Journal of Human Sport and Exercise

High-performance football in Spain: Systematic review (2015–2019)

Alberto Sanmiguel-Rodríguez, Sixto González-Víllora, Víctor Arufe-Giráldez



Research in relation to elite football has shown a positive impact in the improvement of different variables related to training processes, as well as in the evaluation and analysis of performance. The objective of this review is to offer an overview of the most recent scientific publications in relation to high-performance Spanish football. For this, a systematic review was carried out from 2015 to 2019, searching with the terms of the UNESCO Thesaurus: “football”, “Spanish”, “Spain”, “the league”, “elite”, “professional football”, or “high performance” in two important international databases (Scopus and Web of Science) and in the Spanish Dialnet database, allowing the selection of original articles (experimental, descriptive, quasi-experimental and / or case studies), which included information on this line of research. A total of 380 articles were found, although after applying the review's inclusion criteria, they were reduced to 56 articles. These publications were divided into four main categories: 1) research related to game conditions; 2) research related to training and workloads of physical, physiological and mechanical capacities; 3) research related to tactical-technical aspects; and 4) other topics investigated. A discussion was had on each of these categories. In conclusion, this systematic review makes it possible to observe the analysis of Spanish high-performance football research easily and quickly in recent years, as well as identify the most relevant scientific issues at present. These results are interesting for researchers and/or professional technical coaches of football, as well as for university professors or coaching courses.


High performance; Professional football; Spain; La Liga; Elite sport


Asian, J. A., Requena, B., Jukic, I., Nayler, J., Hernández, A. S. & Carling, C. (2019). Is Physical Performance a Differentiating Element between More or Less Successful Football Teams? Sports, 7(10), 216.

Azcárate, U., Yanci, J. & Los Arcos, A. (2018). Influence of match playing time and the length of the between-match microcycle in Spanish professional soccer players' perceived training load. Science and Medicine in Football, 2(1), 23-28.

Bendala, F. J. T., Vázquez, M. A. C., Suárez, L. J. & Sánchez, F. J. N. (2018). Comparison of external load in high speed actions between friendly matches and training sessions. Retos: Nuevas Tendencias en Educación Física, Deporte y Recreación, 33, 54-57.

Benítez, J. D., Silva, D., Muñoz, E., Morente, A. & Guillén, M. (2015). Physical ability of the youth football players of a profesional club. Revista Internacional de Medicina y Ciencias de la Actividad Física y del Deporte, 15(58), 289-307.

Bondia, I. L., González, J., Moreno, F. C., Pérez, J. A. & Malavés, R. A. (2017). Creating goal scoring opportunities in elite soccer. Tactical differences between Real Madrid CF and FC Barcelona. Retos: Nuevas Tendencias en Educación Física, Deporte y Recreación, 32, 233-237.

Caballero, P., García, J. & Ibáñez, S. J. (2017). Influence of situational variables on the U'18 soccer performance analysis. Retos: Nuevas Tendencias en Educación Física, Deporte y Recreación, 32, 224-227.

Campos, M. Á., Castellano, J., Toscano, F. J. & Owen, A. (2019). Comparison of the physical and physiological demands of friendly matches and different types of preseason training sessions in professional soccer players. RICYDE. Revista Internacional de Ciencias del Deporte, 15(58), 339-352.

Campos, M. A. & Toscano, F. J. (2018). Comparison of perceived exertion in friendly matches and different types of training sessions in professional soccer players. Retos: Nuevas Tendencias en Educación Fisica Deporte y Recreación, 34, 66-70.

Campos, M. A., Toscano, F. J., Mora, J. C. & Suárez, L. J. (2017). Relationship between internal load indicators and changes on intermittent performance after the preseason in professional soccer players. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 31(6), 1477-1485.

Caro Muñoz, O. & Caro Muñoz, A. (2016). Aproximación a los modelos tácticos generales ofensivos mediante el análisis de los goles en fútbol profesional. Journal of Sport and Health, 8(1), 1-12.

Casamichana, D., Castellano, J., Díaz, A. G., Gabbett, T. J. & Martin, A. (2019). The most demanding passages of play in football competition: a comparison between halves. Biology of Sport, 36(3), 233.

Castellano, J. & Blanco, A. (2015). Analysis of the variability of the movement of elite soccer players during a competitive season of a generalized linear mixed model. Cuadernos de Psicología del Deporte, 15(1), 161-168.

Castellano, J. & Casamichana, D. (2015). What are the differences between first and second divisions of Spanish football teams? International Journal of Performance Analysis in Sport, 15(1), 135-146.

Castellano, J. & Pic, M. (2019). Identification and Preference of Game Styles in La Liga Associated with Match Outcomes. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 16(24), 5090.

Castillo, D., Los Arcos A. & Martínez, R. (2018). Aerobic endurance performance does not determine the professional career of elite youth soccer players. The Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness, 58(4), 392-398.

de Hoyo, M., Gonzalo, O., Sañudo, B., Carrascal, C., Plaza, J. R., Camacho, F. & Otero, C. (2016). Comparative effects of in-season full-back squat, resisted sprint training, and plyometric training on explosive performance in U-19 elite soccer players. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 30(2), 368-377.

