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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

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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.

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