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La Liga is the top professional football division in Spain and as it boasts two of the biggest clubs on the planet - FC Barcelona and Real Madrid - is one of the most popular leagues in the world today.

The division began life in 1929 with Barca emerging as the maiden champions and Real having to wait until 1932 to get their hands on the league trophy.

Those two have been the dominant forces in the game in Spain since, as evidenced by the fact that only nine teams have won the league in Spain in total with Barcelona (24) and Real (32) sharing 56 between them.

European Qualification

The top three finishers in La Liga at the end of the season are guaranteed direct qualification to the group phase of the UEFA Champions League, whilst fourth earns a earns a ticket into the qualifying rounds for Europe's premier club competition. 

Fifth and sixth are also an avenue to continental competition with entry into the Europa League. 

Relegation

The bottom three sides in the Liga standings at he end of the season are relegated to the Segunda Division, whilst the top three in Spain's second tier earn promotion to the top flight.

Only three of the league's founding clubs, Real Madrid, FC Barcelona and Athletic Club, have never been relegated from La Liga.

El Clasico

El Clasico between FC Barcelona and CF Real Madrid is arguably the greatest football derby in the game and attracts viewers in their millions from all over the world. It is a fixture like no other as it pits Catalonia’s best against their bitter Castilian rivals in what can often be title deciding encounters.

The classic is steeped in history and second only to the UEFA Champions League Final in terms of worldwide popularity. A veritable who's who of football's elite have graced the game with the likes of Raul, Zidane, Rivaldo, Romario, Koeman, Guardiola, Stoichkov, Hagi, Figo, Ronaldo, Ronaldhino and Messi all having played in the prestigious clash.

Transfer Records

Spain's big two have never been shy when it comes to doling out the cash to secure the services of the most sought after players in the game and often breaking transfer records in the process of bringing the best the world has to offer to Spain. 

In 2009 Real Madrid paid €94 million to Premier League side Manchester United to acquire Portuguese striker Cristiano Ronaldo and went on to smash that world record in 2014 by paying Tottenham Hotspur €100 million for Welsh winger Gareth Bale.

James Rodriguez arrived in the Spanish capital following a superb showing at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and though the sum paid to bring the Colombian to Madrid wasn't record breaking, it was a phenomenal £63million nonetheless.

2007 World Player of the Year Kaka was another marquee signing for Real in the summer of 2009 following six scintillating seasons at the San Siro for AC Milan.

The former Brazil international arrived with much fanfare and £56millon price tag but ultimately failed to live up to expectations at the Bernabeu.

82 goals for Liverpool in just 125 games earned Luis Suarez a €81m move to FC Barcelona in 2014, becoming one of the Catalan's most expensive signings.

Brazilian ace Neymar currently tops Barca's list, though, with his transfer fee thought to be in region of €99.1m.

Famous Players

La Liga has never experienced a dearth of talent with many of the football's greatest players having graced the league. With the likes of the legendary Alfredo Di Stefano, Ferenc Puskás, Diego Maradona, Johann Cryuff, Michael Laudrup, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi all representing either FC Barcelona or Real Madrid, it's little wonder there is such affection for these clubs and the league in general around the globe.

Di Stefano was one of the early superstars of the game, demonstrating leadership skills on and off the pitch, and helping the Whites to achieve something that in the modern era seems unthinkable, and that was winning five consecutive European Cups.

The Argentine scored 308 goals in 396 appearances for Real and was awarded the Ballon d’Or in 1957 and 1959 in recognition of his performances as Madrid's dream team dominated Spanish and European football at the time.

Johann Cruyff, meanwhile, was widely regarded as the best player in the world when he signed for FC Barcelona in August 1973 from Ajax. In his first season in Catalonia, the Dutchman demonstrated why that was so in explosive fashion to help Barça win the league for the first time in 14 years.

Cruyff left Barcelona in 1978 but returned to manage the club in 1988 and the Catalans are arguably still benefiting from that move to this day. The World Cup finalist guided Barca to four league titles as well as their first European Cup success at Wembley in 1992 with the ‘Dream Team’ during and eight year spell in the dugout. 

In modern times it has been the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi who have grabbed the headlines in Spain with phenomenal statistics to back up claims that they are the top players on the planet.

Top 3 La Liga Stadiums

With its capacity of 99,354, FC Barcelona's Camp Nou is the biggest stadium in Europe. The total capacity has varied over the years since its completion in 1957, though, and was expanded to hold 120,000 in 1982 when Spain hosted the FIFA World Cup. UEFA recognised the excellence of the ground as a whole, including services and functionalities, in 1998/99 by awarding it five star status.

Estadio Santiago Bernabeu, which owes its name to Real Madrid's legendary club president who headed the club from 1943 to 1978, can hold 81,044 spectators. It has been Real's home since 1947 and was the venue for the 1982 World Cup Final.

Atletico Madrid's Estadio Vicente Calderón opened its doors in 1966 and replaced Atli's then-home Stadium Metropolitano - home to Madrid's second team since 1923 - but was not completed until 1970. With a capacity of 62,000 seats when it was finished and no standing areas, the Vicente Calderón became the first large all-seater stadium in Europe.

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