Díaz, R., Hernández, J. & Hernández, C. N. (2016). Análisis de las interacciones motrices en fútbol a través de coordenadas polares. Acciónmotriz, 16, 27-36.

Fernandes, T., Camerino, O., Garganta, J., Pereira, R. & Barreira, D. (2019). Design and validation of an observational instrument for defence in soccer based on the Dynamical Systems Theory. International Journal of Sports Science & Coaching, 14(2), 138-152.

Fernández, D., Camerino, O. & García, A. (2017). Set-piece offensive plays in soccer. Apunts. Educación Física y Deportes, 129, 64-77.

García A., Haff, G. G., Feriche, B. & Jaric, S. (2018). Effects of different conditioning programmes on the performance of high-velocity soccer-related tasks: systematic review and meta-analysis of controlled trials. International Journal of Sports Science & Coaching, 13(1), 129-151.

García, J., Pérez, J., Giménez, J. V., Felipe, J. L., Gómez, S., Gallardo, L. & Sánchez, J. (2018). Influence of contextual variables and the pressure to keep category on physical match performance in soccer players. PloS one, 13(9), e0204256.

Gobierno de España. Real Decreto 971/2007, de 13 de julio, sobre deportistas de alto nivel y alto rendimiento deportivo. Retrieved from:

Gómez, D. C., García, A. M., Díaz, A. J. G. & Morera, F. C. (2018). Wildcard Players during Positional Games. Apunts. Educació Física i Esports, 133, 85-97.

Gómez, P., González, S., Castellano, J. & Teoldo, I. (2019). Relation between the physical demands and success in professional soccer players. Journal of Human Sport and Exercise, 14(1), 1-11.

González, J., Aranda, R., Tudela, A., Calabuig, F., Sanjurjo, C. A. C. & Aranda, R. (2019). Effect of match location, team ranking, match status and tactical dimenions on the offensive performance in Spanish 'La Liga'soccer matches. Frontiers in Psychology, 10, 2089.

González, J., López, I., Calabuig, F., James, N. & Aranda, R. (2015). Association between playing tactics and creating scoring opportunities in elite football. A case study in Spanish Football National Team. Journal of Human Sport and Exercise, 10(1), 65-80.

Guerrero, D. & Ruíz, I. (2019). CSR of the Spanish professional football in the media. Analysis of the media presence of the foundational aims. Revista Internacional de Relaciones Públicas, 9(18), 143-160.

Gutiérrez, J., Casamichana, D., Castellano, J. & Sánchez, J. (2018). Influencia de la localización geográfica de los partidos de fútbol en la respuesta física de equipos que compiten en la segunda división española. Journal of Sport & Health Research, 10(2), 295-302.

Izquierdo, J. M., González, A., Montoya, D., García, H. & Yagüe, J. M. (2019). Análisis de acciones a balón parado en el fútbol profesional español y Liga de Campeones. Lecturas: Educación Física y Deportes, 24(259), 49-65.

Lago, C., Gómez, M., Megías, D. & Pollard, R. (2016). Home advantage in football: Examining the effect of scoring first on match outcome in the five major European leagues. International Journal of Performance Analysis in Sport, 16(2), 411-421.

Lago, C., Gómez, M. Á. & Pollard, R. (2017). Home advantage in elite soccer matches. A transient effect? International Journal of Performance Analysis in Sport, 17(1-2), 86-95.

Lago, C. & Sampaio, J. (2015). Just how important is a good season start? Overall team performance and financial budget of elite soccer clubs. Journal of Sports Sciences, 33(12), 1214-1218.

Leceaga, J., Los Arcos, A., Castillo, D. & Yanci, J. (2017). Influence of Plyometric training volume on differentiated perceived exertion load of High-level soccer players. Pensar en Movimiento: Revista de Ciencias del Ejercicio y la Salud, 15(2).

Liu, H., Gómez, M. A., Gonçalves, B. & Sampaio, J. (2016). Technical performance and match-to-match variation in elite football teams. Journal of Sports Sciences, 34(6), 509-518.

Liu, H., Gómez, M. A. & Lago, C. (2015). Match performance profiles of goalkeepers of elite football teams. International Journal of Sports Science & Coaching, 10(4), 669-682.

López, P. C., Chena, M., Asín, I. I., Moreno, A. & Moreno, R. R. (2019). Effect of contextual factors in body composition of professional soccer players. A retrospective study. Nutricion Hospitalaria, 36(6), 1324-1331.

Lorenzo, M., Rey, E. & Padrón, A. (2019). The effect of age on between-match physical performance variability in professional soccer players. Research in Sports Medicine, 1-9.

Los Arcos, A., Martínez, R., Yanci, J. & Méndez, A. (2017). Monitoring perceived respiratory and muscular exertions and physical fitness in young professional soccer players during a 32-week period. Kinesiology, 49(2), 153-160.

Los Arcos, A., Martínez, R., Yanci, J., Mendiguchia, J. & Méndez, A. (2015). Negative associations between perceived training load, volume and changes in physical fitness in professional soccer players. Journal of Sports Science & Medicine, 14(2), 394.

