Everything you need to know about La Liga

La Liga is the top men’s professional football division in Spain, administrated by Liga Nacional de Fútbol Profesional. Since 2023, EA Sports bought the sponsorship right as the league as it’s officially called LA LIGA EA SPORTS. 

The league was first formed back in 1929 with just ten clubs. Since the last format change in 1997, it’s been contested by 20 teams. Out of 62 clubs that competed in at least a single season of La Liga, only nine have been crowned champions.

Barcelona won the inaugural competition, but it’s Real Madrid which held the record for the most championships with 35.

The competition is played in a round-robin format with 38 rounds played during a season by 20 clubs. Barcelona are the defending champions.

History of La Liga

Arenas Club de Getxo, currently playing in a multi-tiered fourth division, is the main instigator for the league’s foundation with its director Jose Maria Acha. The members of the inaugural season and the formats were decided by 1929.

Out of the first ten founding clubs, Real Madrid, Barcelona, and Athletic Club still managed the distinction of playing in every Primera Division season.

And these three clubs dominated the league in its early seasons. The Catalan club won the first title and Real Madrid were the first to lift it in back-to-back seasons, but with four trophies from the first eight, Athletic Club were the earliest La Liga giants.

The next decade saw Atletico Madrid (with the name of Atletico Aviacion at the time), Sevilla, and Valencia also become the champions of Spain. 

The 1950s had the first Real Madrid v FC Barcelona rivalry. With Alfredo Di Stefano on one side and Hungarian superstar Laszlo Kubala on the other, the two clubs emerged as the biggest on the land, with four league titles each in the decade. 

But it was Real Madrid that particularly stood out in the next two decades becoming champions in 14 of the 20 seasons, including five in a row from 1961 to 1965. Instead of Barcelona, Atletico Madrid were the second-best until Johan Cruyff brought them back on the map in 1974.

In the 1980s, there were new names to disrupt Real Madrid’s dominance. Basque clubs Real Sociedad and Athletic Club both won back-to-back titles before Los Blancos closed the decade with five successive titles.

Barcelona was a different beast in what came after that as their so-called Dream Team managed by Cruyff even realized the dream of European glory. His “Total Football” philosophy brought 11 trophies in eight years while emphasizing on possession football. 

Real Madrid had to wait until 1995 to break this spell before adding another league title two years later. After replacing Cruyff with his compatriot Louis van Gaal and with yet another Dream Team, Barcelona returned to their throne just in time for the 21st century.

Since the 1970s Real Madrid, no club dominated Spanish football for an extended period. Barcelona came close with ten trophies since 2000, including two trebles and four doubles.

And there is no doubt as to which two clubs are the best in the division. To date. both Real Madrid and Barcelona finished in the top three in each of the seasons since 2003-04.

2023 was the time for a new rebrand for La Liga. EA (Electronic Arts) replaced financial services giant Santander as a title sponsor in a seven-year deal.

CVC Partnership

Since 2021, La Liga is also involved in cooperation with an investment group. CVC has an 8.2 percent stake in a new company created by the name of LaLiga Group International.

La Liga already gained more than 1bn in the financial injection as part of the deal. This includes the money that directly reaches the clubs’ pockets as well as for strategic projects promoted by the holding company.

Rivalries in the La Liga

El Clasico might get all the headlines in Spain, but La Liga has plenty more to offer when it comes to historic rivalries.

1. Real Madrid v Barcelona (El Clasico) 

Although the tension and expectations decreased in recent years, El Clasico will always hold a special place in the footballing calendar. With the two clubs the dominant force in Spanish football, it’s also usually a deciding factor for the championship.

Both clubs have local rivals with Atletico Madrid and Espanyol, respectively. But this matchup is the pinnacle for both sets of fans and football fans from all around the globe.

2. Sevilla v Real Betis

The Seville derby is a colorful rivalry with a rich history between two historic clubs. It also has the classic case of a class clash between the sets of fans. The results of the derby also show there is little to separate between the two clubs in head-to-head fixtures.

