DEBATE: WHICH FOOTBALL LEAGUE HAS BEEN THE BEST IN THE LAST DECADE? (2001-2011)- SERIE A, LA LIGA, BUNDESLIGA OR EPL?

It has been very difficult to decipher which of the Italian Serie A, Spanish La Liga, German Bundesliga and the English Premier League has been the best in the past decade. Four soccer analysts share their views on this sensitive issue.

WHY SERIE A HAS BEEN THE BEST IN THE LAST DECADE BY EMMANUEL AHENKORAH (Nyamekye Emany), a Level 300 Bsc. Chemistry Student, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST),Ghana and a Serie A and La Liga Expert. Emmanuel writes for caughtoffside.com and SerieA talk and is a blog writer.

 

I’ve watched many leagues for quite some time now, and from what I’ve seen for myself and the statistics on what I never got the chance to watch, I can say for a fact that Serie A is the is the best league and it has been the best league for the past decade.

Looking at the major leagues, Serie A has been superior to all the other leagues for the past decade in a number of ways both on and off the pitch. The following are the reasons for my claim.

 

Competitiveness and parity:

In no doubt, the serie A is the most competitive. All teams are competitive and tough to beat, regardless of home or away. For the past decade, it’s been the only league with five different winners: Lazio, Roma, Juventus, Milan, and Inter. And this streak will continue in spite of setbacks in the league. In 2010/11, the top four finished with Milan, Inter, Napoli and Udinese. This top four hasn’t been the same for the past decade, with teams like Lazio, Roma, Juventus, Parma, Fiorentina, Sampdoria and Chievo competing fiercely for any of these spots. Aside the variety in winners, there has always been at least two different teams in the `top 4’ position as compared to previous years.

Serie A has more Parity than the other leagues. Comparing the results of the bottom three sides against the top three sides in all the major leagues. The 3 relegated sides in seria A always pull more points from the 3 top clubs than any other league.

A look at other key performance indicators highlights the competitiveness of the Italian league. The spread of average possession stats for 2010-11 – per the WhoScored website using Opta statistics – show a greater disparity in England (38% to 60%) than in Italy (43% to 59%), and also in Spain.

The pass completion rates tell a similar story. The spread in England is from 64% to 84% but in Italy there is remarkably consistent with Lecce bottom of the pile with a respectable 73%.

It’s a similar story so far in 2011-12 and the early indications are that Serie A is set for a wide open title race with just three points separating the top eight.

 

The Italian style of play and Tactics;

Tactically, football in Italy is the best. All teams play unique and special formations that they know how to play well. Ranging from Walter Mazzarri’s 3-4-3 to Udinese’s 3-5-2 to Chievo’s 4-1-4-1 and a lot, Unlike other leagues that only stick to 4-4-2 or 4-3-3.

Due to the all round tactical play in Serie A, players from the league succeed more outside Serie A, whiles players who are rigid to such variety fail to succeed in Serie A. what I mean is, the local variety in tactics in serie A, makes the players from Serie A an all round to succeed anywhere.

 

European and World success:

Serie A clubs not only prove themselves on Italian soil, but also on the world and European front. 3 Champions league for the past decade, and a world cup. Such same for Italian players that are shortlisted for Ballon d’Or.

 

BEST PLAYER POSITIONS:

Serie A, has produced a complete team over the decade more than any other league, in terms of Goal Keeping, Buffon is a world class. Defensive and midfield having all time greats such as Thuram/Cafu, Cannavaro, Nesta, Maldini, Zanetti, Kaka, Pirlo, Nedved. Whiles Totti and Ibrahimovich/ Inzagi leads the attack for such a complete 11.

Goals

There are fewer goals scored in Italian football, proving the tough nature of each game. Over the past three seasons there have been 2935 goals in Serie A at an average of 2.57 per game, incomparable to any of the top leagues in Europe where goals are harvested as if there are no good defenders.

 

WHY THE SPANISH LA LIGA HAS BEEN THE BEST BY EMMANUEL EKOW FIRMER AMPIAH. Firmer is a level 300 Doctor of Optometry Student, UCC and has interests in football tactics, formations and statistics. He is a guest sport analyst at Eagle FM, Cape Coast and a former sport presenter at Coastal TV, Cape Coast. Firmer also writes for soccerpals.com and liveofofo.com

The colourful Spanish La Liga is a highly technical league which requires skill, technique and football ‘sense’. It baffles my mind when fellow soccer analysts fail to acknowledge why the Spanish La Liga is the best league in the world.  Since 2001, all the World Best Players have either come from La Liga or played in the La Liga at some point in their career. Apart from Kaka (2007) and Cristiano Ronaldo (2008) who were playing for Milan (Italian Serie A) and Manchester United (English Premier League) respectively, all the other previous winners since the inception of the decade under review were playing for Spanish clubs. Ultimately, the aforementioned Kaka and Ronaldo realized that a better league was there to experience; and so they departed for Spain subsequently. Secondly, the Spanish La Liga has a better youth system than all the other leagues; German Bundesliga, Italian Serie A and English Premier League.

A league is deemed worthy of adulation when it is able to produce world class players from the grassroots. Mention can be made of Valencia’s youth system that has produced world class players like David Silva and Pablo Hernandez (who scored in the Champions League against Man. United last season). Youth teams of Athletic Bilbao (who produced players like Pichichi, a serial goal scorer and Andoni Zubizarreta, a world class goalkeeper). Atletico Madrid and Espanyol have also produced some exceptional talents but of course, the more popular youth systems belong to Barcelona’s La Masia and Real Madrid’s Castilla. Mention can be made of players such as Pepe Reina (currently of Liverpool), Mikel Arteta (of Arsenal), Xavi, Fabregas, Puyol and a host of the current first teamers in the best club in the world (I’m talking about Barcelona) who were all nurtured in the Barca youth team whilst Madrid’s list include Juan Mata (of Chelsea), Roberto Soldado (of Valencia), Esteban Cambiasso (of Inter), Raul (of Schalke), Iker Casillas and many others.  The quality of any league should impact on the national team, football experts believe. The Spanish La Liga has made a major impact on the Spanish national team since 2008. Spain dominated and consequently won the Euro 2008 with most of the players La Liga based. Only two players in that La Furia Roja starting 11 for the final were not La Liga based (Cesc Fabregas and Fernando Torres). The rest were all La Liga players. Another point worthy of note is the fact that all the  players that started the 2010 World Cup final for Spain were all La Liga based players despite the fact that Spain had very good players who were playing in other leagues like Fernando Torres, David Silva and Cesc Fabregas. The quality of the La Liga has definitely had an effect on the national team.

The mantra “La Liga is a two-horse race between Real Madrid and Barcelona” irritates me and I’m here to prove otherwise. The fact is, Real Madrid and Barcelona are nearly unbeatable and will STILL dominate even if they were in the German Bundesliga, English Premier League or Italian Serie A. I tell you for a fact that Real Madrid and Barca WILL STILL BE A CUT ABOVE THE OTHERS if they were in a league comprising Man United, Chelsea, Arsenal, AC Milan, Inter Milan, Bayern Munich, Juventus, Bayer Leverkusen and any other top European club you can imagine. It’s unfortunate that Real Madrid and Barcelona find themselves in the same league (and so practically, the league is between the two) but these are the two clubs that are almost unbeatable. Clubs from other so-called top leagues struggle to beat Real Madrid and Barcelona any day. Madrid and Barca have in recent times torn top European clubs in top leagues to shreds. Arsenal and Manchester United have kowtowed to Barcelona on so many occasions in the Champions League whilst Real Madrid have brushed aside Tottenham and AC Milan effortlessly.

How can I forget Barcelona’s humbling of Bayern Munich in the 2008/2009 Champions league season? And where was everyone when Deportivo La Coruna, affectionately called Super Depor was dominating Champions League football in the early part of the decade under consideration? Anyway in the last ten years, three different teams have won the La Liga; Barcelona (5 times), Real Madrid (3 times) and Valencia (2 times) whilst Villareal, Sevilla and Deportivo La Coruna challenged the status quo several times which yielded no fruit. La Liga has been able to attract some of the biggest names in football. Most often than not, football stars choose the La Liga as a destination when faced with a dilemma as to which league to ply their trade with respect to top flight football, due to the level of professionalism in Spanish football and the attractiveness of the league as well. Readers, think of all the top players in the past decade…90 per cent of them plied their trade in the Spanish La Liga; Ronaldo de Lima, Zidane, Diego Milito Diego Forlan, Samuel Eto’o, Zlatan Ibrahimovich, Pablo Aimar,  Deco, Edgar Davids, Mark van Bommel, Claude Makelele ,Patrick Kluivert, Thierry Henry, Luis Figo, David Becham, Roberto Ayala, , Estaban Cambiasso and of course contemporary greats Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. It is very rare for referees in the Spanish La Liga to be involved in bribery (hello, Serie A), or for a referee to make a wrong decision (hi, Graham Poll and the English Premier League) or for a referee to think of commiting suicide (what’s up, German Bundesliga). High level of professionalism on the part of the referees and officials is what I’m talking about.

Lastly, I will say that the La Liga is the best league due to the performance of its clubs in Europe. Spanish clubs have dominated Europe since 2001; in fact, any time a Spanish club reaches the final of any European competition (UEFA Champions League and Europa League), victory for the Iberian side is always the outcome. Barcelona won its first Champions League title against Arsenal in 2006 and the other two trophies were secured against supposed English giants, Manchester United in 2009 and 2011. In the last decade, the La Liga has won for itself four Europa Cup trophies out of a possible ten, more than any other league in Europe. Valencia won it in 2004, Sevilla in 2006 and 2007 (the second club ever to win it consecutively after another Spanish club, Real Madrid set the tempo in 1985 and 1986). Do I need to say more? I don’t think so. I leave you with the words of Real Madrid star forward, Cristiano Ronaldo.

“When I was at Manchester United, I learned the basic rules of football, especially the discipline of tackling, but La Liga is the best in the world because it is based on players’ skills and technique”.

 

 

WHY THE GERMAN BUNDESLIGA HAS BEEN THE BEST IN THE LAST DECADE by EDWARD OWUSU DJANG. Ed the Duke of Zion as he’s affectionately called is a third year Medical Science student, KNUST and his passion is simple; GERMAN SOCCER!!

I wish to present the Bundesliga as a healthy model league for the rest of Europe over the past decade and not necessarily as the most influential or the most prominent. Most of the elite European leagues are obviously unhealthy and the playing field for competition is far from level.

Not so with the Bundesliga.

FINANCIAL FAIRPLAY AND FAN-CENTRED ORGANIZATION

Football obviously requires sound financial backing to be successful. This is where the Bundesliga stands tallest among Europe’s elite leagues. The Bundesliga’s financial virtue and prudence has been most exemplary to say the least.

The ownership of clubs in the league is such that the fans of the clubs become the major stakeholders. This is the product of the 50+1 policy, where at least 50% plus one of the shares of all clubs(with a few exceptions) are owned by the fans. Multi-million dollar takeovers by profit-seeking businessmen and oil-sheiks who care little about the clubs isn’t seen in this league.

Clubs have to prove at the beginning of the season that they have the ability to make money or at least break even. Imagine if this same policy were applied in the EPL or la liga. You’d hardly find German clubs making losses or reeling under the weight of crushing debts. The twenty EPL clubs have a combined debt of about $4.45 billion; la liga clubs have a combined debt of $4.65 billion; German clubs are actually…………………making money.

