teams. This is what happens when, despite Barca and Madrid spending €158 million on two players, the league overall still has a negative-€92 million balance from the summer transfer window.
The have-nots of La Liga are forced to sell their talent to survive, either within the league to a handful of teams, or outside the league. Thus the disparity grows and the level of competition worsens. All of Ray Hudson's chirping on beIN Sport broadcasts here in the United States about how great La Liga is are really nothing more just window dressing.
He's in the band playing on the deck as the Titanic slowly slips below the waters of the North Atlantic.
Spanish football will survive, but things are going to continue to get worse and worse from a competitive standpoint unless some kind of balance is struck. The trouble is that there's no easy fix, especially when Madrid and Barca continue to obstinately refuse to consider television revenue sharing that would benefit every club in the league. Even that potential revenue sharing probably wouldn't be some kind of mythical savior for most of the clubs, but it would certainly help.
Until something changes, ee'll keep seeing results like Barca's win over Rayo as the status quo. Even when a team is at or near their very best, they still will lose by absurd margins when playing Barcelona or Real Madrid.
Welcome to the new reality. Welcome to La Liga. 'Tis a silly place.