The Bundesliga: The best league in the world?
Higher attendances, less debt, and more exciting competition. The arguments of those who relentlessly promote the Bundesliga Way of Life are fast becoming clichéd. Perhaps, though, the cynics should lend a reluctant ear.
Last week, German football bi-weekly “kicker” dedicated a two page spread to why the Bundesliga was the best league competition in Europe. They compared certain figures with those of the domestic leagues in England, Spain and Italy and found – surprise, surprise – that Germany was the best place to come for entertainment. Four champions in the last seven years, one point between the current top four and average attendances of over ten thousand more fans than the Premier League. There’s very little to complain about, is there?
Certainly not for the carefully selected endorsers quoted in the article in question. Louis van Gaal once said that the Bundesliga is the most difficult league to compete in, and a certain Raúl Gonzalez has lauded the “great atmosphere – no matter where you’re playing”.
As hosts of English fans are no doubt clamouring to protest though, it is the Bundesliga’s impotence in Europe which has singled it out from the smug triumvirate. Since FC Bayern in 2001, Germany has produced not a single European Champion. What’s more, it has only just managed to overtake a scandal plagued Serie A in the co-efficient rankings, and reclaim its fourth Champions League spot.
So when Matthias Sammer says that “one team in the European elite isn’t enough”, he probably has a point. Even Bayern have had to make do with dipping in and out of the shallow end when it comes to European domination in recent years. Sammer feels the need for two or three German clubs to establish themselves at the pinnacle of the European game, before the Bundesliga can truly declare itself the Best.
But is this sentiment not just a little naïve? Does the lovable old East German not realise that by establishing major European powers, you sacrifice the domestic competitiveness of which the Bundesliga is so proud?
Certainly it seems clear that to dominate Europe one must also dominate one’s league. The one hole in the competitiveness argument is that, while the League in general is as predictable as the lottery, there is always one certainty: Bayern will be somewhere near the top, if not crowing happily in their familiar first place. Should one of the upcoming teams – namely Dortmund – begin to challenge Bayern year in year out, they would have to take a significant step away from the rest of the league. Duopolies aren’t competitive. They are fiery and entertaining – just ask Pepe – but they don’t quite follow the egalitarian spirit. If a third team were to rise to become a major power, then the effect would be much the same. The Champions League places would be predetermined, and the quality of the entertainment would get ever lower.
What Germany needs is not a few extra superpowers made in the image of FC Bayern. What it needs is for its financial prudence to be rewarded. What Europe and the Champions League needs is for good football, and not efficient exploitation of fans, to be the harbinger of prized silverware.
Clubs like Barcelona and Bayern make half a case for that kind of idealism when they succeed in Europe, but it remains an unconvincing one, given the amount they still spend on players. Leagues and clubs must stop relying on the boom and bust theory to grant them short term success. They must look to 50+1. They must look to equality. They must look to Germany. It’s a cliché, but it’s one worth listening to.
Picture:Getty ImagesTagged in: bayern munich, borussia dortmund, Bundesliga, football, germany, Kicker, Louis van Gaal, serie a
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