This reflects in the creation of a level playing field for all clubs and greater competition among clubs. Trust me, no Bundesliga club will ever pay 50million Euros for one player, like we see in the EPL and la liga. Last year, Bayern Munich accounted for a third of the Bundesliga’s total transfer budget and yet they spent just 40 million Euros on the transfer of five players.  Clubs in Germany are mostly debt free or at least not reeling under the weight of crushing debts. In Spain, and England, the policy appears to be ‘spend now, ask questions later’. The Bundesliga is on record as having the highest average spectator turn out per match in Europe-ie 41,900. Compare this with the EPL (35,000), La liga (28,500), Serie A(25,300), Ligue 1 (21,000). Because fans have a say in the running of the clubs, they can actually keep the prices of tickets low. You can watch a Bundesliga game for $28. You’d need twice that to enjoy an EPL game at the stadium. Fans from a wider demographic setting are able to attend matches, creating the best stadium atmospheres in Europe.

 

Once the financial structures of a league are solid, other things begin to fall in place. It’s just a matter of time.

 

 

GROOMING OF YOUNGSTERS

It is mandatory for clubs in Germany to have youth academies to produce the next pool of talents. Little wonder not much is spent on extravagant player transfers. This has also augured extremely well for die National Mannschaft. The Bundesliga is the academy for the national team. Over the past decade, Germany has been the most consistent team at the FIFA world cup tournament, being part of the last four since 2002. They’ve also played one Euro final (2008). No team in Europe has done this. This is because the other European leagues focus more on the importation of already-made talents, whereas in Germany, they are groomed through the local league.

Take the best young players of the last two world cups, Lukas Podolski in 2006 and Thomas Muller in 2010, as cases in point. Again, the top scorers of the last two world cups were both from the Bundesliga(they were actually groomed there), i.e. Miroslav Klose (who was also the 2nd top scorer in 2002) in 2006 and Thomas Muller in  2010. Let us note that in 2010, every single member of Germany’s world cup squad was a player in the Bundesliga, plus the coach was German!! No other team could boast of this. Today, some of Europe’s best talents like Mario Gotze, Mat Hummels, Toni Kroos , Marco Reus are products of Bundesliga youth academies and to prove my point, we can already see the predator clubs in the EPL and la liga chasing after them. With the current trends, the arrival of trophies for the national team is certainly soon.

UNPREDICTABILITY AND EXCITEMENT

Over the last decade, the Bundesliga title has been won by no less than five different clubs- Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, Wolfsburg, Werder Bremen and Stuttgart. Within the same period, the la liga title has been shared back and forth between Barcelona and Real Madrid alone, as if they were the only teams in the league. Again, within the same period, the la liga title has been shared between only three teams- Juventus, AC Milan and Inter Milan. This unpredictability of the Bundesliga can again be attributed to the financial prudence of the league, providing a level playing field for all the clubs. In the Bundesliga, every club has an equal chance of winning the league. Same cannot be said of the EPL and la liga especially.

The quality of soccer played in the Bundesliga is without question, par excellence.

Perhaps, one may argue that the Bundesliga hasn’t had much of an influence in European competition- the last time a German club won the UCL being 2001. But it’s not as bad as it may sound. Bayer Leverkusen was in the final in 2002, losing to an unstoppable Madrid side. With the prudent management of the German league, the fortune of German clubs in Europe is beginning to brighten, with Bayern playing the finals in 2010 and Schalke’s stellar performance last season.

When you think football, think BUNDESLIGA. Viel spaB!!!!

 

 

WHY THE GERMAN BUNDELSIGA HAS BEEN THE BEST IN THE LAST DECADE BY DERKYI OWUSU SEKYERE. A staunch Bayern Munich fan, Derky Owusu Sekyere has a Bsc in Petroleum Engineering from KNUST and is currently with Vanco Ghana Limited, an Oil and Gas Exploration Company in Ghana where he’s on national service duty.

The English Premiership and Spanish La liga are the most glamorous football leagues, but the German Bundesliga is the best on most bench marks. It is of no doubt that The German Bundesliga has been Europe’s best league of the last decade. Now, is this a fact or just a phantom? If the answer is yes, and a big yes, then what is the basis of this fact?

Many football pundits have their own different criteria for choosing their best league, being it, Successes in European competitions (Eufa Champions league and Europa league), competitiveness of their domestic leagues, standard of play, financial status, attractiveness and quality of players the league possesses. It is uneasy to quantify and measure these parameters but when a serious analysis of a detailed research is made and one look beyond just trophies then the Bundesliga is unrivaled.

