Spanish La Liga

La Liga (Campeonato Nacional de Liga de Primera División) is the name of the Spanish football league and has existed since 1929. The first division is called Primera División (which is commonly referred to La Liga) and the second is called Segunda División. Since 1997 are 20 clubs participating in the top league of La Liga.

Basic facts

Founded: 1929
Country: Spain
Organizer: Liga de Fútbol Profesional (LFP)

League records

Most championships: Real Madrid (33)
Most played seasons: Barcelona, Real Madrid (88)

History

The first football league in Spain was The Catalan football championship (Campionat de Catalunya), established in 1901. After the creation of the La Liga, The Catalan football championship co-existed with the national league for some years until it was cancelled in 1940.

La Liga, the first national football league in Spain was founded in 1929 (the first season started in February that year and ended in June). At this time, it consisted of one division, Primera División, and contained ten clubs. The numbers of clubs would later expand at several occasions. In 1987, it reached 20 clubs and that have remained except a short period (1995-1997) with 22 clubs.

League system

The first and second division was founded together in 1929. In 1977, Segunda División B was founded to replace Tercera División as the third tier. Tercera División has since that been the fourth tier. An overview of the current national league system is presented in table 1.

Table 1. Spanish football tiers
Club Tier
Primera División (La Liga) 1
Segunda División 2
Segunda División B 3
Tercera División 4

Below the forth tier the national football is played with regional divisions.

Qualification for European Cups

Nowadays, the top four teams in La Liga are qualified for the Champions League and the team that is placed fifth will get the chance to play in Europa League (one place also goes to the winner of the Copa del Rey).

Relegations

Nowadays, the three teams placed at the bottom of the table (places 18-20) of Primera División are relegated to Segunda División.

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Stats

Teams with most titles

Statistics of all Spanish clubs that have won the top division in Spain, concerning the period 1929-2020.

Table 2. Clubs and La Liga titles
Club Titles 1st title
Real Madrid 34 1931-32
Barcelona 26 1929-30
Atlético Madrid 10 1939-40
Athletic Bilbao 8 1929-30
Valencia 6 1941-42
Real Sociedad 2 1980-81
Real Betis 1 1934-35
Sevilla 1 1945-46
Deportivo La Coruña 1 1999-00

Real Madrid and Barcelona have dominated Spanish club football from early on. Between the first season in 1929 to present day, they have together won 60 of the 89 possible trophies. The number of Spanish champions (9) can be compared with 16 in Italy and 28 in Germany.

Teams with most La Liga participation

Statistics of the Spanish clubs that have participated more than 50 times in the Primera División during the period 1929-2020.

Table 3. Clubs and league participation
Club Participation
Real Madrid 89
Barcelona 89
Athletic Bilbao 89
Valencia 85
Espanyol 85
Atlético Madrid 83
Sevilla 76
Real Sociedad 73
Zaragoza 58
Real Betis 54
Celta Vigo 54

Between the first season and the last, in total 62 clubs have participated in top division of the Spanish league.

Audience

Capacity of La Liga stadiums

Table 4 shows the capacity of the clubs participating in La Liga. Camp Nou, where Barcelona play since 1957, has the highest capacity with almost 100,000 seats. The average capacity in the league is 36,104.

Table 4. The stadium capacities in the La Liga season 2019-2020
Team Stadium name Capacity
Alavés Mendizorrotza 19,840
Athletic Bilbao San Mamés 53,289
Atlético Madrid Wanda Metropolitano 67,703
Barcelona Camp Nou 99,354
Celta Vigo Balaídos 29,000
Eibar Ipurua 8,050
Espanyol RCDE Stadium 40,500
Getafe Coliseum Alfonso Pérez 17,393
Granada Nuevo Los Cármenes 19,336
Leganés Butarque 12,450
Levante Ciutat de València 26,354
Mallorca Son Moix 24,262
Osasuna El Sadar 18,570
Real Betis Benito Villamarín 60,720
Real Madrid Santiago Bernabéu 81,044
Real Sociedad Anoeta 25,000
Sevilla Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán 42,714
Valencia Mestalla 55,000
Valladolid José Zorrilla 26,512
Villarreal Estadio de la Cerámica 23,500

Former La Liga clubs and stadiums: Girona, Montilivi (13,500); Huesca, El Alcoraz (7,638); Rayo Vallecano, Vallecas (14,708).

Players

Top goalscorers

The league's all-time leading goalscorer is Lionel Messi who has (in May 2020) made 438 goals in Barcelona. Messi is also the only player to score 50 times during one season (it should be noticed that the numbers of games per season has shifted over times; as a comparison Telmo Zarra scored 38 times in the 1950-51 season when each team only played 30 games).

On the second place among goalscorers is Cristiano Ronaldo who did 311 goals in Real Madrid on 292 appearances (a goal ratio record in the league).

Other notable goalscorers in the league are Hugo Sánches (234 goals for Real Madrid 1981-1994), Raúl (228 goals for Real Madrid 1994-2010), and Alfredo Di Stéfano (227 goals for Real Madrid 1953-1966).

Players with most appearances

The player with most appearances is the former national team goalkeeper Andoni Zubizarreta. He played most of his matches in FC Barcelona and in total he did 622 La Liga appearances. Next to him is the Real Madrid player Raúl with 550 matches.

By Oscar Anderson

La Liga timeline

1909 The Royal Spanish Football Federation (Real Federación Española de Fútbol; RFEF) is founded.
1929 The league is established.
1934 The league is expanded to 12 clubs.
1936 The 1936-37 season is cancelled due to the Spanish Civil War.
1939 The league is restored after the war.
1941 The league is expanded to 14 clubs.
1950 The league is expanded to 16 clubs.
1971 The league is expanded to 18 clubs.
1987 The league is expanded to 20 clubs.
1995 The league is expanded to 22 clubs.
1995 From the 1995-96 season, wins are awarded three points instead of two.
1997 The league is reduced to 20 clubs.

References:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/La_Liga
https://www.laliga.es/estadisticas-historicas
Image source:
Roberto Vicario