Do Real Madrid and Barcelona Actually Suck This Season? An Investigation

Barcelona and Real Madrid have suuuuucked this season, right? Just awful. Losing to Granada, Levante, Mallorca, Levante again, dropping points left, right and centre…it’s been bleak at the top of La Liga, right? 

?Reader, we have been spoiled. We’ve been spoiled by Pep Guardiola, by Jose Mourinho, even by Luis Enrique. 

This, helpfully, is the 25th season since La Liga moved to three points for a win – with Real and Barça taking 37 of the 50 available ‘top two’ positions in those campaigns [assuming this season ended now, yeah, I know].

Real Madrid CF v FC Barcelona  - La Liga

What are we building up to here? We’re building up to this: you can basically take the Clasico rivals’ points totals as representative of how good the top of the league has been in a given season, because…they’re top of the league in most seasons. 

After Real Madrid dropped points for the third La Liga game out of four at the weekend (the only team they’ve beaten in that run is Barcelona, go figure), we asked the nice people at Opta if they wouldn’t mind having a look back through the archives and finding out if this is the worst off the big two have been at this point in the season. 

Erm, it isn’t. 

It’s not even close. 


After 27 games of this season, the pair have picked up 114 points out of a possible 156 (which would have been 162, except they had to drop points against each other). That’s pretty handy – and it’s actually the exact same figure as this time last season. 

It’s also a full 26 points better than the worst combined season up to this point, which came in 1999/00. In fact, there were a full five seasons between 1995/96 and 2002/03 where Barça and Real hadn’t cracked a combined 100 points by now, even while they won five league titles, three Champions Leagues and a Cup Winners Cup in that time. 

For your time, the six worst seasons by combined points at this point in the season (since 3pts/win introduced in 1995)

?Season Barça Points? Real Points? Combined Points?
?1999/00 ?44 ?44 ?88
?2001/02 ?43 46? 89?
?2002/03 ?36 57? 93?
?1995/96 ?53 43? ?96
?1998/99 ?53 ?46 ?99
?2006/07 ?53 ?48 ?101

What are we taking from this? Is it that football around the turn of the century was rubbish? That certainly doesn’t sound right, these were Barcelona teams with Ronaldinho, Kluivert, Rivaldo, Figo, early Xavi, Puyol. Real had Casillas,
 Hierro, Zidane, Ronaldo, Figo (again), Guti, Makelele, bloody RAUL. Roberto sodding Carlos! Redondo! No, football wasn’t rubbish. 

Turns out TV money increases and the absolute purification of the ‘marginal gains’ process means that winning has become more of a science than ever, and the big teams have gotten better at it. That’s why this ‘down’ season is still far and away above the teams of the turn of the century. 

As for why it feels like a down season? 

Well, Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi have only played ten games this season where they’ve been on the pitch together for an hour. They’re both over the age of 30. Xavi and Iniesta are gone. Pique’s getting old too. 

Lionel Messi,Luis Suarez,Antoine Griezmann

At the Bernabeu, Cristiano Ronaldo is gone. Modric, Ramos, Kroos, Benzema, Marcelo and Bale are all on the wrong side of 30. 

This, er…this is La Liga now. It’ll be very good players playing together very well, instead of the two best forwards of the century pushing each other to greater heights for the best part of a decade, backed up by two of the best supporting casts ever assembled. 



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *