Thursday April 25 2013
The Bundesliga Problem

The Bundesliga and Liga dominate the Champions League this season, but Susy Campanale feels two very strong teams do not a great League make.

It looks as if we are heading for an all-German Champions League Final at Wembley, as Bayern Munich demolished Barcelona 4-0 and Borussia Dortmund confirmed their group phase qualities by beating Real Madrid 4-1. Does this mean the Bundesliga is the strongest tournament in Europe? Anything but.

Yes, these are two excellent teams who invested wisely in stars and play some fantastic football. They have also dominated the Bundesliga to an embarrassing degree. Bayern Munich were already crowned champions of Germany in-between Champions League quarter-final ties with Juventus in April. They are currently 20 points clear of second-placed Borussia Dortmund with a goal difference of +75.

Many sides are runaway winners in their domestic tournaments, but the problem with Germany is when you look beyond the top two. Not only are Bayern 20 points clear of Borussia, they are also 28 points in front of third-placed Bayer Leverkusen and have almost double the tally of Schalke in fourth. It’s a two-team League, so no wonder Bayern and Borussia are so fresh reaching the semi-finals, as they can comfortably field a bunch of kids and still thrash the opposition.

Frankly, Barcelona and Real Madrid ought to be a lot fresher than they currently are at this stage of the season. While not as embarrassingly one-sided as in Germany, La Liga is also a completely unbalanced tournament. Barcelona are 13 points clear of Real Madrid and 15 ahead of third-placed Atletico Madrid. The next one down, the team going into the Champions League preliminary round, is Real Sociedad with a gap of 29 points from the leaders. The top two positions are guaranteed before the start of any campaign, so the others are just fighting for scraps behind them. Once again, Barça and Real can rest as many stars as they like and still comfortably secure victories on a domestic level. Perhaps they are more tired because, like Serie A, they have 20 teams rather than the Bundesliga’s more manageable 18.

In Serie A, the situation is rather different and although it makes this League much more intriguing over the course of a season, it is to the absolute detriment of European competitiveness. It is widely considered that Juventus have run away with this Scudetto, although their lead at the top from Napoli is only 11 points. They are 18 clear of third-placed Milan, but from there on it’s an absolute bear-pit. From Milan down, there are six sides within an eight-point radius, all of them capable of qualifying for Europe. These include Inter, who won the Champions League only three years ago, and Europa League quarter-finalists Lazio.

It has been clear for several years now that Italian teams cannot handle several competitions simultaneously. Inter only managed it in the year of the Treble by winning the title with a slender two-point gap over Roma in the final round. Rotating the squad in Serie A leads to dropped points, like Napoli last year who went far in Europe only to end up fifth in the League. Rotating the squad in Europe to protect Serie A status provides embarrassing results on the continent, such as Napoli, Inter and Udinese in the Europa League. Lazio managed to balance three competitions up until the end of March, then collapsed under the weight of a too-long campaign and look to be running on empty.

What is the key, then? Cutting Serie A down to 18 or even 16 teams has to be the first step. It is no coincidence that Italian football has struggled to make an impact in Europe since the League was expanded to 20 sides in 2004. From 1994 to 2004, there were seven Italian sides in Champions League Finals. From 2004 to 2013 there were only three. It may well make Serie A even more competitive within its own confines, but fewer games will keep players fresh, costs down and fans not suffering from fixture list overkill. It won’t solve everything, but it’s a good start.

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Have your say...
(continued) The entire nation of Italy is trying to reform and re-invent itself, from its economy as well as its society, so it can be a stronger part of Europe in the future. Now is the best time for all football officials, players and fans to work together on reforming and recreating the Italian game so it can began a new chapter of greatness.
on the 3rd May, 2013 at 12:59am
(continued) Perhaps the Coppa Italia could be abbreviated, too, so that clubs can focus on league play and European competitions. Finally – and despite what Juventus' manager Antonio Conte may argue – Italian football has continue its focus on stamping out illegal match fixing once and for all. It tarnishes the image of the Italian game, one which needs every bit of positive image it can muster.
on the 3rd May, 2013 at 12:58am
(continued) On the field, the entire Serie A must start to learn from the model set by the Azzurri and its coach, Cesare Prandelli, who has made the side into an offensive, entertaining team rather than relying on Italy's traditional defensive style of play, which now many fans consider boring. One only has to see how many fans around the world would rather turn on a La Liga match rather than watch a scoreless draw in Serie A to understand how Serie A needs to be reformed on the field.
on the 3rd May, 2013 at 12:58am
Cutting the number of teams from 20 to 18 or even 16 may be part of the solution but let's face it – there needs to be a few solutions enacted if Serie A is to return to its glory days. As others have suggested, Italy's model for how stadiums are built, owned and maintained will play a key role in creating stronger clubs financially.
on the 3rd May, 2013 at 12:56am
This argument is completely flawed. The fact that 1 or 2 teams maybe a lot more stronger than the rest means only that. It does not mean that in leagues where the competition for top spot is more fierce is better. With this logic then the English Championsip (equivalent of Serie B) is the best league in Europe becasue there are sides which are fighting relegation and are still within a chance of promotion.

