World Football: Ranking Europe's Major Football Leagues
A statistician will tell you that statistics can not only be grossly misunderstood, but it can very well be manipulated to any degree to suit your purpose.
This holds true also in the world of football. Let me rephrase that—especially in the world of football. While all football fans can agree that Europe has four giant leagues—Serie A, the Bundesliga, La Liga and the English Premier League, consensus is not easily achieved when you attempt to rank these leagues.
Ranking is subjective and depends upon one’s individual preference. Some prefer defensive football, while others enjoy an attacking blend of football. And there are some who prefer Eva Carneiro.
If you go by UEFA, they have a neat system designed called the UEFA co-efficient rankings, which determines a number designated as “coefficient” by the results of the clubs in the UEFA Champions League and the UEFA Europa League games.
This is done for five seasons, and this coefficient determines the number of participants in the Champions League and Europa league for the respective domestic league. Currently, the top four leagues are those of England, Spain, Germany and Italy with 85.410, 84.186, 75.186 and 59.981 points respectively.
However, in my opinion, a league should be evaluated not merely by their presence in European competitions but also on a variety of issues. These issues can range anywhere from a solid youth academy to financial solvency.
With Juventus winning this season of Serie A, it seems that Italian football will soon reclaim its glory days. However, Juventus and Serie A have still not recovered from the Calciopoli Scandal which left not only Juventus, who were stripped of their 2005 and 2006 Serie A titles and relegated to Serie B, but also the whole of Italian football in turmoil.
A mass exodus of players followed soon after, and European football was left without one of their perennial heavyweights.
While Inter Milan and AC Milan have managed to win the Champions League since then, Italian presence in Europe has not been as presuming as during the '90s and early '00s.
Therefore, Serie A does have some catching up to do. A mere glimpse at the UEFA coefficient ranking shows that they are quite far behind.
Premier League vs. La Liga Part 1
A while ago, we carried out a debate concerning which league is better, the Premier League or La Liga. Michael Cerna, La Liga Featured Columnist, and I, Bren Goetze, World Football Featured Columnist, presented our views. You may read the article here.
However, I will also try to succinctly present the messages across, and you may decide which league is better, although I lean much more towards the EPL.
Many fans who try to argue that the English league is balanced will automatically look to Spain as a comparison. The reason for this is clear—it makes the Premier League look better ... The EPL has become a league where the title is only really contested by Manchester United and whichever billionaire-backed club is better that season.
Premier League matches are highly physical and move at a rapid pace, and are different from other leagues ... If you look at the Premier League, there stands out a host of defensive talent in the likes of Nemanja Vidic, Vincent Kompany, John Terry and others. The holding midfielder role is also of critical importance in the EPL. Alex Song, Scott Parker and Yaya Toure are all critical members of the respective sides they play in who do a fantastic job of breaking up play and setting up an immediate counter-attack ... The La Liga is bereft of defensive talent and physicality.
While Bren is correct that the Premier League is a bit more physical and pacier, that does not make it better than La Liga or Serie A. This is all a matter of taste and preference. While Bren apparently prefers this style, I do not. I prefer the more technical, patient style of La Liga. Others may prefer the more defensive style of Serie A.
The ratio of between the top club of the Premier League and the bottom club stands at a meagre 1.54:1. It stands at 12.5:1 at La Liga and 10:1 in Serie A. Manchester United took home around £60 million in revenue in the 2010-2011 season, while Blackpool took home around £40 million. Barcelona and Real Madrid will take home £116 (€140) million in 2011-2012, while Racing will take home a mere £10 (€13) million. Even Valencia will take home only £40 (€48) million, almost the same figure as EPL’s lowest ranking club of 2010-2011. This means that these discrepancies allow clubs like Barcelona and Real Madrid to reinvest and make them stronger, while the others are left hugely behind.
Premier League vs. La Liga Part 2
“English clubs also perform superbly in Europe. If you look at the record from 2005, you have had an English club in the final every year barring the one in 2010 when Inter Milan managed to win. Liverpool won it in 2005, Arsenal were in the final in 2006, Liverpool were in the final again in 2007. 2008 even saw an all-English final between Chelsea and United, and 2009 would’ve been the same if Chelsea had not been cheated out of the final by exceptionally poor refereeing decisions. United were in the final again in 2009 and 2011”.
