Best Reasons To Watch All of Europe's Top Leagues This Season
The new football season began in earnest last weekend. This week, we will witness the start of the new campaign in both England and Spain. For fans of Italian football, however, a further week's wait beckons.
For the first time in quite a while, there are major arguments in favour of several of Europe's top leagues having become a better spectacle over the summer. Perhaps the only loser in that respect would be Spain's Primera Liga but, at the same time, the top two clubs have added major star power.
Given the incredible changes that have taken place across Europe over the summer—perhaps more than ever before—it will doubtless be an intriguing campaign in both domestic and continental competitions.
Let's take a look at why you should watch each of Europe's major leagues.
It has been some summer for the English Premier League, with the influx of new television money (Telegraph) and implementation of new domestic Financial Fair Play rules (BBC) offering up an interesting new dynamic.
The influx of new money and restrictions on wage increases have seen the biggest improvements come at mid-table clubs, who have benefited tremendously from the extra £20-30 million income they are now receiving.
For clubs like Swansea, Norwich and Southampton, the new money has opened doors to a calibre of player previously untouchable. The English mid-table sides are now competing with regular Champions League and Europa League sides for established international players.
At the top of the table, both Manchester City and Chelsea have already sprung into action with high-profile recruits both on and off the pitch. City manager Manuel Pellegrini has a group of expensive recruits to add to his already star-studded squad, while incoming Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho has added both Andre Schurrle and Marco van Ginkel to the Stamford Bridge ranks, per John Ley of the Telegraph.
A Sir Alex Ferguson-less Manchester United and Arsenal are yet to make their mark on the summer transfer window, but they are sure to do so in the coming weeks. Should the Gunners, in particular, fail to do so, then both Liverpool and Tottenham look well set to capitalise.
After an offseason of unrest, the return to action will be a welcome relief to many football fans in England. Perhaps the most interesting and best season in the history of the Premier League awaits.
While the story in England is one of shared wealth and opportunity for the league's lower sides, the outlook in Spain could not be more different.
La Liga has faced continual accusations of being a two-team league in recent years, with just seven of the league's 20 sides having spent more than they have received in transfer fees this offseason—Barcelona and Real Madrid included (TransferMarkt).
Of the league's leading stars, many have headed to England for the higher wages on offer, while Real Madrid have also taken the opportunity to sign Isco and Asier Illarramendi—two of the division's best young players.
It is interesting to note that a handful of players, including internationals Joaquin, Raul Albiol, Gonazalo Higuain and Fernando Llorente, have headed to some of Italy's leading sides.
There are positives for fans of La Liga to take from the summer, including Athletic's capture of midfielder Benat, Atletico securing the signings of forwards Leo Baptistao and David Villa, and Granada continuing their Udinese-supported rise to prominence.
In general, though, there is little for fans of La Liga to celebrate this summer—with the exception of the top two El Clasico sides.
Barcelona's capture of Neymar has written the headlines, while Real Madrid have done their utmost to compete with their high-profile Spanish recruits. Once more, it would appear, the league will be dominated by the two sides due to their massively unfair financial advantage.
The Italian Serie A has endured a tough few years of late, with clubs suffering financial hardships and witnessing the league's most talented players head steadily away from the country.
That flow of talent, though, has begun to have a reverse effect. The highly inflated fees that France's nouveau-riche sides, especially, have pumped into Italy have inflated budgets in Serie A, with Napoli particular beneficiaries.
The financial downturn of the league saw many clubs turn attention to developing and recruiting youth talent—a change of focus which is now reaping rewards.
With increased transfer revenues, excellent youth talent emerging and some clubs benefiting from the generosity of owners, it has been a positive summer for Italian football as a whole.
Juventus have been established as one of Europe's strongest sides for a couple of seasons now, but could they be joined by the likes of Napoli and Fiorentina? It may well happen.
It remains to be seen whether the money being spent has been used wisely, with question marks surrounding the activity of Internazionale, AC Milan and Roma, but money is being spent.
A fascinating season that could decide the direction of Italian football in coming seasons awaits from next weekend.
The Bundesliga is, of course, currently riding the crest of the success of its sides in last season's Champions League—in which Bayern and Borussia Dortmund played out an all-German final.
While the build-up to that final was dominated by Bayern's capture of their rival's star attacking midfielder Mario Gotze (Sky Sports), it is Dortmund who have arguably had the better of the summer—securing exciting talents Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
Bayern, though, now boast former Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola on their bench. They used his appeal to capture Spain Under-21 star Thiago Alcantara from the Catalan club (Guardian).
The leading two sides, then, look set for another season competing among Europe's elite. While much of the league has continued to build in a low-profile manner, both Bayer Leverkusen and Wolfsburg will be hoping to at least close the gap on the division's elite sides after their significant expenditure (TransferMarkt).
The Bundesliga may not boast the depth of quality of some of its rivals, but it is always a competitive and aesthetically pleasing division.
With the top two sides bringing increased attention to the league and the Bundesliga very much a favourite of European football fans at present, it will be well worth a watch over the year to come.
It is impossible to tell whether the financial strength of Monaco and Paris Saint-Germain will be good for French football in the long term, but it will certainly add to the publicity Ligue 1 returns next season.
The two sides have spent well in excess of £200 million this summer (TransferMarkt), the vast majority of which has been spent outside of French borders. As a consequence, Ligue 1's smaller clubs have seen little benefit.
The addition of world-class talents such as Edinson Cavani, Radamel Falcao and James Rodriguez will inevitably make the league a more attractive overall product to foreign audiences.
For clubs outside of the two title favourites, though, talent has continued to flow away from Ligue 1 in the shape of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Younes Belhanda and Etienne Capoue.
One plus point has been the strength of former heavyweights Marseille, who have brought in the highly rated Giannelli Imbula, Benjamin Mendy and Dimitri Payet. Sadly, though, it has been a summer dominated by departures for Champions League hopefuls Lyon.
The money of Monaco and PSG will continue to draw foreign attention to Ligue 1, but some of the less-fashionable but technically gifted sides lower down the division are well worth a watch.
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