So what is the popular view on the best football league?
There are two dominant viewpoints on the issue.
Those who frequently view the Barclays Premier League (BPL) or even more specifically support a premier league team will tend to lean to the BPL. The basis offered? Largely the competitiveness and overall relevance in the minds of football fans globally. The BPL is slickly marketed, widely televised and mostly discussed by a wide margin. The immediate question one has to ask? – what does any of that have to do with the quality of the football on the pitch? Not much really.
It certainly is trendy to mock this view – especially by fans of teams NOT in the BPL. League envy possibly? Or common sense? Maybe both.
Soccer Surgery examines the raging debate on which is the best football league in the world.
The clear alternative of most thoughtful fans/pundits skeptical of the Premier League seems to be La Liga. The basis? – Recent performances in the Champions League and Europa League. Certainly to assess current form/quality it makes some sense to look at what has just transpired which is reasonable enough. Taking that view presents a stunning case:
The last five Europa League Champions (starting with most recent) – Sevilla, Sevilla, Sevilla, Chelsea, Atletico Madrid
The last five Champions league winners (starting with most recent) – Real Madrid, Barcelona, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Chelsea
No contest in either competition!
However, there is a nagging flaw in this thinking. Both these competitions pit the BEST teams in each league against each other as representatives of sorts. Pop Quiz everyone! Is a relay team as strong as (A) the group as a whole or (B) the anchor leg? If you answered that correctly, then you see the problem in focusing exclusively on Champions League/Europa League performances.
The problem? – one blatantly ignores that the DEPTH of a league is vital to understanding its OVERALL quality. So if we don’t look at the representatives how in the hell would we compare the depth of leagues?
Well the quality of football on the pitch is only guided by two things (a) the players and (b) the coaches. So do we have a basis to compare the players in La Liga vs the Premier League?
Which league has the best depth of players?
After significant thought, the best way we could think of to analyze this was to pervert the argument and actually compare the worse teams in each league….. roster vs roster.
The “A chain is only as strong as its weakest link” argument.
So we started from the bottom and now we are here – the two worse relegated teams in La Liga (Getafe, Levante) vs their BPL counterparts (Aston Villa, Norwich City).
“Better” quality wine costs more than cheap wine… but that does not apply to football players as clubs habitually overpay/underpay for players so transfer price offers no value in comparing the quality of a players in our view. Neither could you apply some arbitrary ranking of players as views on players differ from pundit to pundit.
We did however then stumble upon a possible objective measure. You would have heard commentators frequently qualify a player as “an international” to give the viewer context as to the player’s quality. There is some logic there that if you play for a (legitimate) national team you should have a certain basic level of ability. Most would agree this makes some sense.
So by tracking the number of “internationals” to identify “better” players a limited analysis(for the sake of time) offered the following:
Last placed teams – Levante – NONE; Aston Villa – TWO (B Guzan, J Ayew)
19th placed teams – Getafe – NONE(again); Norwich City – FIVE (Naismith, Brady, Hoolahan, Martin, Whittaker)
So is the conclusion here that the BPL has more quality depth in terms of players? This analysis offers some compelling results but even extrapolated there is important context which SoccerSurgery would never omit here.
Firstly, La Liga has a higher proportion of local i.e Spanish players who would no doubt find it harder to break into the Spanish national side compared to the players from Scotland/Ireland who apply their trade in the BPL.
Also, we should be aware of the “BPL effect”. With the wider television/media exposure that league offers one should question whether the “diamonds” have finally received some light or has the exposure allowed average “turds” to more easily break into their national teams. These factors considered suggest being an “international” may have limited value as a benchmark of being a “quality” player.
Which league has the best coaches?
We can be brief here as this is one of the few indisputable areas of the discussion. If you measure a coach by his accomplishments, then by a mile the BPL has bigger coaches – lured of course by the multimillions on offer.
The sideline tacticians lining up for Premier League teams in 2016/17 – Mourinho, Wenger, Guardiola, Conte, Klopp, Koeman, Ranieri. Holy cow!
La Liga can’t compare – Simeone and Emery are top drawer coaches but have you heard of Marcelino or Valverde? No? So we can acknowledge the winner there without caveat.
So what is our conclusion?
This debate seems to carry a heavy weight of bias depending on whether one supports/hates a Premier League team.
Defining “better or “quality” as we have sought to highlight is always difficult to objectify especially as it relates to players, less so coaches whose accomplishments can be factored.
More eyeballs on the Premier League every weekend certainly makes it more “significant’ clearly but would be a bizarre connection to draw conclusions that makes it a better league.
We disagree with most who obsess with the results of the premier European competitions for the examined reason that 3 or 4 teams can NEVER represent a league as a whole. It just can’t. Barcelona and Real Madrid have rabbit holes of revenue (to be revisited in future) and the two best players in the world which skews the relevance of current results.
With that segue, perhaps that word “revenue” would be the best place to capoff the discussion – cold hard cash. The best things in life are not free, in fact they (players, coaches) cost a LOT of money. With so many hanging questions/caveats/considerations in this debate it seems intuitively that the “best” league probably is the one with the most resources available for ALL teams in the league.
There’s our best answer then.
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