When David Beckham signed for Real Madrid, the average English-speaking football fan became exposed to a lot more coverage and commentary on Spanish football. The addition of Beckham to the Galactico project made La Liga the hottest property in global football. By the time Beckham left Leo Messi was on the rise, Spain would soon win Euro 2008, and Cristiano Ronaldo would arrive the following year. The Messi and Ronaldo era, combined with Spanish dominance in international football, saw a continued rise in the interest of the English speaking world in Spanish football.
Once consequence of this greater interest has been the proliferation of English language books on Spanish football. A number of great English language books on Spanish football do predate the Beckham era – most notably for me, Barca by Jimmy Burns and Morbo by Phil Ball. But the majority of such books in recent years focus especially on Barcelona and Real Madrid.
Euan McTear has wisely decided to look elsewhere in the fascinating landscape of Spanish football. His first book, Eibar the Brave, was about tiny Eibar and this book, Hijacking LaLiga focuses on the rise of Atlético Madrid in recent years.
Hijacking LaLiga is a comprehensive look at the origins and modern history of Atlético who have achieved remarkable success under manager Diego Simeone. McTear traces the history of the club, highlighting the key moments the enabled to club to survive and thrive through the 20th Century. It’s a fascinating history but less politically charged that those of Barca and Real. There is also really interesting details on the chaotic reign of Jesús Gil, the President who somehow seized ownership of the club away from the fans.
The main focus of the book is on the period since Atheli’s relegation in 2000 and how the club rebuilt to break the seeming impenetrable duopoly of Barca and Real. McTear credits a number of factors – the first Europa League triumph shattered the myth that Athleico were cursed, better TV deals improved their financial ability to compete, the combination of youth team products like Koke, tough battling players like Diego Godin and superstars like Costa and Greizmann provided ideal, and above all the coaching of Diego Simeone and his staff was the perfect match for the players and the club.
The book provides a very interesting and detailed insight into the most interesting story in modern Spanish football. It’s well written and an enjoyable read. My only compliant is that it jumps around in time and topic quite dramatically at times and a cursory knowledge of the timeline of events is a big help as you read – I kept forgetting which year they won which tournament and was left slightly confused as the narrative jumped between different seasons.
Overall highly recommended and great to see English language books focus on the wider story of Spanish football.