In world football, there is a tendency to think of European football as the English Premier League, La Liga and everyone else.
What are the teams always mentioned? Real Madrid, Barcelona, Manchester United, Manchester City, Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool. Tottenham and Newcastle occasionally are included, as are the giants of Serie A (AC Milan, Inter Milan, Juventus).
But very rarely will you see the names of Bayern Munich or Borussia Dortmund, or any German team for that matter, in the rumor mill for the biggest transfer targets on the market.
In fact, when Marco Reus snubbed the likes of Arsenal to move to Borussia Dortmund, many football fans were shocked by the move, even though it was very much a logical decision for him.
The Bundesliga may not be ready to challenge for the title of "best European league" just quite yet, but it's certainly on the way up and deserves much more credit than it receives.
While the Bundesliga may not be the best football league in the world (yet), it sure is the best run league in the world, and the most financially secure.
Despite Bundesliga's television income being a modest 594 million euros compared with the Premier League's lucrative return of 1.94 billion euros, financial management is prudent. Match-day takings, advertising and media receipts keep the league in great financial shape.
This is in stark contrast to other major leagues which post massive deficits.
For example: Barcelona’s gross debt stands at around 483 million and the net debt at 364 million, while they posted losses of 83 million in the 2009/2010 season and 21million in the 2010/2011 season. Bayern Munich, in contrast, has been operating on profits for the 19th season running.
In Forbes' most recent list of the most valuable football clubs in the world, the Bundesliga had six teams in the top 20, three more than the Serie A, three more than La Liga and on par with the EPL.
The difference between the EPL and the Bundesliga clubs? The EPL clubs are massively in debt.
Ever stop and wonder: "How have the Germans managed to flood world football with so much German talent?" I know I have.
Once again, Bren Goetze has the answer:
A major driving feature of the Bundesliga is the production of home-grown players. A decade ago, the Bundesliga and the German FA made an agreement that to obtain a license to compete, one must found and run an education academy.
The results have been spectacular, as less money is spent on transfers and also provide a vast array of talent for the national team which has had successful runs in all the major European and World competitions; of the 23-man national squad announced for the World Cup in South Africa, 19 came from the Bundesliga academies, while the other four came from the Bundesliga-2 academies.
In these academies, at least 12 players that are admitted in each round have to be eligible to play for Germany, thereby providing a continuous replenishment of great, young football talent, and all clubs have a strong relationship to the German FA.
In contrast, in England, there is a great level of infighting between the FA, the Premier League and the Football League. Thus, the responsibility of producing home-grown players rests on the Premier League clubs.
Out of the two-billion euro in turnover for the Bundesliga, only 80 million euros are spent on the academies. In England, around 95 million euros are spent each year, and the results are appalling, as only one percent of boys who join the academy aged nine turn into professional footballers.
Marco Reus, Mario Goetze, Holger Badstuber, Andre Schurrle, Lewis Holtby, Toni Kroos, Marko Marin, Tomas Muller—the list goes on and on. If I start including players over the age of 22, then Mats Hummels comes into the discussion, as do Mesut Ozil and Jerome Boateng.
Simply put, there is no nation in the world with a better conveyor belt of talent than Germany right now. Not even Brazil or Argentina, traditionally the best nations at producing world-class talent in bulk, can take the title of "best talent producer" away from Germany right now.
Although it's much harder to prove competitiveness than it is to prove financial security, there's a strong case to be made for the Bundesliga being the most competitive league in the world.
And here it is, courtesy of Goetze once again:
Although Bayern Munich remains the most successful Bundesliga outfit, other clubs are not far behind. It is true that FC Bayern are the heavyweights of German football, with 22 national titles and four Champions League trophies, but the Bundesliga is riddled with other successful clubs.
In the last ten years, six different clubs have won the title. Almost all the clubs that comprise the Bundesliga are strong, financially sound and provide intense competition amongst them, making each match an exhilarating and enthralling experience. For example: VfL Wolfsburg, who won the championship in the 2008-2009 season, came 15th in the 2010-2011 season.
In the last three years of the Bundesliga there have been three different cup winners and three different champions.
In football, success breeds more success. Healthy finances leads to more competitive teams, which usually leads healthier finances.
