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Retired Germany striker says Bundesliga is now best in Europe…but is it really?

May 6, 2013, 6:20 PM EDT


Former German international Oliver Bierhoff has told Kicker that he believes the Champions League final is a piece of proof that the German Bundesliga may be taking over as the best league in Europe.

Bierhoff said, “Of course, Bayern and Dortmund stand out particularly. However, if one compares all of the leagues, the Bundesliga is also in position one in terms of the quality of games. Investments that were made by the DFB 10 years ago, in infrastructure, in training the coach and the players, bear fruit on a wide scaleDespite the euphoria, I’m cautious, but it might be a spark, and perhaps the beginning of a changing of the guard.”

He also made reference to the consistency of Bayern in the European competition as a boasting point.  “The fact that Bayern Munich in the last four years have reached the final three times is no coincidence. Football [in Germany] has evolved continuously and on the international level. This must now be confirmed in the coming months and years, but I’m quite optimistic.”

Obviously Bierhoff is a touch biased, but is he right? It’s not an easily answered question, and often depends on whether you value top clubs or depth more.

The most sought-after club rankings, those done by the International Federation of Football History & Statistics (IFFHS), come out every February, so they’re not entirely up to date.  But those have 3 Spanish clubs (Barcelona, Real Madrid, and Atletico Madrid) in the top 7.  You have to go down to #12 to find the next country with three clubs on the list, and that’s Brazil.  If depth is your calling card, the top 50 is quite well-distributed.  Spain has 6 clubs, England owns 5, Germany with 4, Italy with 4, and France has 3.

Some believe those rankings don’t take into consideration Europe’s dominance – at least in terms of worldwide exposure – so looking specifically at Europe, UEFA’s rankings offer another outlet, but it’s still a question of top-level vs. depth.  Plus, they use the last 5 seasons of coefficients to create the rank order.  Barcelona and Real Madrid are 1 and 3 in UEFA’s rankings, and England own the 4-6 spots with Chelsea, Manchester United, and Arsenal.  Germany will be strutting Borussia Dortmund’s recent success as proof of their possible climb to the top, but due to the distance UEFA’s rankings date back to, Dortmund is a lowly 31st, 3rd in their country’s rankings behind Bayern at 2 and Schalke at 15.  UEFA’s top 50 are also quite evenly spread out: Spain and England have 7, while Germany, Italy, and France all place 5 clubs on the list.

And we all know rankings aren’t the only thing – watching the matches can help as well.  With the ever-changing environment of club soccer, it’s a question whose answer ebbs and flows with the tides of recent and past success, and time will tell what Dortmund and Bayern have to offer in terms of staying power. In the short term, Bierhoff can take solace in the fact that his idea of a “changing of the guard” is certainly one that we will see on display at Wembley in Europe’s most sought-after match.

  1. capsfan19 - May 6, 2013 at 7:42 PM

    Here another angle: many view barca and real to be the best two clubs in the world. The two best teams from germany beat the two best teams in spain.
    Not to refute my own argument but i think spain is so lopsided towards those teams, aside from them the rest of the league is kind of a joke (no offense to any fan base). Compare to premier league- no team can breeze through every team, there will always be a level of competition. Yea theres atletico but come on

    • cktai - May 7, 2013 at 3:16 AM

      The Premier League is similarly lopsided. You have the two Manchester clubs and Chelsea and below that, a whole lot of nothing. With the difference that Manchester City couldn’t win a single game in the Champions League when they got to play Ajax twice, and Chelsea failed to get out of a group with Shaktar and Nordsjaeland.

      Besides you shouldn’t underestimate the second tier of Spanish clubs. Atletico Madrid are the current Europa League holders, Athletic Bilbao hammered Manchester United last year, Valencia beat Stoke City and Malaga would have knocked out Dortmund, but for an umpiring error.

  2. creek0512 - May 6, 2013 at 7:50 PM

    I thonk you mean Europe’s most sought-after match.

  3. cktai - May 7, 2013 at 3:53 AM

    In terms of depth, in the past 18 seasons, only 6 teams have finished top 3 in the Premier League, and only 4 teams have won it. In the same period, 10 teams have finished top 3 in Spain and 5 teams have won it. In Germany, the numbers are 10 in the top 3 and 6 different champions.

    In Spain, but especially in Germany, you can work your way through training their youth and good scouting. In English, it seemed that the only way to break the hegemony of Manchester United and Arsenal was through massive foreign investments.

    The German league is financially stable, much more than for example Spain or Italy, and draws the largest attendance by far. I wouldn’t be surprised if Germany takes over European football, once the financial fair play regulations are truly instated.

  4. listerineman - May 7, 2013 at 11:09 AM

    Kyle Bonn, do your homework. This former german striker did this interview as the current teammanager of the german national team!!!!!! get your facts right!!!!

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