Which Is The Best Soccer League In the World?
Top Five Leagues
- English Premier League (EPL)
- Spanish Primera Liga (La Liga)
- Italian Serie A
- German Bundesliga
- French League One
Last season, Bayern Munich humbled what is considered to be the world's best club side - Barcelona - on their way to being crowned European champions. Borussia Dortmund - who would probably win the People's Choice Award for favorite soccer club in Europe - proved too strong for Real Madrid and set up an all-German final. The German's imaginative and high intensity play proved too much for the rest of Europe. After a decade of being on the side-lines, German clubs had again become significant players on the European stage.
For most, last season's events signaled a significant shift in the balance of power in European soccer.
This shift was further supported by the abysmal display of English clubs in the Champions League; Chelsea and Man City didn't even make it out of the group stage. Moreover, Italian clubs have failed to offer any credible challenge over the last couple of years with Juventus the only side able to stand toe-to-toe with the likes of Bayern Munich. Milan, a former giant, is now just there to make up the numbers while their city rivals even failed to qualify for last year's edition of the prestigious competition.
Let us take a quick look at the individual situations in the top five European leagues:
Barclays Premier League
The most watched league in the world was initiated in the 92-93 soccer season and has never looked back. Before the revamping of club soccer in England, League One was the highest pinnacle of soccer. With the start of the Barclay Premiership, many of the dominant clubs back then were caught napping as Manchester United established themselves as the major force in England. They have been the most consistent side in the league as seen in the number of wins;
- Manchester United - 13 wins
- Arsenal - 3 wins
- Chelsea - 3 wins
- Blackburn - 1 wins
- Manchester City - 1 win
With the arrival of Arsene Wenger in 96', Manchester United's dominance would finally receive a credible challenge. And for a while, the league effectively became a two-horse race. Then, Chelsea ran into Russian oil money and became a real contender for the title, but still the league was a two-horse race as Arsenal, sadly, fell away.
Now, Man City have the money to be competitive, Arsenal and Liverpool are experiencing a slow resurgence and Tottenham have bought themselves a very competitive squad. The entire league is profiting from the lucrative TV money that is a reward for its popularity around the world. Even the smaller clubs have been able to invest on bigger and better squads. The coming years are going to be quite intriguing in the premier league of England.
The Spanish league has over its existent been considered a two-horse race. Although a couple of clubs like Valencia, Villarreal CF and Deportivo La Caruna have threatened to buck the trend, Barcelona and Real Madrid are considered to the undisputed giants of Spanish football.
The intense, and at times unhealthy competition between the two, leaves very little room for the other clubs to flourish. The unfair distribution of TV revenue makes the chance of a big money takeover unlikely. Malaga found that out the hard way as they attempted to challenge the establishment. Sadly, the club's benefactor saw the financial pitfalls ahead, withdrew his support and left the current management with no option but to sell their prized assets.
The European financial crisis has had a very negative effect on the Spanish league. Spain has been one of the worst hit countries in Europe. With people struggling to earn a living, paying for match tickets now seems an unnecessary expenditure. Clubs are struggling to fill their stadiums and only Real Madrid and Barcelona seem capable of keeping hold of their star players. The likes of Valencia and Malaga have had to offload keys player just to stay afloat.
Amidst all these difficulties, one club is trying to quell the notion that La Liga is all about Real Madrid and Barcelona. With the striking talents of Diego Costa and the play-making abilities of Ada Turan and Koke, Atletico Madrid are certainly holding their own in La Liga. Having won all their matches, Real Madrid's less glamorous city rivals are only second to Barcelona on goal difference.
Time will certainly tell whether or not Atletico Madrid can keep up with the other two for the remainder of the season. And whether they can keep hold of their talented squad in the coming future.
At one time, Serie A used to be the league with the greatest concentration of big and competitive clubs. The dominance of AC Milan on the European stage could only be matched by the likes of Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and Barcelona. And with a supporting cast of Juventus, Inter Milan, Lazio, Fiorentina, AS Roma and Parma, the Italian brigade was quite a dominant force of nature.
Cue the match-fixing mess of the early 2000s coupled with the financial crisis affecting clubs such as Parma and what you get is the slow decline of Italian dominance in Europe. The league received a major respite when Inter Milan (gained the most from the match-fixing scandal that toppled Juventus and crippled AC Milan) both won the Champions League. The Italians also carried home the World Cup in 2006 but that only masked the real issues affecting soccer back home.
The Italian plight wasn't helped by the looming European crisis. AC Milan and Inter couldn't keep hold of their stars, Juventus (after overcoming relegation) couldn't compete with their richer European rivals when it came to buying top talent.
The Italian landscape has clearly changed with new clubs staking a claim on the title. Napoli are now a dominant force while AS Roma seem untouchable at the moment. Juventus are battling to maintain their top status while AC Milan are struggling to stay with the leading pack. Inter are slowly rebuilding and will do well to overcome the challenge of Lazio and Fiorentina in qualifying for Europe.
The fact that San Siro derby can't guarantee a packed stadium is a clear indication that the Italian league is struggling.
The German league seems to revolve around Bayern Munich's ability to win or lose the league. The Bavarian giants have a clear financial advantage over their Bundesliga rivals. Over the years, they have been able to successfully thwart any viable challenge coming from the rest of their Bundesliga opponents. Their ability to buy out their competition has been visible throughout the years.
In the early 2000s, Bayer Leverkusen reached the Champions League final with an array of talent that included the likes of Michael Ballack and Ze Roberto. Unsurprisingly, both ended up at red half of the Allianz Arena. This trend has continued recently with Bayern poaching their nearest rival's star player. And it seems that Mario Goetze isn't the only player Borussia Dortmund will lose to Bayern Munich; Robert Lewandowski also seems to be on his way to Munich.
One positive aspect of German football is the ability of clubs to attract fans. Only England can rival Germany in terms of club attendances. Fan also seem to have a closer relationship with their favorite clubs. This is helped by the fact that big money takeovers are clearly discouraged.
Realistically, only Dortmund will rival Bayern for the title. And with the squad Bayern has, very few in Europe will be able to keep up with the Bavarians.
French League One
This is a league undergoing tremendous changes and sadly not for the better. After more than a half-dozen years of Lyon dominating, the league suddenly became a free for all. Lille, Montpellier and Marseille took advantage of the chaos after Lyon's decline.
Nobody envisioned the rise of PSG and Monaco as they both underwent big money take-overs. Subsequently, PSG won the league after initially being thwarted by the over-achievement of Montpellier. On the other hand, Monaco escaped the depths of League 2 and are now blazing a trail through the top league.
This change in dynamics has left the likes of Marseille, Lyon, Lille and Bordeaux at a clear disadvantage in terms of squad strength. The ridiculous amount of money spent by the two giants of French soccer doesn't auger well for the rest of the league. The impression left is of two sharks in a very tiny pond.
Another league to keep an eye on.
The Bundesliga fails to be the best because of Bayern Munich's clear domination. Their closest rivals - Borussia Dortmund - will struggle to keep up and their squad intact.
Serie A doesn't have enough financial strength to attract top talent and the poor attendance numbers won't help. Corruption and racism are also proving to be detrimental.
La Liga's problems won't end until the rest of the league are given an equal share of the revenue pie. Atletico Madrid may surprise many this season but can keep hold of the likes of Diego Costa and Arda Turan.
The French league seems to be heading in the direction of La Liga; an annual two-horse will only satisfy Monaco and PSG fans.
The Barclay's Premiership seems to be the only top league with the required ingredients to be both extremely competitive as well as being profitable for the participating clubs. With more than four potential winners, England is the place to be this season and many more to come.