This is a debate that has been raging for a long, long time and will continue to rumble on for decades to come. People will suggest that The Premier League or La Liga is the best, or the Bundesliga in Germany, the Italian Serie A, or maybe even the French Ligue 1, but there can only be one definitive answer.
There was a period, between 2005 and 2011, that the Premier League was undoubtedly the best, both due to the quality of football on offer and the competitive nature of the division.
The Champions League was being dominated by English teams. Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United all reaching numerous semi-finals and finals. Liverpool and United won one trophy each and if it wasn’t for United coming up against a Barcelona side that was arguably the best club side anyone has ever seen, they might have added two more trophies to that tally.
Fast forward five years and the footballing landscape is a little different. Since Chelsea surprised the world to win the tournament in 2012, English clubs performances in the Champions League have dipped, with only two quarter-final appearances and one semi-final between them.
UEFA are now questioning whether we still deserve to have four Champions League qualification spots and with pundits like Rio Ferdinand claiming the quality of our current Champions League participants are the worst we’ve contributed in 15 years, it looks like our claim to be the number one spot is no longer valid.
However, the excellence of the top teams alone does not dictate what the best League is. I think there are two factors that are equally, if not more important to the argument, they are marketability and competition.
Take last season’s results for example. In the entire Premier League season, there were only 12 games that were won by a four goal margin. In La Liga, Barcelona won by four or more goals 12 times alone, Real Madrid weren’t far behind on 10, with the rest of the league sitting on eight to give La Liga a total of 30. It’s a similar story of dominance in Germany and France, with Bayern Munich and PSG winning their titles last season without breaking a sweat. This season is following a similar pattern, and throws up two astonishing stats. PSG are 21 points clear in Ligue 1 after 22 games, second place Angers are closer to the relegation zone than they are to the leaders. Bayern are top of the League in Germany, as you would expect, but if all the shots on target they had conceded in the first ten games had gone in, they would still have been top of the Bundesliga. Meaning they could have been top of the League, without the need for a goalkeeper.
After Juventus stormed to a fourth consecutive Serie A title in 2015, the Italian League is looking a lot more competitive this season. But there is no denying that, compared to the quality they boasted in the early 2000’s, the league as a whole is pretty average. This is reflected in their current sponsorship deals. Juventus earn £17m a year from all sponsorship deals, leaders Napoli collect almost half that amount with £9.7m. Tottenham Hotspur earn £16m per year solely from their shirt sponsor and that is only the sixth biggest sum in the country.
Manchester City may be the favourite to claim the Premier League title, but they only lie third at the moment, behind Arsenal and surprise package Leicester City. There is no respect for reputation in England at the moment. The so-called lesser teams go into every match, trusting their quality and tactics, believing they are going to win. On their day, any team is capable of winning, no matter who the opponent might be. No-one can argue that the quality of the top teams isn’t as good, but the stats back-up the fact that the Premier League is, has been and remains the most competitive League.
Bayern’s supremacy in Germany has seen a huge drop in almost every competitive based stat and the readings for Serie A don’t make attractive reading either. The signs are promising for La Liga, but if it wasn’t for Aston Villa making a surprising terrible start to the season, every single Premier League competitive stat would have increased.
A new world record television deal was reached with The Premier League last year, which really does highlight its excitement and global appeal. Football fans around the world don’t want to watch Real Madrid or Barcelona destroying a mid-table team 8-0, they don’t want to watch Bayern Munich cruise to another mundane and predictable victory, they want surprise, intrigue, controversy, talent and entertainment. For that, they turn to the Premier League, and that, for me, is why it is still the best League in the world.