La Liga

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La Liga
Liga BBVA.svg
Number of teams20
Levels on pyramid1
Relegation toSegunda División
Domestic cup(s)Copa del Rey
Supercopa de España
International cup(s)UEFA Champions League
UEFA Europa League
Current championsBarcelona (22nd title)
Most championshipsReal Madrid (32 titles)
TV partnersCanal+ 1
Canal+ Liga
Gol Televisión
TVE (Highlights)
beIN Sports
2013–14 season
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La Liga
Liga BBVA.svg
Number of teams20
Levels on pyramid1
Relegation toSegunda División
Domestic cup(s)Copa del Rey
Supercopa de España
International cup(s)UEFA Champions League
UEFA Europa League
Current championsBarcelona (22nd title)
Most championshipsReal Madrid (32 titles)
TV partnersCanal+ 1
Canal+ Liga
Gol Televisión
TVE (Highlights)
beIN Sports
2013–14 season

The Primera División[a] (First Division) of the Liga Nacional de Fútbol Profesional (LFP), commonly known in the English-speaking world as La Liga (/lə ˈlɡə/, Spanish: [la ˈliɣa], The League), and officially named for sponsorship reasons Liga BBVA (BBVA League) is the top professional association football division of the Spanish football league system. It is contested by 20 teams, with the three lowest placed teams relegated to the Segunda División and replaced by the top two teams in that division plus the winner of a play-off. A total of 59 teams have competed in La Liga, nine of which have been crowned champions. Since the 1950s, Real Madrid and Barcelona have dominated the championship. Real Madrid have won the title a record 32 times and Barcelona 22 times. During the 1930s and 1940s and in the last two decades, however, La Liga has seen other champions, including, Atlético Madrid, Athletic Bilbao, Valencia, Real Sociedad, Deportivo, Real Betis, and Sevilla.

La Liga is the strongest league in Europe over the past five years, according to UEFA's league coefficient. La Liga is one of the most popular professional sports leagues in the world, with an average attendance of 30,275 for league matches in the 2011–12 season. This is the fifth-highest of any domestic professional sports league in the world and the third-highest of any professional association football league in the world, behind the German Bundesliga and English Premier League.[1][dead link]

Competition format[edit]

The competition format 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.

Ranking of clubs on equal points[edit]

If points are equal between two or more clubs, the rules are:[2]

Promotion and relegation[edit]

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 two teams from the Segunda División promoted to La Liga, with an additional club promoted after a series of play-offs involving the third, fourth, fifth and sixth placed clubs. Below is a complete record of how many teams played in each season throughout the league's history;

  • 10 clubs = 1929–1934
  • 12 clubs = 1934–1941
  • 14 clubs = 1941–1950
  • 16 clubs = 1950–1971
  • 18 clubs = 1971–1987
  • 20 clubs = 1987–1995
  • 22 clubs = 1995–1997
  • 20 clubs = 1997–present

Qualification for European competitions[edit]

FC Barcelona against Schalke in the UEFA Champions League in 2008

The top 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 playoffs for the group stage of UEFA Champions League. Teams placed fifth and sixth play in the UEFA Europa League, along with the cup winners. If both teams in the cup final finish in the top 6, an additional berth in the Europe League is given to the team that finishes in 7th.



In April 1927, José María Acha, a director at Arenas Club de Getxo, first proposed the idea of a national league in Spain. 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 1929. 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 de 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[edit]

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 Madrid clubs, competed in the Mediterranean League and Barcelona emerged as champions. Seventy years later, on 28 September 2007, Barcelona requested the RFEF to recognise that title as a Liga title. This action was taken after RFEF was asked to recognise Levante FC's Copa de la España Libre win as equivalent to Copa del Rey trophy.

The 1940s[edit]

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 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 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[edit]

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 circumvented by Real Madrid and Barcelona, who naturalized Alfredo di Stéfano, Ferenc Puskás, and Ladislav 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. Madrid won the first division for the first time as Real Madrid in 1954 and retained its title 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, won the title in 1959 and 1960.

The Madrid years[edit]

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 (1967–1969 and 1978–1980). During this era, only Atlético Madrid offered Real Madrid 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 dominance of Real Madrid.

The 1980s[edit]

The Madrid 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 Basques 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 (1986–1990) with a team guided by Leo Beenhakker and including Hugo Sánchez and the legendary La Quinta del BuitreEmilio Butragueño, Manolo Sanchís, Martín Vázquez, Míchel and Miguel Pardeza.

The 1990s[edit]

Match between Deportivo de La Coruña and Osasuna.

Johan Cruyff returned to Barcelona as manager in 1988, and assembled the legendary Dream Team. Cruyff 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 Cruyff, 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 Cruyff, another Dutchman – Ajax manager Louis van Gaal – arrived at the Camp Nou, and with the talents of Luís Figo, Luis Enrique, and Rivaldo, Barcelona again won the title in 1998 and 1999.

