Real Madrid and Barcelona are the ultimate embodiment of this development. They have won 12 of the last 13 Spanish league titles. They have shared the last four Champions League crowns (and six of the last nine). The two super clubs monopolise all of the world’s best players with eight of the 12 most expensive players of all time being signed by Madrid or Barca. It makes perfect sense that they’re so much stronger than 95 per cent of their opponents.
This means that Messi and Ronaldo are gifted the ideal conditions to rack up goal after goal, win after win and trophy after trophy. Until the arrival of the super club around 15 years ago, the top talent was spread all over Europe, rather than a small number of clubs, and it was thus much harder for teams and individuals to dominate the game.
If we take the example of Maradona, the world’s best player of the 1980s, he was up against superstars every week in Serie A – Michel Platini at Juventus, Marco van Basten and Ruud Gullit at AC Milan, Lothar Matthaus at Inter, Falcao at Roma, Preben Elkjaer at Verona, Zico at Udinese. As a result, the strongest league in Europe had a different champion for seven straight seasons. Every game was a challenge for Maradona. That is not the case today for Messi and Ronaldo.
None of this is to devalue the greatness of the Clasico couple. Both would have been superstars in any era from the past and what they have achieved both individually and collectively with their teams over the past decade is truly remarkable.