The Eredivisie - Europe's underrated black sheep
The Premier League title is decided, so too the La Liga. Those still harbouring any interest in Serie A will know that Juventus are sauntering towards a win there, and Bayern Munich have walked the Bundesliga. With the top end business sewn up in Europe’s ‘big leagues’, the hipster football fans are enjoying a bumper year. Anyone who follows Holland’s Eredivisie, for example, has reason to be smug.
Unheard of in any of the major leagues for a generation, going into the last few weeks of the season, there are no fewer than four teams vying for the league title. The big boys are there; Ajax, PSV Eindhoven and Feyenoord occupy the top three, but after five wins in five, habitual mid-tablers Vitesse Arnhem have joined the race. Three points separate them.
It’s a league in which anyone can beat anyone. Unlike the La Liga or Ligue 1, where the top teams reign supreme over a ladder of mediocrity, Dutch football is one of the most competitive in Europe, and no game is safe. Form tables mean little in the Erevidisie – it’s an absolute coupon buster, as bottom club Willem II recently proved when they beat PSV.
What holds it back is its relative lack of funds. The big players leave for bigger and better things in other leagues, usually for twice or even three times the salary, often for fees much lower than their talent would suggest. Technically speaking, Dutch football has delivered some of the most gifted players in the history of the game, and when TV money didn’t rule the game, they had some of the finest club sides too.
Think of the players thriving in the Premier League alone. Many would argue that it’s two best players are Robin van Persie and Luis Suarez, who both harnessed their talents through the annals of the Erevidisie, as well as Jan Vertonghen, and past legends such as Denis Bergkamp, Arjen Robben, Marc Overmars and Edwin van der Sar. Outside of the English game, theres Marco Van Basten, Clarence Seedorf, Edgar Davids, the De Boer brothers and countless dozens further back in the league.
Indeed, the well is not dry in terms of talent. This summer, bids are likely to tabled from the usual quarters for Leroy Fer, whose Everton move was thwarted by an injury in January, Wilfried Bony, Christian Eriksen, Kevin Strootman and Rodney Kongolo among others.
Furthermore, in Holland, there is a commitment to attractive football that is missing from many of the top divisions, so why is there such little interest in the league from outside the country?
Well, as with most things football, it’s money. Without an aggressive marketing strategy, television audiences won’t swarm to towards the less glamorous leagues, and by less glamorous, we of course mean those without the the aggressive marketing strategies. Its a vicious circle of which there is no way out.
For a long time the EPL has been hailed as the world’s best league, with its only competition coming from Spain. Says who? Recently, Germany’s Bundesliga has come into the discussion, but its no coincidence that this is only since a big, juicy TV deal was hatched, allowing Bayern to spend millions and set the Champions League alight. The way a standard is perceived is determined by the moneymen and the moneymen alone.
Who knew that there was three points between four at the top of Dutch football? With a few weeks to go, it represents the best chance of entertainment for European football fans. It’s a crying shame that nobody does.