3. Real Sociedad v Athletic Club

The Basque derby is another peculiar rivalry in Spanish football. This one is a bit familiar with opposing fans usually noticed sitting next to each other during the games in the stadium. The 2020 Copa del Rey Final was their high-profile meeting so far as Sociedad ended a 34-year trophy drought with a narrow victory.

Top Goal Scorers in La Liga History

As expected, Lionel Messi (474) and Cristiano Ronaldo (311) top the list of all-time La Liga top-scorers. Karim Benzema sits fourth in the rank that has 14th-placed Antoine Griezmann top from those still playing in the league.

Robert Lewandowski topped the scoring chart in his first La Liga season last term.

2023-24 Clubs

  • FC Barcelona

The defending champions won the competition 27 times and finished runners-up for a record 27 times in their rich history. Last season’s success ended a three-year drought, which is Barca’s longest barren spell for two decades.

Ground: Camp Nou (capacity: 99,354) and Estadi Olimpic Lluis Companys (49,000)

Known as Spotify Camp Nou for sponsorship reasons, Camp Nou is currently under construction. It is the fifth-largest stadium in the world.

Camp Nou is expected to be ready again during the 2025-26 season. Until then, Barcelona migrated to local rivals Espanyol’s old home, Olimpic Lluis.

Coach: Xavi Hernandez

Captain: Sergi Roberto

Kit Manufacturer: Nike

Major Trophies

La Liga: 27 times (1929, 1944–45, 1947–48, 1948–49, 1951–52, 1952–53, 1958–59, 1959–60, 1973–74, 1984–85, 1990–91, 1991–92, 1992–93, 1993–94, 1997–98, 1998–99, 2004–05, 2005–06, 2008–09, 2009–10, 2010–11, 2012–13, 2014–15, 2015–16, 2017–18, 2018–19, 2022–23)

Copa del Rey: 31 times (1910, 1912, 1913, 1920, 1922, 1925, 1926, 1928, 1942, 1951, 1952, 1952–53, 1957, 1958–59, 1962–63, 1967–68, 1970–71, 1977–78, 1980–81, 1982–83, 1987–88, 1989–90, 1996–97, 1997–98, 2008–09, 2011–12, 2014–15, 2015–16, 2016–17, 2017–18, 2020–21)

UEFA Champions League/European Cup: 5 times (1991–92, 2005–06, 2008–09, 2010–11, 2014–15)

UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup: 4 times (1978–79, 1981–82, 1988–89, 1996–97)

UEFA Super Cup: 5 times (1992, 1997, 2009, 2011, 2015)

Club World Cup: 3 times (2009. 2011, 2015)

  • Real Madrid

Not only in Spain, Real Madrid held the record for the most Champions League (European Cup) trophies. With 69 domestic trophies, Real Madrid is the most successful club in Spain. FIFA recognized the club as the greatest in the 20th century. It is also a club that push for the European Super League the most through its long-time president Florentino Perez.

Ground: Bernabeu (capacity: 85,000)

Just like Barcelona, Real Madrid also recently had some renovation works that expanded their stadium’s capacity. Including World Cup and European Championship finals, it hosted some of the biggest events in the footballing world. 

Coach: Carlo Ancelotti

Captain: Nacho Fernandez

Kit Manufacturer: Adidas

Major Trophies

La Liga: 35 times (1931–32, 1932–33, 1953–54, 1954–55, 1956–57, 1957–58, 1960–61, 1961–62, 1962–63, 1963–64, 1964–65, 1966–67, 1967–68, 1968–69, 1971–72, 1974–75, 1975–76, 1977–78, 1978–79, 1979–80, 1985–86, 1986–87, 1987–88, 1988–89, 1989–90, 1994–95, 1996–97, 2000–01, 2002–03, 2006–07, 2007–08, 2011–12, 2016–17, 2019–20, 2021–22)