For clarity and transparency sake I will love to combine all these criteria and apportion a quantifier (coefficient) in order not to create doubts in the minds of my impartial readers.

Criteria                                                                                          (Coefficient) Qualifier 

  1. Successes in European Competitions ———————————–   (30)
  2. Quality of players, young talents in relation to successes at int’l level —-(20)
  3. Competitiveness of Domestic League ———————————— (10)
  4. Standard of play —————————————————————–(20)
  5. Financial status, equality and balance ————————————-(10)
  6. Attractiveness ———————————————————————–       (10)

Since the standards of play are difficult to quantify and are almost the same my analysis does not include apportioning qualifiers in their respective manner.

Successes in European Competitions

Since 2001, only once has a German bundesliga side lifted a trophy in the european competition out of a total of twenty-two european competitions (11 in the UCL and 11 in the EUROPA). This per my calculation corresponds to a coefficient (qualifier) of 1.36 (thus 30*1/22) making Germany the worst among the top four leagues. Spain has 8 wins, England and Italy have 3 wins each corresponding to a coefficient of 10.91, 4.10 and 4.10 respectively.

Quality of players, Young talents in relation to successes in international level

Germany boasts of the best and talented young footballers and this is as a result of how well the bundesliga is run. It should not be of much surprise that Fifa’s young best players’ awards have gone to Thomas and Lucas in the 2006 and 2010 world cup respectively.  A  new structure in Germany’s youth development system was implemented at the beginning of the last decade, with 121 national talent centers built for 10-17 year-olds, emphasising technical skills, with full-time coaches at a cost of $15.6 million over five years. Meanwhile, all professional clubs in Bundesliga and Bundesliga 2 were required to build youth academies by the German Football Association. Of the 23-man national squad in South Africa, 2010, 19 came from Bundesliga academies, with the other four from Bundesliga 2 academies. 2 out of 2 successes ensure the bundesliga having a coefficient of 20, with Spain, Italy and England having none.

Competitiveness of Domestic League, Financial status, equality and balance

So how unequal is the Premier League really, La Liga and the Seria A? Are they really more unequal than, say, the Bundesliga? And when do we know if a league has become too unequal? To answer these questions, we first need to figure out what we mean by unequal and how to put a number on it.

“Competitive balance” is the degree to which there is parity among teams in the league. It’s important for a league’s health because it affects the so-called “uncertainty of outcome” – uncertainty about who will win any given match or become champion of the league in any one season. Think about it. If we know before the season who will win and who will lose, what’s the point of watching? So clubs are fundamentally different from businesses in one important respect: they need their competitors to survive. Unlike market competitors, clubs want some degree of competition – after all, without competitors that have at least some chance of winning, the game quickly becomes boring, people tune out, and revenue declines. if it’s a genuine competition played in front of the highest domestic average attendance in European football then look no further than Germany’s Bundesliga.

In 2007-08 Bayern Munich earned just three million euros more than the nearest club, Stuttgart. In Spain and Italy, the top clubs can expect to generate more than ten times what the lower clubs earn through domestic television rights.

Five different sides have won the Bundesliga in the past decade – Borussia Dortmund, Bayern Munich, Werder Bremen, Stuttgart, Wolfsburg claimed the German title for the first time in their history. Per statistics and comparison, the bundesliga is the most competive with no degree of uncertainty hence a coefficient of 10 is attained.

  Attractiveness

Attraction is defined as the power or action of attracting. A quality or feature that attracts. Something that is pleasing or appealing to the senses or relating to attraction between physical object,

Germany by far has the best stadia, best and greatest fans and more importantly highest scoring league amongst the top four leagues. The Bundesliga has higher goal totals than the other top leagues at 2.868 per match. Specifically, while Serie A, La Liga, and the EPL all have average goal totals of around 2.6 per match over the past 15 years (2.607, 2.652, and 2.603, respectively, to be precise).

