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The Primera División (First Division) of the Liga de Fútbol Profesional (Professional Football League), commonly known as La Liga (The League) or, in terms of sponsorship, Liga BBVA (BBVA League) since 2008, is the top professional football league in Spainmarker. It is contested by 20 teams, with the three lowest placed teams relegated to the Segunda División and replaced by the top three teams in that division. A total of 58 teams have competed in La Liga, nine of which have been crowned champions. Since the 1950s, Real Madrid and Barcelona have dominated the championship. The former have won the title 31 times while the latter have won it on 19 occasions. However, during the 1930s and 1940s and in the last two decades, La Liga has seen other champions including Atlético Madrid, Athletic Bilbao, Valencia, Sevilla, Deportivo, Real Sociedad and Real Betis.

La Liga is one of the most popular professional sports leagues in the world, with an average attendance of 29,029 for league matches in the 2007-2008 season. This is the eighth highest of any domestic professional sports league in the world and the third highest of any professional football league, behind the Bundesliga and the Premier League.

Competition format

La Liga follows the usual double round-robin format. During the course of a season, which lasts from September to June, each club plays every other club twice, once at home and once away, for a total of 38 games. Teams receive three points for a win, one point for a draw, and no points for a loss. Teams are ranked by total points, with the highest-ranked club at the end of the season crowned champion. If points are equal between two or more clubs, head-to-head results usually determine their placement. The first tiebreaker used when two teams are even on points is the goal difference resulting from the two matches between the clubs in question. When more than two teams are tied, the points accumulated from the games between those teams are used to rank them, then goal difference if needed. If head-to-head results are not sufficient to separate teams, goal difference over the entire season, then total goals scored in the season may be used.

A system of promotion and relegation exists between the Primera División and the Segunda División. The three lowest placed teams in La Liga are relegated to the Segunda División, and the top three teams from the Segunda División are promoted to La Liga.

Qualification for European competitions

The top four teams in La Liga qualify for the UEFA Champions League, with the first, second, and third placed teams directly entering the group stage and the fourth placed team entering the third qualifying round. The fifth and sixth placed teams qualify for the first round of the Europa League.



In April 1927 Jose Maria Acha, a director at Arenas Club de Getxo, first proposed the idea of a national league in Spainmarker. After much debate about the size of the league and who would take part, the Real Federación Española de Fútbol eventually agreed on the ten teams who would form the first Primera División in 1928. Barcelona, Real Madrid, Athletic Bilbao, Real Sociedad, Arenas Club de Getxo and Real Unión were all selected as previous winners of the Copa del Rey. Atlético Madrid, Espanyol and Europa qualified as Copa del Rey runners-up and Racing Santander qualified through a knockout competition. Only three of the founding clubs, Real Madrid, Barcelona and Athletic Bilbao, have never been relegated from the Primera División.

The 1930s

Although Barcelona won the very first Liga in 1929 and Real Madrid won their first titles in 1932 and 1933, it was Athletic Bilbao that set the early pace winning Primera División in 1930, 1931, 1934 and 1936. They were also runners-up in 1932 and 1933. In 1935, Real Betis, then known as Betis Balompié, won their only title to date. Primera División was suspended during the Spanish Civil War.

In 1937, the teams in the Republican area of Spain, with the notable exception of the two Madridmarker clubs, competed in the Mediterranean League and FC Barcelona emerged as champions. Seventy years later, on September 28 2007, Barcelona requested RFEF to recognise that title as a Liga title. This action was taken after RFEF recognised Levante FC's Copa de la España Libre win as equivalent to Copa del Rey trophy.

The 1940s

When the Primera División resumed after the Spanish Civil War it was Atlético Aviación (nowadays Atlético Madrid), Valencia and Sevilla that initially emerged as the strongest clubs. Atlético Aviación were only awarded a place during the 1939-40 season as a replacement for Real Oviedo, whose ground had been damaged during the war. The club subsequently won their first Liga title and retained it in 1941. While other clubs lost players to exile, execution and as casualties of the war, the Atlético Aviación team was reinforced by a merger. The young pre-war squad of Valencia had also remained intact and in the post-war years matured into champions, gaining three Liga titles in 1942, 1944 and 1947. They were also runners-up in 1948 and 1949. Sevilla also enjoyed a brief golden era, finishing as runners-up in 1940 and 1942 before winning their only title to date in 1946. By the latter part of the decade Barcelona began to emerge as a force when they were crowned champions in 1945, 1948 and 1949.

