World Soccer's Top 10 Club Rankings: March 7, 2011

Jason DouglasContributor IIMarch 8, 2011

BARCELONA, SPAIN - MARCH 05:  Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona looks on during the La liga match between Barcelona and Real Zaragoza at Camp Nou on March 5, 2011 in Barcelona, Spain. Barcelona won 1-0.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
David Ramos/Getty Images

Every week, I spend some time playing around with the methodology I use to calculate these rankings. It dawned on me, that we already have a ranking (calculated by UEFA) that ranks the best teams in terms of their performances in Europe this season. It's called the UEFA Club Coefficient. As of the last Champions League and Europa League matches (obviously not including today), the rankings are as follows:

Top 10 Clubs based on UEFA Club Coefficient

  1. Chelsea

  2. Bayern Munich

  3. Real Madrid

  4. Manchester United

  5. Shakhtar Donetsk

  6. Arsenal

  7. Tottenham  Hotspur

  8. Schalke 04

  9. FC Barcelona

  10. Valencia

It's important to keep in mind that the list above is more of a power ranking. All it tells us is which teams have performed well this season, based solely on their performances in both the Champions League and Europa League. Still, it's useful because it tells us which clubs are playing the best against European competition this year. That counts for a lot.

UEFA also gives us the top leagues in Europe based on a national UEFA coefficient. In short, it adds up the UEFA coefficients of all the teams in a particular league (say the EPL) participating in European competition. Whichever league has the strongest representation, generally has the strongest ranking. That said, here are the Top ten Leagues in Europe for the current season based on the UEFA National Coefficient:

Top 10 Leagues in Europe based on UEFA National Coefficient

  1. England - 15.50 (13.79%)

  2. Germany - 14.33 (12.76%)

  3. Spain - 13.21 (11.76%)

  4. Portugal - 11.80 (10.50%)

  5. Italy - 11.00 (9.79%)

  6. France - 10.58 (9.42%)

  7. Netherlands - 9.83 (8.75%)

  8. Russia - 9.75 (8.68%)

  9. Ukraine - 8.75 (7.79%)

  10. Greece - 7.60 (6.76%)

Again, this is a reflection of current strength, not historical strength. As you all know, the Italians were all up in arms over the fact that Germany has emerged as a stronger league. As a result, Germany now gets an extra Champions League spot.

So this is not a lifetime achievement rating. It's simply based on how clubs from these countries have performed in European (Champions League and Europa League) play this season.

To get a true picture of the best club however, we need to count both domestic league performance (adjusted for strength of league) and performance in Cup competitions. I'm still working on the methodology for the Cup competitions. For the time being, I have not taken into account cup performance in the rankings.

If we sum the UEFA coefficients for the top 10 leagues in Europe we get a total of 112.36. If we divide each nation's coefficient over the total, we can get a measure of how strong each team is versus the others. So 13.79% for England simply means that England represents 13.79% of the total. With Germany at 12.76% of the total, we can see that England is far and away the strongest league in Europe.

If we then take the number of points the top clubs in each league have scored, and multiply them by these league weights (which adjusts for strength of league), we get an adjusted score for each club. For example, Manchester United has scored 60 points thus far in the Premier League.

If we multiply 60 x 13.79% (strength of EPL relative to the other top 10 leagues), we get a score of 8.28. After doing that for every club, these are the teams that have performed the best domestically (after adjusting for strength of league).

Top 10 Clubs based only on Domestic League Performance

  1. FC Barcelona

  2. Manchester United

  3. Real Madrid

  4. Arsenal

  5. Borussia Dortmund

  6. Manchester City

  7. Chelsea

  8. Tottenham Hotspur

  9. FC Porto

  10. Valencia CF

If we cross-reference the clubs that have performed the best in Europe (based on the UEFA club coefficients above) with the clubs that I've calculated as performing the best domestically, seven out of ten are on both lists. Intuitively, this makes sense since you would expect clubs that perform well in Europe to perform well at home.

I believe that we need to reward clubs that have performed well in Europe, even if they've struggled a bit at home. After all, the goal of every club in Europe is to win the Champions League. That said, here's this week's top 10 clubs, taking into account both European and domestic league play (not including Cup competitions):

Top 10 Club World Ranking - March 7, 2011

  1. Barcelona

  2. Real Madrid

  3. Manchester United

  4. Arsenal

  5. Chelsea

  6. Tottenham Hotspur

  7. Valencia

  8. AC Milan

  9. Inter

  10. Bayern Munich

A few people have written in over the past few weeks and asked what about some of the French clubs. Olympique Marseille and Olympique Lyon, are actually 11th and 12th respectively in the UEFA club coefficient. They've performed extremely well in Europe and are still alive in the Champions League. The reason they fail to make the list is because of the strength of the French domestic league. After adjusting for the strength of the league, they just don't earn enough combined points (Europe and domestic) to crack the top ten. Still, they're both enjoying excellent seasons.

As I mentioned earlier, there are seven teams that appear in both the top 10 UEFA club rankings and the top 10 domestic rankings. They are: Chelsea, Real Madrid, Manchester United, Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur, Barcelona and Valencia.

In my mind, those seven had to make the top ten. Bayern Munich, Shahktar Donetsk and Schalke 04 are all in the top ten in Europe, but fail to make the top ten domestically. Schalke is struggling mightily, so they were easy to discount. Bayern on the other hand is in the top 20 domestically, despite losses to Schalke in the German cup and to Hannover last week.

Inter is 13th in Europe and 18th domestically. Other than Milan, they were the only other club you could really make a case for. In many instances, you just have to use common sense despite the performance.

Borussia Dortmund is actually enjoying a top 5 domestic league campaign, however they've already been eliminated from Europa League play, which kept them out of the top 10 this week.

Porto is also top ten domestically and top twenty in Europe, but they just missed the cut.

I happen to like Shakhtar Donetsk a lot. They're blowing away the competition in the Ukrainian league and should advance to the round of eight in the Champions League. Still, due to the strength (or weakness) of the Ukrainian league, I couldn't put them ahead of clubs like Inter and Bayern who play in much stronger domestic leagues.

Interesting Observations

  • Shakhtar Donetsk should be getting more attention. They should advance to the round of eight in the Champions League and are absolutely decimating the competition in Ukraine.
  • Bayer Leverkusen is having a surprisingly good season. They're top twenty in Europe and number 11 domestically. While they could probably beat any team on a given night, I don't think they're of the same quality as the other clubs on the list.

Hope you all had a good week. Let's see if Spurs and Barcelona can advance this week in the Champions League.


The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.