Passing football is an art, and in the modern era there have been no better masters of that art than Barcelona. Their dominance at domestic level has unsurprisingly coincided with that of Spain on the international front, but is the free-flowing football so quickly associated with the nation really so central to the game played in the rest of the country?
Many in England often credit the coaching at grass-roots level in Spain as the reason for the national side's rise, but if you factor out Barca is there reason to believe that the tiki-taka philosophy is championed anywhere else in La Liga?
Here we look at the key passing statistics of each of the 98 teams across Europe's top 5 leagues to gauge the difference between the divisions. We've calculated the teams that are most accurate and most prolific with their pass attempts and those that come in below the average using a selection of quad charts.
Green dots in the chart below represent teams in the top 5 of their respective leagues, with yellow showing teams from 6th to 10th, orange 11th to 15th and red representing the bottom 5 (or bottom three in the case of the Bundesliga).
Those found in the brighter green section at the top right have above average figures for both passes per game and pass accuracy, with those in the bottom left (brighter orange) ranking below the average in both categories. Said averages are 412 for passes per game and 79% for accuracy.
Initially, it is worth noting that positive passing generally correlates with positive results, though there are some outlying side's that buck that trend. The likes of Wigan, Celta Vigo and Palermo are all in the bottom 5 in their respective leagues despite possessing above average figures for both passes per game and pass accuracy, while the likes of Levante, Stoke and Betis are all in the top half having displayed relatively meagre passing stats thus far.
Although it is no shock that the dot that you may have even missed in the very top right of the chart represents Barcelona, the sheer distance between themselves and the rest of Europe, with Bayern Munich their closest challengers here, is vast.
In turn we look solely at the teams in La Liga (below), with the findings proving that Spain's apparent passing football education that the rest of the Europe weren't invited to may well have been overhyped. Indeed, when taking away the rest of the teams on the continent the outlook seems a little bleak outside of table toppers Barcelona.
Though the likes of Real Madrid and Malaga also find themselves in the top right section of the chart, their figures are far from spectacular, while the other two teams that edge into the desired green section here were promoted last season (Celta Vigo and Valladolid). The measly total of 5 sides to rank above average figures for both passing stats analysed is fewer than any other of the top 5 leagues.
The likes of Atletico Madrid and Betis, both among the league's top 5 thus far, are placed in the undesirable orange section of the chart, and the total of 12 Spanish teams to have figures below average for both per game pass attempts and accuracy is the highest in Europe, and more than twice that of Serie A.
To best show the positions of the La Liga sides against those from the rest of Europe's top 5 leagues we have shown all of the Spanish clubs in the chart below in red. The rest of the teams are faded slightly, with the Premier League in white, Serie A in green, Bundesliga in yellow and Ligue 1 in blue.
In doing so you can see that there are 9 teams from both England and Italy's top flight whose pass accuracy is better than that of the second best Spanish side behind Barcelona (Malaga). Indeed, the average pass accuracy of a team in La Liga (76.8%) is worse than that in Ligue 1 (78.4%), the Bundesliga (78.6%), Premier League (80%) and Serie A (81.2%), and all in spite of possessing the best passing team in Europe.
When it comes to passes per game, the average for a Spanish club of 408.8 may rank third behind the Premier League (428.6) and the Bundesliga (420.6) but that doesn't tell the whole story. Barcelona's average of 753 passes per game is over 150 more than any other team (Bayern - 601). If you were to disregard Vilanova's side the average passes per game of the remaining 19 teams in the league is 391 - a lower average than that of Ligue 1 sides.
In conclusion, for Spain's dominance to last, in terms of possession football at least, on the international front they may have to rely on the Barca academy once to keep coming up with the good (an understatement). It seems pretty obvious, however, that when the current crop retires, it will be hard for them to reach the same spectacular standards to which they perform now.