You said yourself that the Italian teams are poor in Europe.
on the 29th April, 2013 at 10:23am
IMO Italy should keep d 20team serie A, & discard d Coppa Italia instead. For d fact that it doesn't generate revenues as stadia r oftenly empty & teams don't give it such importance. Then use coppa italia game slots & money for serie A.
on the 28th April, 2013 at 9:46pm
(Continued) Serie A needs to focus on creating newer and safer stadiums, while trying to market the Serie A brand internationally. The football class is there, but not the infrastructure to demonstrate it’s quality. With this type of business model (that I believe Juve is slowly attempting to build around the brand once more) the Italian game should rise once more to the level it deserves….At least to my eyes!
on the 28th April, 2013 at 4:24pm
(continued) countries that watch around the world. It's good level, IMO, is due to the variety of nationalities that are showcased in the league, and the great TV broadcasting contracts. This is both beneficial and detrimental to the country at the same time. It attracts more worldwide viewers, while reducing the quality of the national side.
on the 28th April, 2013 at 4:23pm
I understand that we all have our preferences. I'm a Juventino and i really really enjoy the italian game... Serie A not so much any more, but the quality of the game is still World Class and few people could really argue with that. La Liga is a 2 horse race, the Bundesliga, (is simply not attractive to me) and i believe that one of the reasons with the EPL has risen so much is due to foreign direct investment. The UK is & will always be a reference for many english speaking (continued)
on the 28th April, 2013 at 4:06pm
Wish the CL could be treated like a playoff, like in American sports. Truncate the regular seasons of Europe by playing more midweek fixtures. Then after the domestic leagues are settled, start the CL. When teams can play their best squad, then you truly can identify the best team in Europe. Under the current system, teams have to balance priorities - for ex., is a group stage more important than one domestic fixture? Separating the competitions could allow teams to focus one goal at a time.
on the 28th April, 2013 at 3:59pm

City couldn't beat Napoli once out of two games, so if Juve came I could say they'd finish first ahead of Man United. Juve were unlucky to come up against an inform side as they'd have had a chance against Barca or Real IMO
on the 28th April, 2013 at 11:21am
this article and many I have seen like it, continue to ignore one major fact. The major decline in Serie A and its ability to compete in Europe was directly connected to the demotion of Juve to serie B. This unjust punishment created an imbalanced league with poor competition and Serie A has not recovered since. Lost coefficient points and the rebuilding of Juve left a league that was a shadow of the 1990's and so the FIGC can take full blame for Serie A's current standing
on the 28th April, 2013 at 6:48am
@viktor The point I'm making is foreign players make the premier league a Better a league than what it is. Serie a has to go Down the route of the bundesliga. As I said before,Football league season is a marathon not a sprint. Because your anti-juve you'd automatically say juve wouldn't finish in top 2. Wouldnt finish above city or utd?? Don't make me laugh city couldn't beat Ajax! I said top two!! Barca/bayern no, Madrid Dortmund maybe
on the 27th April, 2013 at 8:23pm

Your post made me laugh." EPL is full of foreign players" oh, no... Get in to the game, nationality doesn't matter in football. Saying things like that really annoys me. Second of all, juve would finish second in any other league? Really? So they would be above real and barca in la liga? Above Man U and city in epl? Above bayern and Dortmund? I think not.
on the 27th April, 2013 at 3:00pm
The bottom line for me, is that these are two outstanding teams, practically flawless, & complete. They have skill, athletism, cohesion, urgency, & are tactically well drilled. I am confident that if you were to place them in any of the other top leagues, they would do just as well.
on the 27th April, 2013 at 10:20am
I don't necessarily with what I am about to write, but I thought that I could add a different perspective to the topic.
If you are not being fully tested every week, then surely it could make your European games more difficult, when you have to step up against stronger opposition?! I do believe that this has been the case with the EPL teams. Despite being flush with cash, the English teams have had a drop in quality of late: esp in the defensive department.
on the 27th April, 2013 at 9:59am
**adam** I don't think juve would honestly finished third in the bundesliga. To put juve against all the leagues in Europe I'd say they would finish in the top 2 in every major league. Agree with suzy on this one, but what lets serie a down is not investing in youth and keeping cost Down for tickets and investing in new stadia. We should follow the bundesliga for how they are doing it. La Liga is a joke, premier league as gone to the dogs it's full of greedy owners and foreign players.
on the 27th April, 2013 at 9:20am
I dnt agree with everything written on this article, but lets face it bayern are winning games for fun in Germany, no other team in Germany can spend 32 million on one player. The league structure is great but really suits bayern. Every team can develop young stars at bayerns benefit
on the 27th April, 2013 at 8:34am
I don't disagree entirely with the article. 2 teams don't make a great league. Bayern were superior to Juve, but I also think Juve could have easily been in the semi-finals in place of Dortmund.
Juve are the model for Italian teams to follow, they invest wisely and built carefully like Dortmund - Inter and Milan need to get their acts together if the big Italian teams are to reassert themselves in Europe again
on the 27th April, 2013 at 8:04am
The problem I have with this article is that it suggests that the teams lower down the Italian League are stronger than the teams lower down the German League, for which no evidence is given. If Bayern were dropped into Serie A they would probably win by a similar margin to to the one they have in the Bundesliga.