Copa del Rey: 20 times (1905, 1906, 1907, 1908, 1917, 1934, 1936, 1946, 1947, 1961–62, 1969–70, 1973–74, 1974–75, 1979–80, 1981–82, 1988–89, 1992–93, 2010–11, 2013–14, 2022–23)

UEFA Champions League/European Cup: 14 times (1955–56, 1956–57, 1957–58, 1958–59, 1959–60, 1965–66, 1997–98, 1999–2000, 2001–02, 2013–14, 2015–16, 2016–17, 2017–18, 2021–22)

UEFA Europa League/UEFA Cup: 2 times (1984–85, 1985–86)

UEFA Super Cup: 5 times (2002, 2014, 2016, 2017, 2022)

Club World Cup: 5 times (2014, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2022)

  • Atletico Madrid

The capital city club won Spain’s first division on eleven occasions, including their only double in 1962. Their last championship came in 2020-21 under Diego Simeone. The Argentinian is the first name among Atleti greats alongside the late Luis Aragones, who won the league and cup with the club both as a player and coach.

Ground: Metropolitano Stadium (capacity: 70,000)

Since its major renovation works were completed in 2017, Atleti play their games in this high-tech stadium. The construction work initially expanded the stadium’s capacity from 20,000 to 68,456. Alongside Camp Nou and Bernabeu, it’s expected to host games in the 2030 World Cup.

Coach: Diego Simeone

Captain: Koke

Kit Manufacturer: Nike

Major Trophies

La Liga: 11 times (1939–40, 1940–41, 1949–50, 1950–51, 1965–66, 1969–70, 1972–73, 1976–77, 1995–96, 2013–14, 2020–21)

Copa del Rey: 10 times (1959–60, 1960–61, 1964–65, 1971–72, 1975–76, 1984–85, 1990–91, 1991–92, 1995–96, 2012–13)

UEFA Cup Winners Cup: 1961-62

UEFA Europa League: 3 times (2009–10, 2011–12, 2017–18)

UEFA Super Cup: 3 times (2010, 2012, 2018)

  • Real Sociedad

The White and Blues are enjoying an excellent Champions League season as they progress from the group stage for the first time in 20 years. The Basque club’s best days were at the beginning of the 1980s when they won the league twice and reached the European Cup semi-finals in 1982-83. 

Ground: Anoeta Stadium (capacity: 40,000)

The second-largest stadium in the Basque area, Aneota was inaugurated in 1993. The last renovation work in 2019 is believed to have transformed the stadium’s atmosphere to better heights.

Coach: Imanol Alguacil

Captain: Mikel Oyarzabal

Kit Manufacturer: Macron

Major Trophies

La Liga: 2 times (1980-81, 1981-82)

Copa del Rey: 2 times (1986-87, 2019-20)

  • Villareal 

The Yellow Submarines first got promoted to La Liga in 1998. For a club hailing from a city of 50,000 people, Villareal has a remarkable record in Europe. They won their first major trophy in the form of the 2020-21 Europa League and they reached the semi-final stages of the Champions League twice.

Ground: Estadio de la Ceramica (capacity: 23,000)

Back in 2017, Villareal’s ground was renamed from El Madrigal to La Ceramica (Ceramics) to recognize the local industry. It can hold nearly half the population of Villareal.

Coach: Marcelino

Captain: Raul Albiol

Kit Manufacturer: Joma

Major Trophies

Europa League: 2020-21

  •  Real Betis

The Green and Whites are based in Sevilla, Andalusia. They were the fourth club to win La Liga when they did so in 1935, but that remained their only time thus far. Real Betis is currently the only La Liga club with foreigners as both coach and captain.

Ground: Estadio Benito Villamarin (capacity: 60,000)

A stadium close to celebrating 100 years, Benito Villamarin has been Real Betis’ home since 1929. 

Coach: Manuel Pellegrini

Captain: Andres Guardado

Kit Manufacturer: Hummel

Major Trophies

La Liga: 1934-35

Copa del Rey: 3 times (1976–77, 2004–05, 2021–22)

  • Osasuna

Pamplona’s Osasuna is one of the four professional La Liga clubs to be owned by its members. The Little Reds came close to winning a first major trophy when they reached the Copa del Rey final in 2023.

