After two enthralling semi-finals, Real Madrid and Athletic Bilbao locked horns for the trophy of the Spanish Super Cup yesterday night. With a goal each from Modric and Benzema, Real Madrid took home their first trophy of the season.
However, if you are not aware of the recent developments, you might wonder why Real Madrid played this year’s cup final.
The format of the Spanish Super cup has changed over the years. Previously it was a two-legged affair between the La Liga and Copa Del Rey champions before the start of the season. If both the trophies were won by the same team, the runner-up of Copa Del Rey will get that spot.
It changed slightly in 2018 when the two-legged format became a one-game thing with a neutral venue.
It was completely overhauled in 2019 when it was decided that four teams would compete for the trophy instead of two - the champions and runner-ups of both La Liga and Copa Del Rey. If two spots were taken by a single team, the 3rd placed team in La Liga will get the other spot.
This was not the only change. It would be a knock-out tournament of two semi-finals and a final. The tournament would be played in January and the venue would be Saudi Arabia.
If you closely look at the rules and the follow-ups of the tournament, you would find certain aspects which would seem nonsense. Maybe to some extent, it actually is.
Let’s take a look at the venue for example. It is the ‘Spanish’ super cup. The top Spanish sides fight it out among each other.
So why fans in Saudi Arabia deserve it more to witness the battles than fans in Spain is a question not answered. It was played in Spain in 2021, but that was because of pandemic restrictions.
Again, this was supposed to be a pre-season game. The teams would understand how prepared they are for the season with this game. But now it is played in January.
In the previous format, the teams were fresh before the season with fewer game loads and fatigue, without any pressure from La Liga and Copa Del Rey or European football.
But now it is played in one of the busiest periods of the season - the period when La Liga is in a crucial phase, Copa Del Rey starts to take shape, teams have European football. Let’s consider the two finalists.
With these two super cup games, both Real Madrid and Athletic Bilbao have to play 7 games in January.
Things are more messed up for the Basque club as they have to face all of Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid and Barcelona within a week. All of them are knock-out ties. No need to mention the toll it would take on them.
This seems like an unnecessary load and pressure which was not supposed to be on them during this period of the season.
Another problem with this format is the format itself. If you hear the term ‘Super Cup’ anywhere in the world, you would expect a champions face-off. The champions of two trophies will have one final battle. Be it English Community Shield, Supercopa de Italia or European Super Cup.
So, it is only right for the winners to have the ultimate battle of glory. Let’s look at how things going after the changed rules.
In the first season, the final was between Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid. None of them won anything any major trophy. They were not even in the cup finals. The winners of La Liga and Copa Del Rey (Barcelona and Valencia) couldn’t even fight for the trophy.
In the next season, it was between Barcelona and Athletic Bilbao. Once again, none of them won anything. The league winner Real Madrid was not a part of the final. The Copa winner Real Sociedad accepted the same fate.
This routine followed this season as well. Neither Real Madrid nor Athletic Bilbao won anything in the previous season. The league winner Atletico Madrid and Cup winner Barcelona were let out of it.
The fun fact is that all of the 6 finalists endured a trophyless season prior to the tournament. As a result, the trophy–supposed to be for winners, is not anymore.