Football (soccer) is the most popular sport in Spain. La Liga, the primary division of Spanish football, is considered the best in the world by many. The two most popular football clubs, Real Madrid and FC Barcelona, are both located in Spain.
Here is a full guide to Spanish football and the most important football clubs in Spain.
The major Spanish football clubs
Throughout history, two teams have dominated Spanish football. Real Madrid holds the record of most national title wins with 33. Meanwhile, Barcelona has won La Liga 25 times, with a great deal of their success coming recently.
Let’s take a look at each of these great clubs.
Probably the most famous football club in the world. Real Madrid has won La Liga 33 times, while also enjoying quite a bit of international success.
Real Madrid has dominated European football in several eras. Most recently, under manager Zinedine Zidane and star player Cristiano Ronaldo, Real Madrid took three Champions League-triumphs in a row.
They play their matches in central Madrid. You can watch Real Madrid home games at Santiago Bernabéu, where it’s also possible to get a tour around the stadium on weekdays.
The most iconic player in team history is Alfredo di Stefano who was a star player in the 1950s and 1960s. Real Madrid also had their Galáctico era with players such as David Beckham, Zinedine Zidane, Luis Figo, Ronaldo (from Brazil), Roberto Carlos, Raúl and many other stars.
However, the most famous Real Madrid player in modern times is the Portuguese winger/striker Cristiano Ronaldo. He played 9 years for Real while winning 15 team trophies and several personal awards. By many, Ronaldo is considered to be one of the greatest footballers of all time.
The main rival of Real has always been Barcelona. The Catalonian club has also been home to several stars throughout history and has enjoyed great success.
With 25 La Liga titles, 30 Copa del Rey triumphs, and huge amounts of European success, Barcelona is one of the winningest clubs in all of football.
Led by star player Lionel Messi in recent years, Barcelona has been a dynasty. They were particularly dominating when Josep Guardiola held the position of manager.
Previous to Messi, Brazilian player Ronaldinho was the star in Barcelona. Throughout history, Barcelona also had other world-famous profiles such as Johan Cruyff, Michael Laudrup, Carles Puyol, Xavi, Andres Iniesta, among many others.
If you want to see a Barcelona home match, visit Camp Nou in Barcelona. It will be an experience to remember. Try to get there before Messi retires!
Another strong club with some historic success. Atlético Madrid is also competing for Spanish titles as we speak. They have grown to be very close to the level of Real Madrid and Barcelona. With a surprise title in 2014, Atlético finally got a taste of top success again. They have also been part of two Champions League finals and won a Europa League trophy.
However, the glory times of Atlético were in the post-WWII-era. Between 1947 and 1965, Atlético was a force to be reckoned with – in Spain as well as in Europe.
Several great players have been playing for Atlético. Club legend Fernando Torres is a big one. Currently, the French offensive player Antoine Griezmann is the biggest star of Atlético.
You can watch their matches at Wanda Metropolitano in the eastern part of Madrid. A new and modern stadium with plenty of space. Watching Atlético is a bit cheaper than watching Real play at home.
The Valencia-based team is also a giant. It’s not as successful historically as Real Madrid and Barcelona, but 7 Spanish title speaks for itself. Throughout many years, Valencia has been part of the sub-top and occasionally made serious title challenges.
Valencia has also produced a lot of great players. The club has a nice eye for talent and frequently sells players for huge amounts. Valencia is often seen playing in European tournaments, and it’s a club that most football fans are well aware of.
Mestella is the home stadium for Valencia CF. A legendary venue that has a unique design with its steep north section. Definitely worth a visit!
Sevilla has not been hugely successful in La Liga – one title throughout its history – but has been runner up several times, and always strong in cup-tournaments.
However: The main reason why Sevilla deserves to be mentioned is because they tend to do very well in Europe. For example, they have a long streak of solid results in the UEFA Europa League. They have won this tournament several times.
Sevilla is based in Seville. For a long time, the club has been the most successful in the south of Spain, although sometimes challenged by Real Betis. The Sevilla club has a lot of fans, in Spain as well as in other countries.
Other important clubs
Spain is full of other interesting clubs as well.
The Basque Country is home to a lot of them. Historically, Athletic Bilbao has been very successful with 8 La Liga-titles. Recently, Bilbao has not been a title-challenging team, but they remain in the top division and plays hard in most matches. Real Sociedad and Alavés are other solid clubs based in the Basque Country.
In Galicia, football is also popular, and they have two great clubs. One is Deportivo La Coruña, a club that has done well historically. They won the La Liga in 1999-2000 and have played many times in the Champions League. However, it has gone downhill for Deportivo, being relegated in 2019. But this is still a serious club, determined to get back to the front.
Deportivo’s main rival is Celta Vigo. Celta has not won any titles, but with a reputation of being one of the most entertaining teams in Spain, the Vigo-based club is a true fan favorite.
The Community of Madrid is home to a lot of other teams aside from Real and Atlético. The main ones are Getafe, Leganés and Rayo Vallecano.
Barcelona has a local rival in Espanyol. Valencia enjoys fighting it out with Villarreal and Levante.
Most famous footballers in La Liga
A lot of great players have been present in La Liga.
In the 2000s and 2010s, you have certainly heard of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. Two players that have been stars for years, also backed up by other amazing players such as Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Luka Modric, Sergio Ramos, and more.
Former Real Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas is another modern legend. And don’t forget Barcelona’s Ronaldinho, a huge star in the mid 2000’s. At the same time as Ronaldinho’s peak, Real Madrid had a legendary midfield of Beckham, Figo, Zidane, Gravesen and others – with Ronaldo and Raúl up front.
Further back, players such as Alfredo di Stefano and Johan Cruyff were big football stars in the Spanish clubs.
We can continue naming names all day – the point is that Spanish football has quite a few superstars. And this will continue to be the case for years to come, with the appeal of clubs such as Barcelona, Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid, Valencia, and many others.
If you have plans to watch a football match in Spain, let us know about it in the comment section. It’s also open if you have any question about Spanish football clubs!