The 2000s[edit]

As Primera División entered a new century, the Big Two of Real Madrid and Barcelona 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 winning the double with a league title and the UEFA Cup 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. With world class players like Raúl, Ruud van Nistelrooy and Gonzalo Higuain, Real Madrid won back to back La Liga titles in 2006–07 and 2007–08 season. Under Josep Guardiola's Dream Team, powered by La Masia talents such as Lionel Messi, Xavi, and Andrés Iniesta, Barcelona added three straight Liga titles (2008–09, 2009–10, and 2010–11). In the 2011–2012 season, Real Madrid won its 32nd title under the management of José Mourinho with a record-breaking points tally of 100, a record 121 number of goals scored, most overall (32) and away (16) wins in a single season in La Liga History.


A total of 20 teams contest the league, including 17 sides from the 2012–13 season and three promoted from the 2012–13 Segunda División. This included the two top teams from the Segunda División, and the victorious team of the play-offs.

RCD Mallorca, Deportivo de La Coruña and Real Zaragoza were relegated to 2013–14 Segunda División the previous season: Mallorca were relegated after sixteen years in La Liga, the longest period in its history and ending their golden era, Zaragoza returned to Segunda División after a four-year tenure in La Liga, while Deportivo de La Coruña made an immediate return to the Segunda División after being promoted the previous year. All three teams were relegated in the last matchday.

The three relegated teams were replaced by three 2012–13 Segunda División sides: Elche CF returned to the top level as Segunda División champion after 24 years of absence and with the last 14 seasons consecutively in the Segunda División. The second placed team Villarreal was also promoted to La Liga making an immediate return to La Liga after a win over Almería in the decisive match of the last set of games where the winner would be directly promoted to La Liga. Almería returned to the Spanish top flight after spending two years in the Segunda by beating Girona in the promotion play-offs.

This was the first ever season since the 1988–89 season without any teams from the archipelagos of Spain (teams located on the Balearic Islands and Canary Islands) since RCD Mallorca was relegated and UD Las Palmas failed to be promoted after playing in the promotion play-offs later season.


The most expensive transfer in the world was Gareth Bale who was bought by Real Madrid C.F. in 2013 for £85.3 million (€ 103.4 million / $140 million) from Tottenham Hotspur F.C..[4]

Stadiums and locations[edit]

TeamHome cityStadiumCapacity
Athletic BilbaoBilbaoSan Mamés53,332
Atlético MadridMadridVicente Calderón55,967
FC BarcelonaBarcelonaCamp Nou99,786
Real BetisSevilleBenito Villamarín49,745
Celta de VigoVigoBalaídos34,800
UD AlmeríaAlmeriaEstadio de los Juegos Mediterráneos22,000
RCD EspanyolBarcelonaCornellà-El Prat40,500
Getafe CFGetafeColiseum Alfonso Pérez17,700
Granada CFGranadaNuevo Los Cármenes22,524
Levante UDValenciaCiutat de València25,534
Málaga CFMálagaLa Rosaleda49,044
Elche CFElcheMartínez Valero38,750
CA OsasunaPamplonaEl Sadar19,553
Rayo VallecanoMadridCampo de Vallecas17,489
Real Madrid C.F.MadridSantiago Bernabéu88,744
Real SociedadSan SebastiánAnoeta48,000
Sevilla FCSevilleRamón Sánchez Pizjuán52,500
Valencia CFValenciaMestalla55,000
Real ValladolidValladolidNuevo José Zorrilla26,512
Villarreal CFVillarrealEl Madrigal42,890

La Liga clubs in Europe[edit]

Real Madrid C.F. against Borussia Dortmund in the UEFA Champions League in 2013

In addition to their success in Primera División, Valencia, Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atlético Madrid are four of the most successful teams in European competition history. All four clubs are the only Spanish clubs to have won five or more international trophies. Whilst, Real Madrid, Barcelona and Valencia are also in the top ten most successful clubs in European football in terms of total European trophies.[5] In 2005–06, Barcelona 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 first in the UEFA rankings of European leagues based on their performances in European competitions over a five-year period, ahead of the English Premier League in third and Germany's Bundesliga in second.[6]


Performance by club[edit]

ClubWinnersRunners-upWinning Seasons

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, 2011–12
1929, 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, 2009–10, 2010–11, 2012–13

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
Deportivo La Coruña

All-time La Liga table[edit]

The All-time La Liga table[7] is an overall record of all match results, points, and goals of every team that has played in La Liga since its inception in 1929. The table is accurate as of the end of the 2012–13 season.[8] Teams in bold are part of the 2013–14 La Liga.