Ground: El Sadar Stadium (capacity: 23,500)

The name derives from a river near the stadium. The current state of the stadium is the result of expansion work during COVID-19 times.

Coach: Jagoba Arrasate

Captain: David Garcia

Kit Manufacturer: Adidas

  • Athletic Club

With Real Madrid and Barcelona, Athletic Club played in every season of La Liga. In terms of league titles, Athletic sit fourth with eight. As for the cup, only Barcelona won more trophies than the Bilbao club.

Ground: Estadio San Mames (capacity: 53,000)

The all-seater arena replaced the club’s old stadium, which was also called San Mames. As it was inaugurated in 2013, San Mames is one of the modern stadiums in the league. 

Coach: Ernesto Valverde

Captain: Iker Muniain

Kit Manufacturer: Castore

Major Trophies

La Liga: 8 times (1929–30, 1930–31, 1933–34, 1935–36, 1942–43, 1955–56, 1982–83, 1983–84)

Copa del Rey: 23 times (1903, 1904, 1910, 1911, 1914, 1915, 1916, 1921, 1923, 1930, 1931, 1932, 1933, 1943, 1944, 1944–45, 1949–50, 1955, 1956, 1958, 1969, 1972–73, 1983–84)

  • RCD Mallorca

The Pirates are competing in their third successive season at the top division. Their best results had seen them thrive in La Liga, Copa del Rey, and UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Ground: Estadio Mallorca Son Moix (capacity: 23,000)

Since there is a disagreement between Mallorca and their landlord, the club is currently exploring the idea of a new stadium construction.

Coach: Javier Aguirre

Captain: Antonio Raillo

Kit Manufacturer: Nike

Major Trophies

Copa del Rey: 2002–03

  • Girona

Part of the Abu Dhabi-owned City Football Group, Girona enjoyed a spectacular first half of the season in 2023-24. In only their fourth La Liga season, Michael Sanchez’s side posed the biggest challenge to Real Madrid. This cooperation also helped the small club build a top-notch training centre and complex.

Ground: Estadi Montilivi (capacity: 14,000)

The smallest in the league, Montilivi is a multi-use stadium in Catalonia..

Coach: Michel Sanchez

Captain: Cristhian Stuani

Kit Manufacturer: Puma

  • Rayo Vallecano

Rayo is a Madrid-based club with a history of competing in the UEFA Cup. Two things that stand out about Rayo would be their status as a yo-yo club between the two top divisions and a diagonal stripe.

Ground: Estadio de Vallecas (capacity: 15,000)

Not one of the best in the league, Vallecas was temporarily closed in 2018 for safety concerns.

Coach: Francisco Rodriguez

Captain: Oscar Trejo

Kit Manufacturer: Umbro

  • Sevilla

The Europa League kings are struggling in their league for the second season running. Many managerial turnarounds and instability in the squad had Sevilla stuck in the bottom half of the table. Yet, somehow, they managed to lift their seventh Europa League last term under Jose Luis Mendilibar.

Ground: Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan (capacity: 42,700)

One of the special things behind Sevilla’s Europa League streak is the atmosphere on their ground in those Thursday night matches under the floodlight. And, when Sevilla failed to go far for once, it staged the 2022 final between Eintracht Frankfurt and Rangers.

Coach: Quique Sanchez Flores

Captain: Jesus Navas

Kit Manufacturer: Castore

Major Trophies

La Liga: 1945-46

Copa del Rey: 5 times (1935, 1939, 1947–48, 2006–07, 2009–10)

UEFA Cup/UEFA Europa League: 7 times (2005–06, 2006–07, 2013–14, 2014–15, 2015–16, 2019–20, 2022–23)

UEFA Super Cup: 2006

  • Celta Vigo

Like many of their La Liga peers, Sky Blues also have some remarkable stories in Europe. While their fellow Galician club Deportivo La Coruna struggled to consolidate their place, Celta Vigo is competing in their 12th successive La Liga season.

