There are few shock results in the history of the modern Champions League that will reverberate longer than Sheriff Tiraspol’s victory at the Bernabéu – in part the story of an unpredictable rupture with weak claims to democracy, the president of which prefers to abandon traditional alliances in favor of the Union with much greater force.

For the avoidance of doubt, the rogue state of Transnistria, home to the sheriff and its ties to Russia, is more likely than the ongoing attempts by Real Madrid President Florentino Pérez to be the modern liberator of his club from the tyrannies of UEFA. What a night for European football, even if it is difficult to cast Sheriff as a heroic underdog, as Moldovan football has won 19 of the last 21 championship titles. Pérez will find this is an even better return than Real Madrid and Barcelona’s hegemony of 17 of the last 22 league titles.

The result tells Spanish football that its financial crisis has now fully erupted on the pitch, where the declining performances for the country’s big two in previous years are now producing seriously embarrassing results. At Uefa, where the governing body had to give way this week in imposing disciplinary measures against the renegade members of the European Super League, this was in total legality with Pérez the ideal result to show the health of its competition. Even if the mysteriously funded sheriff wasn’t the ideal candidate for Tuesday night history writing.

On Wednesday night, Barcelona, ​​beaten 3-0 at home by Bayern Munich earlier this month, are attempting their Champions League opener against Benfica amid serious questions about the long-term future of Spanish football and its two biggest clubs on which everything was set the starting signal for the Super League.

The league’s official salary caps will be announced on Wednesday, though most of it has already been leaked. Calculated on projected revenue, including the dubious science of predicting revenue from player sales, it is fair to say that the league’s financial controls have been even less effective at mitigating overspending than those on the English football league. The Barcelona meltdown means they have a cap of around € 98 million, less than Villarreal and Real Sociedad and less than € 382 million last year. How did the mighty fall.

Real’s cap has increased from € 469 million to € 739 million, more than Seville, Atlético Madrid, Villarreal and Barcelona combined. But that hardly feels like real money. Surely no one expects them to really spend that with a debt of around 1.1 billion euros. The extent of Real’s debt is not yet known this year and no doubt there will be many more Kylian Mbappé stories as a useful distraction from here through next summer.

However, the huge difference in the club’s official league-sanctioned wage budget – whether or not that represents real purchasing power – versus the much more limited resources the clubs are supposed to be its rivals makes league seem absurd. As one-sided as the leagues dominated by a club in which players like Sheriff Tiraspol operate.

Sheriff’s shocking defeat comes for Real, who lost home and away in the group stage to Shakhtar Donetsk last season and were beaten by CSKA Moscow two years earlier in the same stage. It doesn’t look much better in Spanish football, where the dispute over the Super League and now also over the 2.7 billion euro investment by the private equity company CVC in the league is splitting a fragile financial ecosystem.

For years, Real and Barcelona have had a much larger share of television revenue and the repression of these clubs, which it takes to maintain viable, interesting competition, has led Spanish football at this point. League President Javier Tebas has the support of 38 of the 42 clubs in the first two leagues for the CVC deal. Only Real, Barcelona and Athletic Bilbao face him. While selling a percentage of future revenue is far from ideal, clubs like Getafe and Levante have no alternative after the collapse of Covid after years of television revenue inequality.

Attendance numbers have fallen again this season, with records for September showing that on average only 70 percent of stadiums are filled with constrained capacity. For clubs like Sevilla and Villarreal, which have survived clever player trafficking for years, the fairer distribution of revenues from the Premier League broadcast revenues to the clubs remains a lost hope.

For example, Barcelona earned 165 million euros from league broadcasting contracts in the 2019/20 season, followed by Real Madrid (156 million euros), Atlético (124 million euros) and fourth Seville with 79 million euros – less than half of the highest earning Clubs. To put that in perspective for the relevant season in the Premier League, champions Liverpool earned £ 175m as a share of television revenue and fourth-placed Chelsea earned just £ 14m less. Even Norwich City, ranked 20th this season, earned more than half of the largest share at £ 94million.

Over time, these inequalities have an impact. After destroying the equilibrium of competition in their own league, the Super League was all about Real and Barcelona, ​​harvesting a new planet with fresh resources to meet the insatiable demand for growth. Given how far these two have fallen in recent seasons, it is still beyond belief that the owners of the biggest Premier League clubs were willing to give them this Super League lifeline at the expense of their own domestic league.

The sadness applies to all the Spanish clubs outside the elite that have not been part of the spending craze of the past two decades. In such an unequal system, they had to operate only for the two who benefited most from abandoning them. The league’s long-term future will be based on greater equality, which increases the competitiveness of all clubs. It is now becoming much more competitive in Europe for Real and Barcelona, ​​albeit not in a way that can bring them a lot of joy.