In recent seasons the German Bundesliga has become one of European footballs most popular leagues. Its forward thinking ideas, focus on native youth and the overall style of the teams has seen people begin to watch it more and more.
There is no denying it is Europe's most progressive league in many respects and the success of a young vibrant national team at the recent World Cup has also helped attract attention. When discussing this phenomenal rise the conversation never seems very far from talk of coefficients
, Champions League places and the seeming inevitability that Germany will soon surpass Italy in the UEFA rankings. While this closing of the gap must be applauded, it must also be taken into context.
Serie A, for all the talk of its decline, is probably the healthiest it has been in seven or eight years right now. The strengthening of squads this summer means as well as the usual suspects of Inter, Roma, Milan and Juventus, teams like Sampdoria, Genoa, Napoli and Palermo are more than equipped to thrive.
The effects of Calciopoli
were far more wide ranging and damaging than just the relegation of Juventus and looking at the teams in European competition since those punishments highlights this fact. Excluding the usual "big four" listed above Chievo, Lazio and a newly promoted and severely weakened Juventus have represented Serie A in the Champions league over the four seasons directly after Calciopoli
Livorno, Parma, Empoli and Udinese have taken part in the UEFA Cup / Europa League. Clearly some very poor teams have been able to gain entry into European competition when the next season would see them much more likely to be in a relegation battle than a title fight.
If the Bundesliga were to have the extra places over that same period then teams like Hertha, Hamburg and Leverkusen would have been competing in the Champions League while Hoffenheim and Bochum would have taken part in the UEFA Cup.
Clearly while the German league has made huge strides this diluting of quality would have affected it severely. Indeed during the period illustrated only Bayern Munchen last season made it past the Quarter Finals of the Champions League while Serie A has had two different winners.
With all that said, right now the Bundesliga has opened a gap ahead of Serie A in the latest table
. As you can see the pursuit has been gradual and the Italian teams must produce if they are the maintain their current allocation of European places.
This forthcoming season will prove vital to this ranking and while Werder Bremen must be congratulated on overcoming Sampdoria in their playoff, the points the Genovese club earn in the lesser competition carry as much influence as those the German side accrue.
Indeed it is this balanced system that has enabled the Bundesliga to come so close to Serie A, as their teams have done much better in the secondary UEFA Cup / Europa League. Many times teams from Italy have dismissed the competition and have been cheaply eliminated.
This year, however, Italy has Sampdoria, Napoli, Palermo and Juventus all taking part and all four sides appear to be taking the new format much more seriously. Right now the Bundesliga is indeed sitting in 3rd place behind England and Spain. but when the points are tallied at the end of the season is when it counts.
As recent history has shown the German League should be careful what it wishes for.