I love Serie A, but the reality is the we only have one tam that could be considered a strong Champions League team right now - Juve. The top European teams don't fear Milan or Inter.
on the 27th April, 2013 at 7:54am
So Juve are "only" 11 points ahead of Napoli and 18 ahead of Milan. Aside from that its a "bear pit". Basically you have just described the same situation as we see in Germany and Spain, yet you are trying to make Serie A out to be a more competitive league.

The relative lack of competitiveness of Italian teams is Europe is simply down to lack of investment and squads which are lacking in depth. Cutting the league down to 18 teams would do nothing to sort these problems whatsoever.
on the 26th April, 2013 at 10:42pm
la liga and the german league are complete embarrassments. why bother watching?

serie a is truly a competition.
on the 26th April, 2013 at 5:28pm
Bayern and Dortmund is making profit for a number of years, while Milan, Inter are taking a loss in the same period. Serie A's financial model are flawed.

The Bundesliga have the highest attendance out of the big five European league, and they are also excellent on their commercial revenue. while Serie A are weak on both. It is no coincedence Italy lose a CL spot to Germany. If Italy is to retake another CL spot, its more likely to come from Spain then Germany or England.
on the 26th April, 2013 at 4:58pm
The Bundesliga deserves to have an all German champions league final. They have been running a profitable, less controversial & an amazing league.

A lot of good/valid points are mentioned below, no need to go into detail or repeat it.

I'm just glad that there's no English or Spanish team in the final...
on the 26th April, 2013 at 4:51pm
I agree that the marvelous performance of these 2 fine teams does not elevate the league to their level on the continent, but it betters it because you pull your pants up when playing against opposition like this.

The decline of the Italian teams' dominance in Europe had to do rather with the emergence of the other elite leagues then a few extra games played per season.
Sheva went to Chelsea for money ... or as he put it, to move to an English-speaking country for his family's sake :)
on the 26th April, 2013 at 4:12pm
I think Susys article is correct in one main point and that is that SerieE A is the toughest league in Europe. its harder to win week in week out in Italy. If Bayern were in Serie A they might win the scudetto but they'd be too tired that they wouldn't get too far in Champions League. that's the main point. Serie A doesn't have as many "whipping boy" teams as in La Liga or Bundesliga. Although teams like Chievo and Siena may not be European powerhouses they can still sneak a point off you.
on the 26th April, 2013 at 3:28pm
Serie A will rebound, you are already seeing teams begin to talk about a new stadiums. Milan and Inter are looking to buy the racetrack around the San Siro. Roma are also getting a stadium soon and I believe fiorentina? Europe is in a financial mess, this stuff will take time to come to life. Milan are going all young and have spent tons of money on the youth sector, check out what their youth talent is doing...cristante, mastour, ganz, patengna ect.
on the 26th April, 2013 at 2:00pm
The bad thing with serie a is the difficulty clubs are going through for stadium ownership because of politician wanting to also stake their pockets in the game. We all know what financial gains clubs would have from ownership. But serie a needs invest more in homegrown prospects. Atlanta is probably one of the good examples of having home grown talent but like Udinese they are a selling club. Therefore would never do well in Europe.
on the 26th April, 2013 at 1:59pm
Now that Bayern has bought gotze and possibly lewandowski from Borussia Dortmund, bundesliga will be even more one sided. And now that milan is back in shape, next season will be more competitive in serie a
on the 26th April, 2013 at 1:52pm
La Liga is a joke & the Bundesliga is going the same way. Barcelona & Bayern are truly fantastic teams but so-called 'expert' pundits need to understand that having 1 or 2 great teams in a league doesn't make it a good league.

Serie A has major problems but it's the most competitive league from top to bottom. This is because the coaches are great, the players actually know how to defend and are technically excellent.
The Premier League is now quite strong throughout, but not enough English!
on the 26th April, 2013 at 1:24pm

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