Soccer

Spanish clubs hanging at the forefront of European soccer

One thing hasn't changed in soccer the last few seasons: The success of Spanish clubs in European competitions.

Year after year, Spanish teams have been making it to the decisive stages of both the Champions League and the Europa League, the continent's most important club competitions.

"We are proud, we've been doing this for several years now," Spanish league president Javier Tebas said. "We've gotten used to eating caviar. The day this changes, I'm sure that all the headlines will be about crisis in the Spanish football."

Spanish clubs have won eight European titles over the last seven seasons, four in the Champions League and four in the Europa League.

This season, Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid are in the semifinals of the Champions League, and Sevilla and Villarreal are in the last four in the Europa League.

"It shows that the work of football officials and coaches in Spain is exceptional," Tebas said. "We have to give credit to the clubs' presidents and the football directors, they are the main responsible for the continuity of this success."

There have been at least three Spanish clubs in the quarterfinals of the Champions League in each of the last four seasons, and at least two in the semifinals the last six seasons. The last time there were no Spanish teams in the tournament's quarterfinals was back in 2005, when Real Madrid and Barcelona were eliminated in the round of 16.

In the Europa League, at least one Spanish club has made it to the semifinals in six of the last seven editions. Atletico Madrid won the title in 2010 and 2012, and Sevilla in 2014 and 2015.

The Spanish supremacy exists even though the Spanish league can't compete financially with the richer leagues such as England's Premier League, where clubs have had much greater spending power to sign new players.

"The sporting results are not always correlated one-to-one with the teams' income," said Lars-Christer Olsson, chairman of the European Professional Football Leagues. "One of the reasons we defend the domestic leagues is to keep the dream alive for all clubs. The smaller clubs should at least have an opportunity to win the biggest titles."

Olsson and his group have been on a crusade against the creation of the European Super League, which they say would be a revamped Champions League with guaranteed spots for Europe's top clubs in detriment of the less traditional teams which currently can qualify through the domestic tournaments.

The Spanish league has been a strong supporter of the group's efforts, saying that the Super League could hurt the chances of some of its teams from continuing to do well in the European competitions.

"We need to give all teams a chance to play in the top European competitions," Tebas said. "We've seen here that even the clubs without great financial resources can achieve great things."

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