Los Arcos, A., Méndez, A. & Martínez, R. (2017). In-season training periodization of professional soccer players. Biology of Sport, 34(2), 149-155.

Los Arcos, A., Méndez, A., Yanci, J. & Martínez, R. (2016). Respiratory and muscular perceived exertion during official games in professional soccer players. International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance, 11(3), 301-304.

Mallo, J., Mena, E., Nevado, F. & Paredes, V. (2015). Physical demands of top-class soccer friendly matches in relation to a playing position using global positioning system technology. Journal of Human Kinetics, 47(1), 179-188.

Martín, A., Díaz, A. G., Bradley, P. S., Morera, F. & Casamichana, D. (2018). Quantification of a Professional Football Team's External Load Using a Microcycle Structure. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 32(12), 3511-3518.

Martínez, F. D. (2018). Efecto de marcar primero en el fútbol profesional: Revisión Sistemática. Revista Actividad Física y Deporte: Ciencia y Profesión, 28(1), 9-19.

Martínez, R., Castillo, D. & Los Arcos, A. (2016). Sprint and jump performances do not determine the promotion to professional elite soccer in Spain, 1994-2012. Journal of Sports Sciences, 34(24), 2279-2285.

Martínez, F. D. M. & García, H. G. (2019). Efecto de marcar primero y la localización del partido en las principales ligas del fútbol europeo. Retos: Nuevas Tendencias en Educación Física, Deporte y Recreación, 35, 242-245.

Martínez, F. D. & González, H. (2018). Analysis of goals in European football and the most influential part in final standings. E-Balonmano Com, 14(2), 89-98.

Martínez, V. T., Ojeda, R. C. & González, J. A. (2019). Análisis de variables condicionales y técnico-tácticas mediante juegos reducidos en futbolistas semiprofesionales. Retos: Nuevas Tendencias en Educación Física, Deporte y Recreación, 35, 87-90.

Mitrotasios, M., González, J., Armatas, V. & Aranda, R. (2019). The creation of goal scoring opportunities in professional soccer. Tactical differences between spanish la liga, english premier league, german bundesliga and italian serie A. International Journal of Performance Analysis in Sport, 19(3), 452-465.

Padrón, A., Rey, E., Vidal, B. & García, J. (2018). Work-rate analysis of substitute players in professional soccer: Analysis of seasonal variations. Journal of Human Kinetics, 65(1), 165-174.

Pardeiro, M. & Yanci, J. (2016). Efectos del calentamiento en el rendimiento físico y en la percepción psicológica en jugadores semi profesionales de fútbol. RICYDE. Revista Internacional de Ciencias del Deporte, 13(48), 104-116.

Pérez, J., Martín, J., Carlos, J. & Alcaraz, P. E. (2017). Agility training in football players: a systematic review. Cultura, Ciencia y Deporte, 12(35), 127-134.

Pic, M. & Castellano, J. (2017). Influence of match location in the Spanish Copa del Rey. Retos: Nuevas Tendencias en Educación Física, Deporte y Recreación, 31, 202-206.

Ramos, J. J., Maffulli, N., Bragazzi, N. L., Ardigò, L. P., Jiménez, E., Naranjo, C., ... & Montero, F. J. C. (2018). Cardio-respiratory values during recovery from exercise in soccer Spanish leagues. Physiological Measurement, 39(10), 105003.

Roca, A. & Ford, P. R. (2020). Decision-making practice during coaching sessions in elite youth football across European countries. Science and Medicine in Football (just-accepted).

Saavedra, M., Gutiérrez, O., Fernández, J. J. & Sa, P. (2015). Ventaja de jugar en casa en el fútbol español (1928-2011). Revista Internacional de Medicina y Ciencias de la Actividad Física y del Deporte, 15(57), 181-194.

Sarmento, H., Figueiredo, A., Lago, C., Milanovic, Z., Barbosa, A., Tadeu, P. & Bradley, P. S. (2018). Influence of tactical and situational variables on offensive sequences during elite football matches. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 32(8), 2331-2339.

Serrano, C., Paredes, V., Sánchez, J., Gallardo, J., Da Silva, R., Porcel, D., ... & Gallardo, L. (2019). The team's influence on physical and technical demands of elite goalkeepers in LaLiga: a longitudinal study in professional soccer. Research in Sports Medicine, 27(4), 424-438.

Vázquez, M. Á. C. & Belanda, F. J. T. (2018). Comparación de la percepción subjetiva del esfuerzo entre partidos amistosos y diferentes tipos de sesión en futbolistas profesionales. Retos: Nuevas Tendencias en Educación Física, Deporte y Recreación, 34, 66-70.

Yanci, J. & Camara, J. (2016). Bilateral and unilateral vertical ground reaction forces and leg asymmetries in soccer players. Biology of Sport, 33(2), 179.

Zambom, F., Ríos, V. & Lera, F. (2018). Determinants of sport performance in European football: What can we learn from the data? Decision Support Systems, 114, 18-28.


Copyright (c) 2018 Journal of Human Sport and Exercise

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.