Di Stéfano, Puskás, Kubala and Suárez

Although Atlético Madrid, previously known as Atlético Aviación, were champions in 1950 and 1951 under catenaccio mastermind Helenio Herrera, the 1950s saw the beginning of the Barcelona/Real Madrid dominance. During the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s there were strict limits imposed on foreign players. In most cases clubs could only have three foreign players in their squads, meaning that at least eight local players had to play in every game. During the 1950s, however, these rules were circumnavigated by Real Madrid and Barcelona who naturalized Alfredo di Stéfano, Ferenc Puskás and Ladislao Kubala. Inspired by Kubala, Barça won the title in 1952 and 1953. Di Stéfano, Puskás and Francisco Gento formed the nucleus of the Real Madrid team that dominated the second half of the 1950s. Real won Primera División for the first time as Real Madrid in 1954 and retained it in 1955. They were winners again in 1957 and 1958, with only Athletic Bilbao interrupting their sequence. During this period, Real Madrid also won an unprecedented five consecutive European Cups. Barcelona with a team coached by Helenio Herrera and featuring Luis Suárez gained the title in 1959 and 1960.

The Madrid Years

Between 1961 and 1980, Real Madrid dominated the Primera División, being crowned champion 14 times. This included a five-in-a-row sequence from 1961 to 1965 and two three-in-a-row sequences (1967-69 and 1978-1980). During this era only Atlético Madrid offered Real any serious challenge, adding four more titles to their tally in 1966, 1970, 1973 and 1977. Of the other clubs, only Valencia in 1971 and the Johan Cruyff-inspired Barcelona of 1974 managed to break the might of Real Madrid.

The 1980s

The Madridmarker winning sequence was ended more significantly in 1981 when Real Sociedad won their first ever title. They retained it in 1982 and their two in a row was followed by another by their fellow Basquesmarker, Athletic Bilbao who won back-to-back titles in 1983 and 1984. Terry Venables led Barcelona to a solitary title in 1985 before Real Madrid won again another five in a row sequence (1986-90) with a team, guided by Leo Beenhakker, and including Hugo Sánchez and the legendary La Quinta del Buitre - Emilio Butragueño, Manolo Sanchís, Martín Vázquez, Míchel and Miguel Pardeza.

The 1990s

Johan Cruijff returned to Barcelona as manager in 1988, and assembled the legendary Dream Team. Cruijff introduced players like Josep Guardiola, José Mari Bakero, Txiki Beguiristain, Goikoetxea, Ronald Koeman, Michael Laudrup, Romário and Hristo Stoichkov. This team won Primera División four times between 1991 and 1994 and won the European Cup in 1992. Laudrup then moved to arch-rivals Real Madrid after a fall-out with Cruijff, and helped them end Barcelona's run in 1995. Atlético Madrid won their ninth Primera División title in 1996 before Real Madrid added another Liga trophy to their cabinet in 1997. After the success of Cruijff, another Dutchman - Ajax manager Louis van Gaal - arrived at the Camp Noumarker, and with the talents of Luís Figo, Luis Enrique and Rivaldo, Barcelona again won the title in 1998 and 1999. Meanwhile, Real Madrid also experienced success on the continental stage, winning the UEFA Champions League in 1998.

The 2000s

As Primera División entered a new century, the Big Two found themselves facing new challengers. Between 1993 and 2004, Deportivo La Coruña finished in the top three on ten occasions, a better record than either Real Madrid or Barcelona, and in 2000, under Javier Irureta, they became the ninth team to be crowned champions. Real Madrid won two more Liga titles in 2001 and 2003 and also the UEFA Champions League in 2000 and 2002, and won their third league title in 2007 after a three year drought. They were challenged by a re-emerging Valencia in both competitions. Under the management of Héctor Cúper, Valencia finished as Champions League runners-up in 2000 and 2001. His successor, Rafael Benítez, built on this and led the club to a Liga title in 2002 and a Liga/UEFA Cup double in 2004. The 2004-05 season saw a resurgent Barcelona, inspired by the brilliant Ronaldinho, win their first title of the new century, in addition to the Liga-Champions League double in 2005-06. Real Madrid won La Liga in 2006-2007 and 2007-2008 season, and Barcelona again in 2009, as part of their treble winning season.