Ground: Balaidos (capacity: 25,000)

Owned by the city council, Celta Vigo has been playing in the iconic Balaidos for nearly 100 years now.

Coach: Rafael Benitez

Captain: Iago Aspas

Kit Manufacturer: Adidas

  • Cadiz

Cadiz first climbed to the top pyramid of Spanish football in 1977. The current run is their longest spell in La Liga since getting relegated in 1993.

Ground: Nuevo Mirandilla (capacity: 25,000)

Since its inauguration in 1955, Mirandilla has been completely rebuilt twice with the last one in 2012.

Coach: Sergio

Captain: Jose Mari

Kit Manufacturer: Macron

  • Getafe

From a city in the Madrid community, Getafe managed to be a La Liga regular in recent seasons, unlike their neighbors Leganes. Starting from the lowest pyramid in 1983, it only took 20 years for Getafe to ascend the entire Spanish football pyramid when they first locked horns with the big clubs.

Ground: Estadio Coliseum (capacity: 16,500)

Including a memorable Europa League knockout tie against Bayern Munich, Getafe experienced plenty of ups and downs in this arena. It was also the venue for the 2010 UEFA Women’s Champions League final.

Coach: Jose Bordalas

Captain: Djene

Kit Manufacturer: Joma

  • Valencia

In a similar manner to Sevilla, Valencia are not having the best of times of late. The club that used to have 50,000 season ticket holders has been declining fast since the acquisition by billionaire Peter Lim. Valencia’s success stories are usually intertwined with its excellent academy.

Ground: Mestalla Stadium (capacity: 50,000)

The 8th-largest stadium in Spain, Mestalla has been the home of the traditional club since 1923. The North Stand is the uniqueness of the arena with its steep section.

Coach: Ruben Baraja

Captain: Jose Gaya

Kit Manufacturer: Puma

Major Trophies

La Liga: 6 times (1941–42, 1943–44, 1946–47, 1970–71, 2001–02, 2003–04)

Copa del Rey: 8 times (1941, 1948–49, 1954, 1966–67, 1978–79, 1998–99, 2007–08, 2018–19)

UEFA Cup: 2003-04

European Cup Winners’ Cup: 1979-80

  • Almeira

Escaped relegation on the final day in their return to La Liga, the Andalucia club once again found themselves in the drop zone. 

Ground: Power Horse Stadium (capacity: 17,400)

Almeira’s ground can also host athletics competitions.

Coach: Gaizka Garitano

Captain: Lucas Robertone

Kit Manufacturer: Castore

  • Granada

The past few seasons have been a rollercoaster ride for Granada. They reached the quarter-finals of the Europa League in 2020-21, but they were relegated the following season. But they’re quickly back to first-tier football as Segunda Division champions.

Ground: Nuevo Los Carmenes (capacity: 19,500)

The multi-use stadium is located in a suburb of Granada. The Spain national team played four official games in this stadium.

Coach: Alexander Medina

Captain: Victor Diaz

Kit Manufacturer: Adidas

  • Las Palmas

The only club to achieve back-to-back La Liga promotions in their first two seasons, Las Palmas is known for their club colors of yellow and blue. They have to make long trips for the league games because they’re located in the Canary Islands.

Ground: Estadio Gran Canaria (capacity: 32,000)

As a successor to Estadio Insular, the multi-purpose stadium was opened twenty years ago.

Coach: Garcia Pimienta

Captain: Jonathan Viera

Kit Manufacturer: Hummel

  • Deportivo Alaves

The memorable 5-4 UEFA Cup final defeat to Liverpool is what’s usually mentioned about Alaves, but they also had another sensational football game when they booked a place in this season’s La Liga with a playoff win against Levante. 

Ground: Mendizorroza  (capacity: 20,000)

Currently the third oldest football stadium in professional football, Mendizorroza had several renovations over the years. 

Coach: Luis Garcia Plaza

Captain: Luis Rioja

Kit Manufacturer: Puma