It isn’t often that the balance of power shifts in club football these days, but when it does, it sure causes a commotion. The whole of the footballing world takes notice—and everyone in it has an opinion.
Since Bundesliga’s usurpation of Serie A’s fourth UEFA Champions League qualification spot per the UEFA league coefficients, a change set to take place in 2012-13, the quality of Germany’s premier competition has been a topic of hot debate everywhere from football radio shows to Internet comment sections.
This week, figures at the fore of German football have gotten in on the act, pitting their beloved Bundesliga against the European powers that be in England’s Premier League, Spain’s La Liga and Italy’s Serie A.
Kicking this comparison train—which, frankly, reads like a discussion board—into life was Germany national squad boss, Joachim Löw.
When speaking to Eurosport on Tuesday he asserted, “[The Bundesliga is] still a bit behind, we must admit. This year Schalke are the only German team to reach the quarter-finals in Europe while England and Spain sent several teams that far.
“This does not speak well for Bundesliga.”
Former Germany headman, Rudi Völler bluntly disagrees according to Goal.com.
“Jogi is wrong,” he decreed. “[Bundesliga clubs] play much better football than they did years ago. We have overtaken Italy. And Spanish and German football is much more attractive and better to watch than the English.”
Felix Magath, manager at both Schalke and Wolfsburg at different points of the 2010-11 campaign, put his two cents in favour of the Germans as well, telling Bild, “The obligation of international stars is perhaps where the Bundesliga is behind. Not in sporting terms. Look at the quality of German soccer’s international elite.”
All three men make solid arguments, though not one properly pinpoints where exactly Bundesliga sits in European football’s hierarchy.
Certainly, with Chelsea, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur representing England in UEFA Champions League’s quarter-finals and Barcelona and Real Madrid carrying the Spanish banner, all while a solitary Schalke runs out for Germany, Jogi Löw has a point.
When five of the best eight clubs in the world at the moment come from Barclay’s Premier League and La Liga, it’s hard to argue for Bundesliga supremacy.
It becomes especially difficult when Serie A, Bundesliga’s closest rival, sees just as many representatives in the exclusive final eight.
Of course, it’s not all about the Champions League.
Völler’s stance that Bundesliga matches are simply a greater spectacle is quite valid. After all, they do produce more goals per game than its rivals for the European association football league crown.
German teams too, like those in Spain, opt for a more quintessentially Dutch, easy on the eyes style of continental football, while Italian teams continue to play the defensive Catenaccio and much of England clings to the long ball.
Then again, if playing style were the solitary determinant of greatness, the world would consider Mexico one of the top five footballing nations in the world—but, no offence El Tri lovers, they just aren’t.
Felix Magath though, really swings and misses.
He’s halfway home to reality when he admits that Bundesliga lags behind even immediate rivals Serie A when it comes to attracting world beaters to German soil—every young boy these days dreams of becoming part of something més que un club, trotting out to flares and chants at the San Siro, or sporting a Manchester United collar, and so do many professionals.
But by calling in the collective skill of German internationals to counter that fact, he derails everything. The German national squad, ultimately, is not a veritable Bundesliga all star team.
Maybe I’d buy what he’s selling if every member of die Mannschaft laced up their boots on home turf week in and week out, but they don’t; or if the squad wasn’t dominated by players from two clubs, but it is.
There lies truth in all of the comments, however when it comes down to it, while Bundesliga produces an attractive brand of football as Völler highlights, pretty games haven’t won the league anything just yet, like Löw said.
And until that happens, Magath won’t be seeing any international superstars joining him in Wolfsburg.
In the end, while I hate to agree with UEFA’s flawed coefficient, the EPL and La Liga reign supreme, as most everyone would play in Barcelona, London, Madrid or Manchester if it were possible.
Maybe in the future, what with the investment in youth academies coming to fruition and implementation of strict budgetary rules set to pay off when UEFA’s Financial Fair Play rules are ushered in, Germany will be the place that tickles the footballing fancies of the masses.
It’s just that right now, Bundesliga and Serie A truly are in a dogfight for third place Europe. And if you want to believe the numbers, or this writer, the Germans have a very slight edge.