La Liga clubs in Europe

In addition to their success in Primera División, Real Madrid, Barcelona and Valencia are three of the most successful teams in European competition history. All three clubs are the only Spanishmarker clubs to have won 5 or more international trophies. All three clubs are also in the top ten most successful clubs in European football in terms of total European trophies. In 2005/06, Barça won the UEFA Champions League and Sevilla won the UEFA Cup. The Primera División became the first league to do the European "double" since 1997.

The Primera División is currently second in the UEFA rankings of European leagues based on their performances in European competitions over a five-year period, behind the English Premier League in first and ahead of Italy's Serie A in third.

Clubs in 2009/10 season

Club Position in

First season after

most recent promotion
Region Stadium Capacity
Barcelona 1 Never relegated Cataloniamarker Camp Noumarker 98,772
Real Madrid 2 Never relegated Madridmarker Santiago Bernabéumarker 80,400
Sevilla 3 2001/02 Andalusiamarker Ramón Sánchez Pizjuánmarker 45,500
Atlético Madrid 4 2002/03 Madridmarker Vicente Calderónmarker 54,851
Villarreal 5 2000/01 Valenciamarker El Madrigalmarker 23,000
Valencia 6 1987/88 Valenciamarker Mestallamarker 55,000
Deportivo La Coruña 7 1991/92 Galiciamarker Riazormarker 34,600
Málaga 8 2008/09 Andalusiamarker La Rosaledamarker 29,000
Mallorca 9 1997/98 Balearic Islandsmarker ONO Estadimarker 23,142
Espanyol 10 1994/95 Cataloniamarker Cornellà-El Pratmarker 40,000
Almería 11 2007/08 Andalusiamarker Mediterráneomarker 22,000
Racing Santander 12 2002/03 Cantabriamarker El Sardineromarker 22,271
Athletic Bilbao 13 Never relegated Basque Countrymarker San Mamésmarker 39,750
Sporting Gijón 14 2008/09 Asturiasmarker El Molinónmarker 25,585
Osasuna 15 2000/01 Navarremarker Reyno de Navarramarker 19,500
Real Valladolid 16 2007/08 Castile and Leónmarker José Zorrillamarker 26,512
Getafe 17 2004/05 Madridmarker Alfonso Pérezmarker 16,300
Xerez 1st

