Germany's Bundesliga earned well-deserved plaudits this season, as two of its sides, Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund, advanced to the first ever all-German Champions League Final. But not unlike like the Yankees whenever they miss the World Series, or the Lakers whenever they embarrass themselves in the playoffs, Spain's prestigious La Liga has money to blow, and no plans of finishing anywhere but first in 2014.
Already this offseason, FC Barcelona made a much-awaited splash, luring Brazilian Wunder-Niño Neymar across the Atlantic for next season. Barca's biggest Spanish rival, Real Madrid, can't stand pat in the face of that acquisition. And though they might get to pay cheaper shipping fees for their rumored target, that doesn't make his hypothetical acquisition any less momentous.
Per The Guardian:
Gareth Bale's agent, Jonathan Barnett, has appeared on Marca TV to express his willingness to listen to an offer from Real Madrid for the player.
The Spanish club have long coveted Bale and the 23-year-old himself has always considered Real as the dream move if he were to leave Spurs.
Real signed the midfielder Luka Modric from Tottenham last summer for £30m and there is the strong belief at the Bernabéu that Bale will now follow
That's a pretty scary thought, for both Real Madrid and La Liga en masse. Already Barcelona has made the unprecedented pairing of Lionel Messi and Neymar—probably the two most exciting players in the world. There will be growing pains, of course, but in time they could become exactly what the Miami Heat thought they'd get in LeBron and Wade (if Wade didn't turn into a corpse overnight): Two like-minded Hall of Famers playing together in their prime.
Think about the magnitude of that pairing, what doom it spells for Champions League teams from every other country.
Now think about Real Madrid surpassing it.
The same way Messi and Neymar are doppelgangers on the pitch, Cristiano Ronaldo and Garreth Bale have eerily similar games. Both play with pace and power on the outside, and better yet, their strong feet are perfect complements.
Opposing defenses are used to shading Real's offense away from Ronaldo. But they're also used to shading Tottenham's offense away from Bale. What's left for an opponent to do—funnel the ball to Mesut Ozil? Is that really such a good idea?
The depth of La Liga is impressive as well—not as good as England, but good enough to supplement its top-heaviness. Atletico Madrid is deep enough enough to survive the loss of Falcao, and Real Sociedad's 70 goals last season bode well going forward. If Barca and Real are as good as their winsome rosters suggest, the rest of La Liga is good enough to retain the title of world's best league.
Especially with the potential regression of Bundesliga's Dortmund, who out-kicked their coverage in 2013, and only stand to get worse next year. Mario Gotze has already defected to Bayern Munich and Robert Lewandowski is rumored to be close behind. According to WhoScored.com—and, well, the eye test—they were clearly Dortmund's two best players last season.
And even if that means Bayern is just as good as Barca and Real (a big question mark given the upside of Neymar's signing and Bale's potential move), the rest of Bundesliga's cupboard is bare. Who's the second best team? Who else is capable of functioning on Bayern Munich's plane?
There's a case to be made for the Premiership, too, especially given the depth. It's certainly the most historic league, and it probably has the most quality sides.
But its performance in 2013's Champions League disqualifies England from serious contention. It's one thing to look pretty on paper, and another thing entirely on the pitch. When Manchester United and Arsenal go down in the Round of 16—tough matchups be damned—while Chelsea and Manchester City miss the Knockout Round entirely, it's hard to make a case for superiority.
There are plenty of unknowns left in this equation. We don't know for sure how Neymar will fit in at Barca; we don't know for sure how Bale would fit in at Real; heck, we don't even know if Bale is seriously considering a move to Spain. It's hard to say anything about next year with confidence, but screw it, I think I'll do it anyway:
We won't be seeing another all-German final any time soon.
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