This has proven the case with Schalke, Borussia Dortmund, Borussia Monchenglabach, Hannover 96, Stuttgart, Werder Bremen, Bayer Leverkusen, Hamburg and Bayern Munich—all of the teams have successful histories, and help ensure that the Bundesliga never stagnates into a league with a set "Big Four" or "Top Two."
Last time I time I quote Goetze, I promise:
In Germany, the fans show an enthusiasm that is unrivalled by any other league. Thirty-one million people in Germany take an active interest in the sport, and 14 million viewers watch the sport weekly. Bundesliga’s average attendance was 42,673 fans per game during the 2010–11 season, almost more than 14,000 La Liga fans per game. This record was beaten only by the NFL of the United States.
There you have it. And there's numerous reasons why. The Bundesliga has some of the lowest season ticket prices in Europe, and most of the clubs in Germany are majority-owned by the fans to both ensure financial stability as well as fan interest in the club.
Truly an excellent model that clubs all over the world should seek to mimic.
Back in February, it was revealed that Bayern Munich saved Borussia Dortmund from bankruptcy in 2003 with a €2m loan.
Can you imagine this happening in another football league in the world?
Even now, as one of the greatest clubs in the history of football faces extinction, nothing has been done to help the club survive at until the end of the season.
The same applies with clubs in England. Portsmouth have now entered administration twice in the last three years, and both times they're received no help from the clubs around them, who admittedly are probably in too much debt themselves to be helping those around them.
Nevertheless, the fact that Bayern Munich was able to perform such a chartible act with little incentive to do other than maintaining the integrity and solidity of the Bundesliga is a definite +1 for the league.
UEFA ultimately ranks leagues by how they perform in Europe, and not by how competitive they are, how good their fans are, how financially secure they are or how good their youth talents are.
But apparently, the Bundesliga's great in that respect as well.
The Bundesliga has been rapidly rising in the UEFA coefficients over the last couple of years, passing Serie A along the way.
In the 2009-10 season, the Bundesliga finished with the most UEFA coefficient points of any team in Europe, and this year, they're not doing bad either, with three of their six teams still alive in Europe.
Admittedly, the Bundesliga has struggled to produce contenders for the Champions League in recent years, with only Bayern Munich making it past the group stages with any regularity.
Nevertheless, with Dortmund emerging as a rival powerhouse in the Bundesliga to Bayern, the Bundesliga will likely have at least two solid contenders per year for the Champions League title, and the extra Champions League spot they'll have in next year's Champions League should be very helpful to the league's progress as well.
It's often said that a country's national team reflects how healthy its domestic league is.
There's plenty of evidence for this too: Spain won the 2008 Euros and 2010 World Cup with its league ranked second in the world and Italy won the 2006 World Cup with Juventus in top form and boasting some of the best Italian talents in Italian history.
Even Brazil won the 2002 World Cup with a squad in which 13 of the 23 players selected were from the Brazilian Serie A.
Thus, considering how well the Bundesliga is doing as a league, it should come as no surprise that the German national team is excelling on the international stage (it was the only team to win all ten of its games in qualification).
Joachim Löw is consistently presented with an abundance of talent in every position, and just as the German national team continues to improve on the international stage, it is also expected that the Bundesliga too will continue to improve in comparison with the rest of Europe's leagues.
Ultimately, the only real reason the Bundesliga does not get the credit it deserves is because it simply isn't hyped up enough by the English or American media.
The inferior television income mentioned on the first slide definitely factors in here. Since fewer people get to see the dazzling talents of Arjen Robbin, Franck Ribery, Mario Gotze and co. on a regular basis, the Bundesliga is less talked about, less popular and, consequently, underrated.
But over time this will change. As has already been mentioned, more Champions League spots should help Germany establish a stronger presence in the Champions League, and Financial Fair Play should eventually ensure that European clubs in debt do not continue to dominate European football.
When these things happen, more TV companies will be interested in covering the new dominant German teams in Europe, and as exposure increases, more people will talk about the Bundesliga.
And finally, the Bundesliga will no longer be underrated. It's a long process, that'll take many years to fulfill. Yet one thing is for sure: The Bundesliga is on its way up, and it's not stopping anytime soon.