in Segunda
2009/10 Andalusiamarker Chapínmarker 20,300
Real Zaragoza 2nd

in Segunda
2009/10 Aragonmarker La Romaredamarker 34,596
Tenerife 3rd

in Segunda
2009/10 Canary Islandsmarker H.marker Rodríguez Lópezmarker 24,000


Year by year

Year Winner Runner Up Third Place
1928-29 FC Barcelona Madrid CF Athletic Bilbao
1929-30 Athletic Bilbao FC Barcelona Arenas Club de Getxo
1930-31 Athletic Bilbao Racing de Santander Real Sociedad
1931-32 Madrid CF Athletic Bilbao FC Barcelona
1932-33 Madrid CF Athletic Bilbao CE Espanyol
1933-34 Athletic Bilbao Madrid CF Racing de Santander
1934-35 Betis Balompié Madrid CF Oviedo CF
1935-36 Athletic Bilbao Madrid CF Oviedo CF
1936-39 League suspended due to the Spanish Civil War
1939-40 Atlético Aviación Sevilla FC Athletic Bilbao
1940-41 Atlético Aviación Athletic Bilbao Valencia CF
1941-42 Valencia CF Real Madrid Atlético Aviación
1942-43 Athletic Bilbao Sevilla FC FC Barcelona
1943-44 Valencia CF Atlético Aviación Sevilla FC
1944-45 FC Barcelona Real Madrid Atlético Aviación
1945-46 Sevilla FC FC Barcelona Athletic Bilbao
1946-47 Valencia CF Athletic Bilbao Atlético Aviación
1947-48 FC Barcelona Valencia CF Atlético Madrid
1948-49 FC Barcelona Valencia CF Real Madrid
1949-50 Atlético Madrid Deportivo de La Coruña Valencia CF
1950-51 Atlético Madrid Sevilla FC Valencia CF
1951-52 FC Barcelona Athletic Bilbao Real Madrid
1952-53 FC Barcelona Valencia CF Real Madrid
1953-54 Real Madrid FC Barcelona Valencia CF
1954-55 Real Madrid FC Barcelona Athletic Bilbao
1955-56 Athletic Bilbao FC Barcelona Real Madrid
1956-57 Real Madrid Sevilla FC FC Barcelona
1957-58 Real Madrid Atlético Madrid FC Barcelona
1958-59 FC Barcelona Real Madrid Athletic Bilbao
1959-60 FC Barcelona Real Madrid Athletic Bilbao
1960-61 Real Madrid Atlético Madrid FC Barcelona
1961-62 Real Madrid FC Barcelona Atlético Madrid
1962-63 Real Madrid Atlético Madrid Real Oviedo
1963-64 Real Madrid FC Barcelona Real Betis
1964-65 Real Madrid Atlético Madrid Real Zaragoza
1965-66 Atlético Madrid Real Madrid FC Barcelona
1966-67 Real Madrid FC Barcelona RCD Espanyol
1967-68 Real Madrid FC Barcelona UD Las Palmas
1968-69 Real Madrid UD Las Palmas FC Barcelona
1969-70 Atlético Madrid Athletic Bilbao Sevilla FC
1970-71 Valencia CF FC Barcelona Atlético Madrid
1971-72 Real Madrid Valencia CF FC Barcelona
1972-73 Atlético Madrid FC Barcelona RCD Espanyol
1973-74 FC Barcelona Atlético Madrid Real Zaragoza
1974-75 Real Madrid Real Zaragoza FC Barcelona
1975-76 Real Madrid FC Barcelona Atlético Madrid
1976-77 Atlético Madrid FC Barcelona Athletic Bilbao
1977-78 Real Madrid FC Barcelona Athletic Bilbao
1978-79 Real Madrid Sporting de Gijón Atlético Madrid
1979-80 Real Madrid Real Sociedad Sporting de Gijón
1980-81 Real Sociedad Real Madrid Atlético Madrid
1981-82 Real Sociedad FC Barcelona Real Madrid
1982-83 Athletic Bilbao Real Madrid Atlético Madrid
1983-84 Athletic Bilbao Real Madrid FC Barcelona
1984-85 FC Barcelona Atlético Madrid Athletic Bilbao
1985-86 Real Madrid FC Barcelona Athletic Bilbao
1986-87 Real Madrid FC Barcelona RCD Espanyol
1987-88 Real Madrid Real Sociedad Atlético Madrid
1988-89 Real Madrid FC Barcelona Valencia CF
1989-90 Real Madrid Valencia CF FC Barcelona
1990-91 FC Barcelona Atlético Madrid Real Madrid
1991-92 FC Barcelona Real Madrid Atlético Madrid
1992-93 FC Barcelona Real Madrid Deportivo de La Coruña
1993-94 FC Barcelona Deportivo de La Coruña Real Zaragoza
1994-95 Real Madrid Deportivo de La Coruña Real Betis
1995-96 Atlético Madrid Valencia CF FC Barcelona
1996-97 Real Madrid FC Barcelona Deportivo de La Coruña
1997-98 FC Barcelona Athletic Bilbao Real Sociedad
1998-99 FC Barcelona Real Madrid Real Mallorca
1999-00 Deportivo de La Coruña FC Barcelona Valencia CF
2000-01 Real Madrid Deportivo de La Coruña Real Mallorca
2001-02 Valencia CF Deportivo de La Coruña Real Madrid
2002-03 Real Madrid Real Sociedad Deportivo de La Coruña
2003-04 Valencia CF FC Barcelona Deportivo de La Coruña
2004-05 FC Barcelona Real Madrid Villarreal CF
2005-06 FC Barcelona Real Madrid Valencia CF
2006-07 Real Madrid FC Barcelona Sevilla FC
2007-08 Real Madrid Villarreal CF FC Barcelona
2008-09 FC Barcelona Real Madrid Sevilla FC
2009-10 TBD TBD TBD

