Bayern Munich’s dismantling of Arsenal in the Champions League last-sixteen first leg sent out a strong message to the remaining clubs in Europe’s premier competition.
Battle-hardended from the crushing loss to Chelsea in the 2012 final, Bayern Munich are stronger than ever. They are in scintillating form on both the domestic and European front and will be very hard to stop. With Pep Guardiola on his way to the Allianz Arena next season, it is beginning to look like the German juggernaut will go from strength-to-strength.
Many people were surprised when Pep Guardiola announced that he would take over the German giants in July 2013 on a three-year contract. With a mountain of offers at his disposal, Guardiola snubbed the Premier League and chose a move to Munich. However, Pep is an intelligent man and will no doubt have had sufficient motives for choosing the Bundesliga over the likes of the English Premier League, Italian Serie A, French Ligue 1 etc.
Guardiola’s decision will be seen as a coup for a league, which is fast-becoming the best in European football. Dortmund are dominating opponents all over the continent and topped the proverbial Champions League ‘Group of Death’. Bayern Munich are undoubtedly one of the true greats of European football and find themselves 18 points clear at the top of the Bundesliga at the time of writing. Schalke 04 are also in the last-sixteen of the Champions League, having topped a group which included the aforementioned Arsenal. Leverkusen, Hamburg, Frankfurt, the list goes on. These are powerful, successful (to their own extent) teams that have all benefited from a blueprint implemented by the DFL, or German Football League, as a result of a poor showing by ‘Zee Germans’ at Euro 2000. This was to be a revolutionary move, with Germany finally starting to reap the benefits of years of work.
The blueprint set out a number of rules and regulations regarding the development of youth football throughout the country. All teams competing in the top tiers of German football were required to have a minimum standard of facilities at their academies’ disposal; training pitches, indoor facilities, saunas, physiotherapists, massage rooms etc. They set a high standard. The requirements for gaining youth coaching licenses were made more difficult, thus resulting in a higher standard of personnel at the entry point. This was an excellent move by the DFL, but they were yet to reveal their crowning glory.
The introduction by the DFL of the ’50+1 Rule’ was a master-stroke in ensuring the future of German ‘fußball’. This was a rule implemented to ensure the Bundesliga would remain competitive, and protect it from foreign investors that would ‘buy titles’ (case and point, Manchester City 2012). The rule required that members must own at least 51 percent of their club. This was a risky move at the start and German football suffered. However, all good things come to those who wait and it seems the production line from German academies is fast becoming a very successful one indeed.
At present, Germany have one of the most promising, and talented, teams in world football. They are a young, athletic and technically proficient team that are expected to be dining at international football’s top table for many years to come. Players like Reus, Schurrle, Gotze, Kroos, Holtby are all world-beaters.
The Bundesliga deserves to be known as Europe’s best league. While the Primera Liga struggles to stave off an impending collapse, the Bundesliga has never been more financially sound. It is rare if the Italian Serie A can go a couple of months without national scandal blackening it’s already darkened past. France’s Ligue 1 clubs can no longer hold on to their big name players, while many of the Bundesliga’s stars are refusing to leave Germany (Hummels, Reus, etc.). With the English Premier League continuing to exploit its long-suffering fans by raising attendance and season ticket prices, the Bundesliga is one of the cheapest in Europe, at just £17 on average per ticket. The evidence is very much favouring Das Bundesliga.
However, the proverbial ‘pièce de résistance’ lies in the Bundesliga’s unrivalled entertainment factor. Not only does it boast the highest average attendances in European football at 42,700 (7,000 higher than the Premiership), it also allows the fans to stand in the terraces and even drink beer. All this within a league that has provided four different championship-winning sides since 2006. England and Italy have only had three, while Spain have only had two.
Cheaper, better atmosphere, more competitive, and even beers at matches. I for one believe that the Bundesliga deserves the title of the greatest league in European Football, something that it will hold onto for many years.