Per this argument, the german bundesliga can be given a coefficient of 10 out of 10.

Do you now agree the Bundesliga has been the best??? Tallying all the qulifiers, the bundesliga has an overwhelming coefficient of 41.36. La liga, EPL and Seria A follow with 10.91, 4.10 and 4.1 respectively.

German Bundesliga is the BEST.

 

 

WHY THE ENGLISH PREMIER LEAGUE HAS BEEN THE BEST IN THE LAST DECADE by MUSTAPHA MAHAMA (STA FA). Sta Fa is a third year Political Science student at the University of Ghana. He is a die-hard Real Madrid fan and a sports writer as well.

The task of judging which league amongst the tactically sophisticated Serie A, power and collective focus of the Bundesliga, flair and flamboyance possessed by the la Liga and the intense passion and ferocity characterized by the English Premier League has never been an enviable task. Rest assured that I would go to great extent of pointing out why English Premier League stands tall. I will desist from using such issues like absence of match fixing (ahem…..Italy), level of supporting, the number of times one team has won the league and other minor factors. I would focus my argument into four categories:

 

The Uefa coefficient

Luckily for you readers, your task has been simplified in regards to what league in terms of European performance has been better in the past decade. The Association coefficient designed by Uefa serves the purpose of establishing which leagues representative to European competitions has been better on a collective level and also the club coefficient which aims to ascertain the best club side in European competitions. The English league tallies 81.535 with the closest contender, la liga, scoring 74.614 over the five year period. The Uefa club coefficient places Manchester united as the best, Chelsea as third and with arsenal occupying the fifth position. I feel like at this point the whole arguing is no longer necessary since before your eyes things have been unveiled. My point is not for you to see which team tops the list but rather the league which has the highest number of representatives.

 

Revenue and income

The revenue derived from the EPL is the highest in any football league only to be surpassed by the NFL, NBA, and MLB. Any team hence the league as a whole as three sources of revenue, merchandise, match day tickets and what I call ‘TV money’. Firstly, the premier league with its average attendance per match at 34151 and their higher prices of tickets is a major source of revenue to the league. Also, I don’t believe any would argue with the disposition after the TV rights agreement with sky sports which enabled the joint sale of their TV rights. This prevented the prevalence of a ‘Johnny Bravo’ phenomenon where only the top tiered clubs got the greater portion of income. For instance, in 2008/2009 with figures around 2 billion pounds the premiership generated more revenue than any league and in 2009/2010 revenue rose to 2.479 billion euros. With revenue averaging about 1.8 billion pounds over the past 5 years.

 

Media and global appeal

Often introduced as ‘the greatest show in the world’ the EPL is broadcasted to over 600 million viewers world wide across 211countries much more than any league. A good indication of how good a product is how by determining how much people patronize it. In the 2010-2011 season, the league with the highest average attendance was the Bundesliga with 41,802 followed by the premier league with 34,151; this difference is explained by the higher ticket prices in England. Further, the media attention the premiership receives is unbelievable. The media have a knack for blowing things out of proportion, twist any issue and exaggerate its implication albeit with a bad taste to it has been a key ingredient in the success of the EPL. Show me a single football spectator any where who hasn’t watched a minute of an EPL match (any match at all) and I will eat my socks.

Competitiveness

Any league where one or two teams can rake in excess of 90 points doesn’t deserve to be called competitive. That been said, how competitive is relative and the aim is not to create a skewed league. The almost predictability of the score line, total points dropped, huge goal margins by some clubs and the outrageous score line between the top teams in the various leagues doesn’t suggest any form of competition. Even Jose Maria Del Nido (Sevilla president) agreeswith me on that score.

I believe no league deserves such a title but if there is one that comes close then it should without a doubt be the English premier league.

So there you have it. Now it’s time for you to have your say. Which league has been the best in the last decade and why?

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12 thoughts on “DEBATE: WHICH FOOTBALL LEAGUE HAS BEEN THE BEST IN THE LAST DECADE? (2001-2011)- SERIE A, LA LIGA, BUNDESLIGA OR EPL?

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