PosTeamSeasonsPointsPlayedWonDrawnLostGFGATDebutSince/Last AppBest
1Real Madrid82402326101533532545550929893221783475192919291
4Athletic Bilbao82311826101137599874441235328710471046192919291
5Atlético Madrid763108246211395707534257320998139765219292002–031
8Real Sociedad6623562150805537808301830232325421819292010–111
11Deportivo La Coruña42170114165403485281929201115411121941–422012–131
12Celta de Vigo471584154652935566220782399244101939–402012–134
14Racing de Santander4414161428453336639184323681121519292011–122
15Sporting de Gijón4013191382454339589167120181122171944–452011–122
17Real Oviedo3811741192408292492164219513224111933–342000–013
19Las Palmas319371020345225450124916191111151951–522001–022
22CD Málaga20543647186171290666926---1949–501989–907
25Rayo Vallecano145325281521292476168671977–782011–128
30UD Salamanca12375423123102198422581---1974–751998–997
35CD Logroñés92933469692158291489--1987–881996–977
40Recreativo de Huelva5188186504690202296---1978–792008–098
42Burgos CF6168204595095216310--1971–721979–8012
45Arenas de Getxo71071304321662273081-3419291934–353
46Real Burgos396114264444101139--1990–911992–939
47Gimnàstic de Tarragona491116341666181295--1947–482006–077
48CF Extremadura2838020233762117--1996–971998–9917
49CP Mérida2818019243770115--1995–961997–9819
52Real Unión45672211437153184-1119291931–326
53AD Almería2526817183371116--1979–801980–8110
55UE Lleida2406813144170182---1950–511993–9416
57CD Condal1223078153757--1956–571956–5716
58Atlético Tetuán1193075185185--1951–521951–5216
59Cultural Leonesa1143054213465--1955–561955–5615

League or status at 2013–14:

2013–14 La Liga
2013–14 Segunda División
2013–14 Segunda División B
2013–14 Tercera División
2013–14 Divisiones Regionales
To be determined
No longer affiliated with RFEF
Clubs that no longer exist


Eligibility of non-EU players[edit]

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 five years.[citation needed] Sometimes, this can lead to a triple-citizenship situation; for example, Leo Franco, who is Argentine-born, of Italian heritage, and can claim a Spanish passport, having played in La Liga for over five years.[dubious ]

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

Individual awards[edit]

Until season 2008–09, no official awards for La Liga existed. Following the 2008–09 season, the Liga de Fútbol Profesional, the governing body, instated the LFP Awards. Apart from these awards, many individual awards are given out relating to La Liga, although not sanctioned by the LFP nor the Royal Spanish Football Federation and therefore not regarded as official.

The most notable of these are four 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; the Trofeo Alfredo di Stéfano, for the player judged to be the best overall player in the division; and the Zarra Trophy is awarded to the Spanish domestic player with the highest goal total in La Liga.

Since the 2013–14 season, La Liga also awards the monthly Manager of the Month and Player of the Month awards.

All-time top scorers, top 20[edit]

1SpainTelmo Zarra1940–19552512770.91
2ArgentinaLionel Messi2004–2402710.89
3MexicoHugo Sánchez1981–19942343470.67
5ArgentinaSpainAlfredo di Stéfano1953–19662273290.69
6SpainCésar Rodríguez1939–19552233530.63
9SpainEdmundo Suárez1939–19501952310.84
10SpainDavid Villa2003–1853460.53
11SpainCarlos Santillana1970–19881864610.40
12SpainJuan Arza1943–19591823490.52
13SpainGuillermo Gorostiza1929–19451782560.70
14PortugalCristiano Ronaldo2009–1741621.07
15SpainIsidro Lángara1930–19481651421.16
16CameroonSamuel Eto'o1998–20091622800.58
17SpainLuis Aragonés1960–19741603600.44
18HungarySpainFerenc Puskás1958–19661561800.87
19SpainJulio Salinas1982–20001524170.36
20SpainAdrián Escudero1945–19581502870.52

(Bold denotes players still playing in La Liga.)

Ballon d'Or[edit]

Official match ball[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Spanish pronunciation: [pɾiˈmeɾa ðiβiˈsjon].


  1. ^ "European football statistics". 2008. 
  2. ^ "Reglamento General de la RFEF 2010 (Artículo 201.2) (page 138)" (in Spanish). RFEF. 7 June 2010. Retrieved 23 June 2010. 
  3. ^ "Criterios de puntuación del juego limpio" (in Spanish). RFEF. 30 October 1998. Retrieved 18 May 2010. 
  4. ^ AFP (15 October 2013). "Bale's transfer fee revealed". AFP. Retrieved 14 January 2014. 
  5. ^ "UEFA club competitions press kit (.PDF archive, page 23)". UEFA Official Website. Retrieved 25 August 2006. 
  6. ^ "UEFA ranking of European leagues". Bert Kassies. May 2011. 
  7. ^ "Clasificación Histórica Liga BBVA". LFP. 14 May 2012. Retrieved 14 May 2012. 
  8. ^ All Time Table of Spanish team in La Liga
  9. ^

External links[edit]