Performance by club

Club Winners Runners-up Winning Years
Real Madrid
1931-32, 1932-33, 1953-54, 1954-55, 1956-57, 1957-58, 1960-61, 1961-62, 1962-63, 1963-64, 1964-65, 1966-67, 1967-68, 1968-69, 1971-72, 1974-75, 1975-76, 1977-78, 1978-79, 1979-80, 1985-86, 1986-87, 1987-88, 1988-89, 1989-90, 1994-95, 1996-97, 2000-01, 2002-03, 2006-07, 2007-08
1928-29, 1944-45, 1947-48, 1948-49, 1951-52, 1952-53, 1958-59, 1959-60, 1973-74, 1984-85, 1990-91, 1991-92, 1992-93, 1993-94, 1997-98, 1998-99, 2004-05, 2005-06, 2008-09
Atlético Madrid
1939-40, 1940-41, 1949-50, 1950-51, 1965-66, 1969-70, 1972-73, 1976-77, 1995-96
Athletic Bilbao
1929-30, 1930-31, 1933-34, 1935-36, 1942-43, 1955-56, 1982-83, 1983-84
1941-42, 1943-44, 1946-47, 1970-71, 2001-02, 2003-04
Real Sociedad
1980-81, 1981-82
Real Betis

Note on name changes

During the Second Spanish Republic clubs such as Real Madrid and Real Betis dropped the Real from their name, Real Sociedad became Donostia CF. In 1941, a decree issued by Franco banned the use of non-Spanish language names. FC Barcelona and Sevilla FC became CF Barcelona and Sevilla CF, both Athletic Bilbao and Athletic Aviación changed the spelling of their prefix to Atlético, Sporting de Gijón and Racing de Santander became Real Gijón and Real Santander.


Eligibility of non-EU players

In La Liga players can claim citizenship from the nation their ancestors came from. If a player does not have European ancestry he can claim Spanish citizenship after playing in Spain for 5 years. Sometimes this can lead to a triple-citizenship situation e.g. Leo Franco, who is Argentine-born, of Italian heritage and can claim a Spanish passport, having played in La Liga for over 5 years.

In addition, players from the ACP countries—countries in Africa, the Caribbeanmarker, and the Pacific that are signatories to the Cotonou Agreement—are not counted against non-EU quotas, due to the Kolpak ruling.

Individual awards

Many individual awards are conceded relating to La Liga, although not sanctioned by the LFP nor the RFEF they are widely regarded as official.

The most notable of these are three awarded by Spain's biggest sports paper, Marca, namely the Pichichi Trophy, awarded to the top scorer of the season, the Ricardo Zamora Trophy for the goalkeeper with the least "goals-to-games" ratio, and the Trofeo Alfredo di Stéfano, for the player judged to be the best overall player in the division. The most recent winners (for the 2008–09 season) were:

All-time top scorers

All-time top scorers in La Liga
Rank Player Goals
1 Telmo Zarra 252
2 Hugo Sánchez 234
3 Alfredo di Stéfano 227
4 Raúl 226
5 César Rodríguez 226
6 Quini 219
7 Pahiño 210
8 Edmundo Suárez 196
9 Santillana 186
10 Juan Arza 182
11 Guillermo Gorostiza 181
12 Luboslav Penev 163
13 Samuel Eto'o 162
14 Luis Aragonés 160
15 Ferenc Puskás 156
16 Julio Salinas 152
17 Adrián Escudero 150
In bold Currently playing in La Liga

European Footballers of the Year

The following were all elected winners of European Footballer of the Year while playing in La Liga:

FIFA World Players of the Year

The following were all elected FIFA World Player of the Year while playing with La Liga clubs. In 2006, the three nominees for the award were all La Liga players. Fabio Cannavaro won the award, Zinédine Zidane came second and Ronaldinho came third. The last six awards, before 2007 (Kaká), have all been won by players playing in La Liga.

See also

Notes and references


External links

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