Which World Football League Is the Best?

Serie A, La Liga, as well as the Premiership everyone assert that they are the best football leagues in the world today. Which one, however, has the most legitimate claim? Being recognised as the best is an honour that entails not only bragging rights, but also the ability to attract the best players and sponsorship contracts in order to secure the mantle even further. There are numerous factors to consider, including the players the leagues currently have, the trophies won by their clubs, the quality of football played, and the stature of their various sides. Does the Italians’ tactical catenaccio outweigh the physical pressure of the Premiership? Would La Liga’s top-heavy flair always triumph over the strength of an English midfield? How do the cousins from the Mediterranean fare?

When comparing these various brands of ‘the beautiful game,’ we must take into account the many factors that make them great on their own. The past, present, and future are all important in contrasting these various brands and ultimately forming an opinion about whether one stands above the others.

Players

The first, and often most popular, method of comparing championships is to see who has the best players. The logical conclusion is that Spain has the upper hand in this debate, especially given that both the World (Ronaldinho) and European (Fabio Cannavaro) Players of the Year play in La Liga. Spain also has many other great players; Madrid has van Nistelrooy, Raul, Robinho, and Beckham, while Barcelona has Ronaldinho, Deco, Messi, Eto’o, and Zambrotta. Other clubs have similarly outstanding players, such as David Villa as well as Joaquin Sanchez at Valencia as well as Riquelme at Villarreal, to name a few.

Italy could indeed boast a correspondingly impressive list of galacticos, but due to the more pedestrian nature of Serie A, the players tend to be of a slightly older age. Internazionale (or Inter) has the most talented squad, to Crespo, Stankovic, Figo, Ibrahimovic, Veron and Samuel all plying their trade for the Nerazzurri. Milan, too, has a plethora of stars; despite losing talisman Andriy Shevchenko to Chelsea in the summer, they have one world beater in Riccy Kaka’. Players such as Andrea Pirlo, Alessandro Nesta, and Alberto Gilardino lead a cast that is talented enough to compete for any trophy. It’s also worth noting that the legendary Paulo Maldini is still captain of the Milan backline. With the shadow of Calciopoli looming over the Italian top flight, it is worth noting that the summer exodus from Serie A saw many of the division’s best players leave.

Former Serie A stars Alessandro del Piero, Gigi Buffon, Pavel Nedved, and David Trezeguet have all decided to stay loyal to the old lady and play in Serie B for a season. Shevchenko, as previously stated, also left the Rossoneri for Chelsea.

While discussing Chelsea, it is important to note that they are the dominant force in European football today. The current premise in football is that when it comes to the transfer market, the Premiership champions must be followed by all others. Chelsea have amassed a team of stars to rival any other club in the world thanks to the seemingly limitless funds provided by their Russian oligarch owner, Roman Abramovich. Players like Arjen Robben, Didier Drogba, Joe Cole, and, as previously mentioned, Shevchenko were already present prior to the Russian benefactor’s involvement. The Premier League also has some of the world’s best players, including Thierry Henry and Cesc Fabregas at Arsenal, Wayne Rooney, Rio Ferdinand, and Cristiano Ronaldo at Manchester United, and Steven Gerrard at Liverpool.

When comparing the undeniably huge talents on display in these various leagues, it’s important to remember that, while we’re looking at them now, the future is also important. As previously stated, Serie A has more seasoned galacticos, whereas the Premier League can argue that they have some of the most promising talent in Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney, and Cesc Fabregas. Spanish football could also argue that their spread includes youth, with Atletico Madrid’s Sergio Aguero and Fernando ‘el Nino’ Torres, Barcelona’s Lionel Messi, and one name to watch in Matias Fernandez, a Chilean playmaker set to join Villarreal in January.

Marketing

Football is much more than it was in previous decades in the twenty-first century. It is now a business, and one of the largest in the world. Transfer prices have risen to the point where any ‘Tom, Dick, or Harry’ appears to be worth £15 million. Wages for players have also risen dramatically. This is to say that a salary of £3 million per year is not considered completely outrageous for a top international player. With club membership fees constantly rising, someone must meet these extravagant financial demands.

Top clubs are now using sponsorship, television rights, and marketing revenue to sell a ‘brand’ rather than a sport. The marketing aspect of major clubs and leagues is crucial to their strength, from product association to shirts emblazoned with trade names.

Deloitte, an accounting firm, publishes details of top European clubs’ financial earnings over the previous season once a year. Essentially, a ‘rich-list’ of football clubs, comparing their viability and market strength in today’s football world. The most recent edition of this list dates from the 2005 season, and the apex of the list is almost entirely dominated by our “big three” leagues.

According to the 2005 rankings, Real Madrid is now the world’s market leader in football terms. The Manchester United marketing machine had dominated previous years; however, the Castilian club took the mantle from their English rivals. Much of this turnaround has been attributed to the ‘David Beckham factor.’

Former England captain David Beckham is as well-known for his personal life as he is for his football. Married to a ‘Spice-Girl,’ the midfielder resembles a pop star more than a footballer, with numerous tattoos, constantly outrageous hairstyles, and a plethora of product endorsement contracts. Beckham, dubbed the “most photographed sportsman ever,” is worth his weight in Euros to his club. Manchester United, who had previously topped the rich-list, were dethroned by Beckham’s new club Real Madrid, which is regarded as proof of the man’s marketing value. However, it is worth noting that Madrid’s on-field performances have declined while their finances have improved, and a more recent list may also hint at Beckham’s own on-field decline as a global football force.

With the exception of Bavarian giants Bayern Munich, the top ten teams in the list are all from Spain, Italy, or England. The Premier League dominates with Manchester United (2nd), Chelsea (5th), Liverpool (8th), and Arsenal (10th), followed by three Serie A clubs in Milan (3rd), Juventus (4th), and Inter (9th), and Spain’s La Liga only has two top ten entries, despite Real Madrid topping the list and rivals Barcelona in 6th. When looking at these figures, it is important to note that they are not as up to date as we would like; additionally, if a more recent list was compiled, we would undoubtedly see the impact of Calciopoli on the Italian sides.

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