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...
Trouble with Serie A team is good enough to be that far ahead as other domestic leagues, for example Juve are the best in Serie A, put them in the bundesliga they would have finished 3rd
on the 26th April, 2013 at 12:39pm
The only reason why Juve's gap at the top is so big is because Milan and Inter have such mixed seasons. Next season Milan will be in much better shape (they only lost one league game this season so far). Inter might do well too (they purchased a bunch of good players). And if Napoli was clutch they might have kept up with Juve (but under Mazzari they never have been).
on the 26th April, 2013 at 12:34pm
@Daniel Giambrone
You make some very good points, i also agree that we shouldn't try to make our selfs feel better by criticizing the Germans. However giving the Germans too much credit isn't any more productive as criticizing them. It is important to accept the fact that we are not capable of competing with the Germans at the moment either financially or on a sporting level. Without a doubt changes will have to be made in order to reclaim the 4th CL spot. Nevertheless the last thing we should do is to use the Bundesliga as a role model, as some have claimed.
on the 26th April, 2013 at 12:27pm
I thought the title was the bundesliga problem. I think susy did a poor job on the article. Either that or she was trying to disguise the introduction into what became a article on how bad she thinks serie a is. I've read a few of her articles and she has always found something displeasing of seria a. So next time susy maybe you should just go straight to the point and call this the serie a problem.
on the 26th April, 2013 at 12:15pm
I am more than willing to give credit where credit is due, and i am sure most Italians feel the same way. DFB should be complimented for restructuring the entire league, the clubs and DFB have made sure the atmosphere has improved, the stadiums have been remodeled some even newly build so yes they deserve credit for all that. However that is as far as it goes, because for me and i do watch all the top European leagues the Bundesliga is as exciting as the Portuguese league. As for Dortmund selling Gotze and probably Lewandowski, weather they wanted to or had to makes little difference when only one club dominates a league both financially as well as athletically.
on the 26th April, 2013 at 11:50am
Maldini's heir is spot on with his assessment of our games present situation. The last thing we should be doing right now, (in order to make ourselves feel better, diverting attention away from our many issues), is criticizing the German game. They are doing so many things right, & we should be taking inspiration from them.
on the 26th April, 2013 at 11:20am
Whilst Serie A is competitive, I fail to see why our players get so tired. Most of the Italian games that I have watched have been played at a slow tempo, with little intensity. Could there be a problem with our fitness training? Prandelli did say recently that Serie A "needs more intensity". It's all very well reducing the league in size, but what will our clubs do with extra time? Probably go around the world playing friendlies, as a marketing exercise. And that will defeat the purpose.
on the 26th April, 2013 at 11:06am
Interesting article. There have been five different winners of the Bundesliga in last 10 years (Bayern, Dortmund, W.Bremen, Wolfsburg & Stuttgart)... but only three in Serie A in that time.

I'm not sure German CL success can be simply put down to their rivals being tired... Real Madrid had plenty of opportunities to rest players, didn't seem to help them.
on the 26th April, 2013 at 10:56am
Why can't you Italian's ever just acknowledge another country's achievements? When Serie A was the best league in the world English people were happy to pay tribute to Italian supremacy, such was the gulf in class. But you guys spent the last decade bitterly attacking the EPL, La Liga and now the Bundesliga. Your time will come again but for now just acknowledge the Germans have a marvelous, well-run league that's reaping rewards in attacking football and European success.
on the 26th April, 2013 at 10:23am
There have been 5 different winners of the Bundesliga and Serie A, since 2000.

There have been 4 different winners of the EPL and La Liga, since 2000.

The 50+1 ownership rule is not perfect and has exceptions, but is a great blueprint for all clubs as most are not managed well financially.

We should be pushing for an end to "bankrolled" clubs that could not possibly live within their means if asked to be self sufficient. Stadia in Italy are empty all the time and tickets are to expensive.
on the 26th April, 2013 at 10:22am
The league took a nose dive in 2004 when it went to 20 teams. But not for your reasons, the premier league stays competitive in Europe with 20 teams but it is dull, there are too many mid table safe spots where teams happily sit between 14th and 8th place with nothing to play for at the end of the season. When there was only 16 teams in Serie A 5 were scrapping for relegation, and 9 for Europe leaving a mid table of only 2 who could get sucked either way. Fewer teams = a more entertaining league
on the 26th April, 2013 at 9:17am
and the Europa League. The stadiums are full and they are attracting the best players and coaches. Yes Bayern are running away with it this season but so are Juventus in Serie A who in reality have barely had to break sweat this season and went unbeaten last season. Serie A needs some serious reforms if it is to ever get back to being the league it once was and burying your head in the sand and pretending it's more competitive than other leagues is not going to help.
on the 26th April, 2013 at 8:55am
This article smacks of utter denial. The Italian league is in a desperate place at the moment with falling stadium attendances, lack of financial muscle to buy the best players, the lack of faith in young players to compete at other levels, a lack of control over racism and with the few fans that are going to the stadiums being intimidated by ultras. Meanwhile in case you hadn't noticed Germany have now taken our 4th champions league place, are dominating in both the Champions Leauge and....
on the 26th April, 2013 at 8:51am
And Italy? They need a revamp. How are the football clubs supposed to function properly if even the political scene, at it's highest level is a shambles?
on the 26th April, 2013 at 8:03am
and Bayern, Dortmund and Schalke doing the same in the Champions League.
You is putting it down, apparently like Morratti, to the higher spending power of German clubs? As if Dortmund is a financial powerhouse like Bayern, Real or Barcelona?
8 years ago they were almost bankrupt. Obviously they have made a lot from being in the semis of the CL and they have the Götze and probably Lewandowski money coming through.
on the 26th April, 2013 at 8:02am
Your arguments are flawed.
Bayern is currently breaking every Bundesliga record that was ever set up. They are writing history as we speak.
Dortmund didn't choose to sell Götze, they had to sell him as there was a clause in his contract stating that if anyone offers 37 million for him, he is allowed to go.
In the last 10 years we've had 5 different Bundesliga champions.
Italy has only had 3.
We've had Hamburg and Bremen qualify for the semis of the Europa League.
on the 26th April, 2013 at 8:00am
Being a MILAN fan and after reading this article i would say Italian football needs money and we should have stadium like the Juventus Arena..... the quality of football is excellent we need to put in more money on the marketing front so that people understands Italian football.