And Chelsea won this year, defeating Bayern Munich on penalties.
However, much of this past dominance may not be present anymore. Plus, can we even call it dominance since two Spanish clubs have more European championships than all English clubs combined? ... Let’s not forget that in the last four years, Valencia, Sevilla, Atletico Madrid and Villarreal have all made it past the group stages. That isn’t much worse than the EPL.
Spanish clubs also perform better in the Europa League, with three of the four semi-finalists in this year’s Europa League were Spanish. And Atletico Madrid took the crown.
Since 2000, Spanish teams have taken home nine European trophies, while English teams have only won four.
Premier League vs. La Liga Part 3
In the Premier League, you have this added element that I like to describe as two-fold uncertainty. The first uncertainty arises from the fact that upsets happen regularly and change the entire season. ... this is a league where Everton and Sunderland upset Manchester City. Low-lying Blackburn upset United, and you cannot even start compiling the number of times that lesser clubs have upset the likes of Chelsea and Arsenal.
The second form of uncertainty, which is of more importance, is that when these six clubs face each other, you can never predict who is going to win. You would have thought Arsenal, given their form, would be blown out by Chelsea. Yet they scored five past them. They did the same against Tottenham. Last year, Liverpool put three past United. This is a league in which uncertainty adds a whole new dimension.
Next year it will get even more intense, as Chelsea will look to regroup, Arsenal will invest wisely in quality players and Liverpool have the financial power to bring in a few extra stars.
This year, the title was decided in stoppage time, and then Tottenham Hotspur were denied the Champions League spot, because the team that finished sixth, Chelsea, won the Champions League.
While I agree that this aspect is exciting in England, it is not just in England that this happens. In Spain, Real Madrid were beaten by Levante, the poorest club in the league. It is just as hard to predict a result of any matchup between Valencia, Atletico Madrid, Athletic Bilbao, Malaga or Lazio, Inter, Napoli and Udinese as it is to predict the same between Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Tottenham.
La Liga had 11 teams in the running for Champions League competition next season.
This great uncertainty is not greater in England than in Germany, Italy or even Spain. Saying that next year will be even more intense and more balanced, especially at the top, is a cry that PL fans have been using for a few years now.
Besides, the same is true in Spain with Malaga buying up more talent, Valencia having finally completed a deal for its new stadium, and Atletico Madrid ready to reinvest as a top club.The same is also true in Italy with Juventus ready to spend, Napoli ready to build on past success, and Inter hoping to rebuild with a younger squad.
The EPL is no more balanced or unpredictable than these other leagues, especially in terms of actually fighting for a title, much less head and shoulders above them.
In my opinion, the Bundesliga is the most well-run, financially sound league in the world. Competitive in the domestic front and successful in the European front, the Bundesliga is best league in Europe. A while ago, I covered an article on how the Bundesliga is the best league in the world. Here, I present the points succintly:
UEFA Coefficient Rankings
If you look at the UEFA Coefficient Ranking yet again, you will witness that the Bundesliga is not far behind its English and Spanish counterparts. Given the deficits of the Spanish clubs (also tensions regarding wages and TV rights) and the possibility of Financial Fair Play restrictions hurting English clubs, Bundesliga might take over both leagues in a short duration of time.
Furthermore, all clubs in the Bundesliga are mandated to obtain a license and operate a youth 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.
Out of the two billion euro in turnover for the Bundesliga, only 80 million euros are spent on the academies. Compare this to England, where 95 million euros are spent each year and only one percent of the buys who join the academy turn into professional footballers.
Bundesliga has an intense competition. You can never predict who the winner will be. 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.
The Bundesliga operates on a collective profit.This, in stark contrast to other leagues, is where clubs have massive debts. 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 21 million in the 2010/2011 season. Bayern Munich, in contrast, has been operating on profits for the 19th season running.
The Bundesliga is also the most attended football league in the world. 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. The Bundesliga also has the lowest ticket prices, and the clubs also limit the number of season ticket holders to ensure that every person has an equal opportunity for admission to a game.
The biggest stand in the world, the Yellow Wall, in Borussia Dortmund, holds 26,000 supporters with the average cost of a ticket being only 15 euros.
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