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Ranking the top 5 football leagues in Europe

Bayern Munich are the current European champions, but are their league the best in Europe?
Bayern Munich are the current European champions, but are their league the best in Europe?
Sourya C
ANALYST
Modified 15 Oct 2020, 00:48 IST
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We all know the top five European football leagues ever since UEFA standardised the coefficients of European associations that determine the number of teams from each association that can take part in UEFA competitions in a season.

However, before such standardised pointers, the English, French, Italian, Spanish and German top flights - not necessarily in that order - were the prestige football leagues of the continent.

These leagues had the teams with the best structure, the most money and the biggest draw. In a way, the gulf between the top five European leagues and the rest signified the intensely capitalistic structure of contemporary football.

The top five football leagues in Europe have the wealthiest teams, and top teams from these leagues regularly find investment from mega-corporations and organisations that only increase the gulf in quality and pedigree between them and the rest across the continent.

Not surprisingly, the wealthiest leagues also tend to have the best players. Or they ensure that they have the best if and when teams from other leagues produce or procure these players. (Ajax is a notable case in point.)

But what about the difference in quality in the quintet itself? The easy way would have been to go with their UEFA coefficients to rank them.

However, ranking a league should entail an element of subjectivity that should include a consideration of the league's history, its engendering of excitement, the competitiveness and skill on show in the league and other associated tangibles as well as intangibles. On that note, let's get started.

Ranking the top five leagues in Europe:

#5 Ligue 1

Paris Saint-Germain have won seven of the last eight French league tttles.
Paris Saint-Germain have won seven of the last eight French league titles.
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Often derided as the farmer's league by its detractors, the French league possesses one uber team that romps to the title almost every year.

Paris Saint-Germain (PSG), resplendent with the likes of Kylian Mbappe, Neymar, Angel Di Maria and Edinson Cavani (till last season) among a bevvy of other superstars, do find it too easy in Ligue 1. Not surprisingly, PSG's wealth far surpasses that of any of their other competitors in the league.

However, PSG's failure to win the Champions League - they did reach the final last season - despite setting up a team for exactly that in the last few seasons doesn't help the ranking of the French league. French clubs, which have only won the European Cup/Champions League once (Marseille, 1993), lag far behind their counterparts from the other top leagues across the continent in this regard.

The record of French clubs in the UEFA Cup/Europa League is also nothing to write home about, with Marseille coming the closest to winning it by reaching the final twice.

The contemporary French league also suffers from player poaching. The high-flying Monaco side that reached the Champions League semi-final in 2016-17 while winning the Ligue 1 title that season was quickly decimated as bigger clubs from around the country and beyond came calling for their best.

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#4 Bundesliga

Borussia Dortmund is the only club that has come close to challenging Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga in recent years.
Borussia Dortmund is the only club that has come close to challenging Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga in recent years.

The Bundesliga is different from their competitors in many ways. The 50+1 rule, for example, prevents external takeovers that are so rife in England and was the case in PSG's case in France.

However, despite the best attendances and some of the most vociferous fans in the continent, the quality of play in the league, especially in some of the lower-ranked clubs, does not match up with that of their counterparts in England or even Spain.

But Bayern Munich are bereft of such worries. Clubs like Wolfsburg and RB Leipzig have risen in the German scene in recent history, but the Bavarians have always stayed at the top.

Last season, despite their early struggles, Bayern Munich managed to win their eighth straight league title en route to landing a continental treble. The likes of Robert Lewandowski has dominated Germany as well as Europe. With players like Serge Gnabry, Thomas Muller and Alphonso Davies in their squad, Bayern have one of the best teams in Europe.

Their main league challengers remain Borussia Dortmund, which says a lot about the rather static nature of the competition in Germany.

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Published 15 Oct 2020, 00:48 IST
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