Italian managers are more tactically sound that other leagues.
on the 26th April, 2013 at 7:45am
Interestingly 5 different teams have won Bundesliga since 03/04 v 3 winning lo Scudetto. Bayern apart, the German sides have not spent massively but have invested it more wisely than Serie A teams. Dortmund identify and buy young players with potential relativey cheaply, give them a chance before selling them on at a profit. Juve have rebuilt impressively and Milan are attempting to rejuvenate their side. It may take time but Serie A is on the up and will be better for a more considered approach
on the 26th April, 2013 at 7:44am
Agree with comment below, the stadia is a real problem. No one in italy sells out and it looks SO poor. I live in england and only Wigan can't sell out here. The stadiums with the running tracks just doesn't work. I see the attraction for the local council as they get football and athletics but they need to go! New stadiums required.
on the 26th April, 2013 at 7:06am
i don't agree with these reasons,bayern had reach the final three times in the last four years,this performance has not come only this year,they have the same group of players for 5 years now and the same thing for dortmund who has the most young competitive squad in Europe + the financial issues which is the main obstacle for italian teams (if we look to a player like Gundogan,he earns 4.5 millions!!.I think juve can win this trophy within 2 or 3 years at max if they keep the most of this group
on the 26th April, 2013 at 5:49am
The real question is, despite how sad it is, if it has become a necessity for clubs to utterly dominate their league and for the league they play in to be wealthy, for them to be consistently competitive in European competitions.
on the 26th April, 2013 at 5:26am
Although reducing the number of teams in the league has its positives, that can only thrust the league forward by so much. Yes, directors of teams in Serie A have been mentioning finance as the reason for teams being unable to compete in the transfer market. Stadiums need to be built. Revenue has to increase. Unless that happens, Serie A clubs will continue to struggle in Europe.
on the 26th April, 2013 at 5:23am
I know someone will say that in the past, when Serie A sides were challenging in Europe, the league was also highly competitive. But that is exactly what it was - the past. With the game going global, all that has changed. Top teams earn a hell of a lot more than they used to, and buy top players to warm the bench, while in the past, those players would have been playing as starters for less competitive sides, making the leagues more competitive.
on the 26th April, 2013 at 5:20am
So from another POV, one might even say that with the way the world of football is moving currently, it has become imperative for teams to utterly dominate their leagues to have a chanve in Europe. It might make the league far less interesting, but what if that is the price that NEEDS to be paid if you want a competitive league in Europe.
on the 26th April, 2013 at 5:17am
But the thing is, it depends on how you look at it. I believe it was Pique who said that the reason the Premier league had no quarter finalists was because of the TV money being split between all clubs, unlike in Spain.
on the 26th April, 2013 at 5:16am
On a tactical and technical level Serie A is still as good as it gets, but there are many problems off the field. The infrastructure, especially in the stadiums, is an embarrassment to Italian football. Ancient, run-down arenas, many still with running tracks, owned by local authorities, with no revenue stream for the clubs. I support Juventus and the evolution of the Juventus Arena cannot be underestimated in the return to the top of the Bianconeri in the last two years.
on the 26th April, 2013 at 2:36am
I really dont mind our bigger clubs not having the money to compete with other leagues. Surely deveolping your own player to become a first teamer is more satisfying than spending a crazy $45 million fee on a "top" striker.
on the 26th April, 2013 at 2:09am
hey susy.. a while back you wrote that when juve were robbed of their intensity by bayern munich, they were just a decent team. Now the same happened to barcelona, does it mean they are decent team too??

Use your head before writing something, susy.
on the 26th April, 2013 at 2:06am
Bayern just bought Gotze from BvB, by the way according to the German media Lewandowski is supposed to be making his way to the Bavarians as well. Financially Serie A can't compete with the Germans which is only natural considering that Germany restructured their league from the ground up for the World Cup. However all the financial advantages that the Germans have their league is very boring. All Bundesliga clubs breed players for Bayern and without a doubt they will dominate Europe for the next 10 years Dortmund however will be gone after this season being replaced by either Leverkusen or Schalke. Yet another proof that the Bundesliga is a one club league.. If Serie A clubs want to get back above the Germans the start at the very least will have to be a change from 20 clubs to 18 clubs. Stadiums would be the next natural step.
on the 26th April, 2013 at 1:33am
The EPL, La Liga, and Ligue1 all have 20 teams. To be fair then, the Bundisliga should go up to 20. Maybe UEFA could make that a Fair Play thing. :-) But look, Süper Lig only has 18, and the Turkish teams are out of CL. I don't think a two team difference matters too much. Italy is not Germany, or England, or Spain--that's all. We'll rise and fall and rise again, and that's normal.
on the 25th April, 2013 at 11:05pm

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