Who Is The Power-House Of European Football? | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Who Is The Power-House Of European Football?

Bola Bolawole
Posted: May 28, 2016 at 2:00 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

By Bola Bolawole
Spanish club, Sevilla, has won the Europa league for the third time in a row. With the tango for European Championship also between two other Spanish clubs, Real Madrid and Athletico Madrid, it is certain that the two elite championships will reside in Spain. This is not to mention “the best team in the world”, Barcelona, which is also a Spanish team. Is it not safe to therefore say that Spain is today the power-house of European football? Germany may be the world champions, but its leading clubs, Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund, have failed to rule Europe in recent years. France’s Lique 1 giant, Paris Saint- Germaine; Italian power-house Juventus and the motley crowd of English Premier League clubs are still some steps behind the Spanish giants.
All of them need some catching-up to do. The two Italian Milan giants of yore, AC Milan and Inter-Milan, are today a shadow of their old self in the Seria A and are many notches behind Juventus, which has monopolised the top spot in recent years. Bayern has not been kind to Borussia in the way it has made it a deliberate policy to poach the star players of its rival. That way, Bayern has been the undisputed leader of the Bundesliga, winning the league in recent times by wide margins, even with a couple of matches still outstanding. But Bayern hurts itself badly this way, as lesser and lesser stiff competition at home does not help it prepare enough for the challenge abroad.
English Premier League clubs have also performed below expectation on the European stage in recent years. The Premier League may be the most glamorous, the most popular, and the most prosperous but its successes in Europe have panned out in recent years. Its best teams have been beaten effortlessly by Spanish, French, and German teams and the best Premier League teams are, at best, second-tier power-house teams in Europe these days. If big bucks strengthen teams and determine who win silverware, then, Premier League teams do not seem to have made the best use of the tonnes of dollars at their beck and call. Of the 10 most prosperous football clubs in Europe by the latest ranking, six are from the Premier League. In terms of performance-cum-silverware won at the continental level, the most prosperous league can be said to have under-performed.
It can be argued that the other teams that have performed better than the Premier League giants are also not paupers; they have had enough resources to pursue their ambition and, thus, have been able to cancel out whatever advantage prosperity may have brought to the door-mouth of their Premier League counterparts. That is true; meaning, therefore, that there are other determinants of good performance than big bucks.
Quality manager is one; this is the reason why some of the leading clubs in the Premier League are sacking their under-performing coaches and dragging achiever-coaches to the fray. Manchester United has sacked Louis van Gaal despite his managing to win the FA cup. “The special one”, Jose Mourinho, is days away from being named the new Man. U. boss. Louis van Gaal never believed the rumour when it first started: He had a three-year deal, he kept saying, and he had confidence in the integrity of the Man. U. Management to keep its word. He was wrong! The media may fly kites sometimes; but when they break news, follow it. Conte is confirmed for Chelsea as caretaker coach. Guus, despite his brave efforts, had to kiss the canvass. Manchester City also had to show the exit to Pinochetti, despite that he ensured Champions league qualification, to give way to the man with the Midas touch, Pep Gourdiola, to cross over from Bayern. Of truth, Pep was not as successful at Bayern as he was at Barcelona, where he assembled an intimidating team and crafted a playing style that was the awe of all. In the looming football season, therefore, the Premier League promises to parade, if not the best coaches in Europe, but at least some of the best known and most successful, and with intimidating records; whether this will transform to instant success, however, remains to be seen.
The Premier League also promises to be very competitive next season. Two “new-comers” have joined the elite team; these are Leicester and Tottenham, and we should expect both to fight tooth-and-nail to keep their place. They have to show that their performance in the last season was not a fluke. The traditional power-houses of England, who were forced down the pecking order the – Chelsea, Liverpool, Man. U – have to fight to recover lost ground. Effectively, therefore, we may have not less than seven top clubs fighting for the top four Champions League places next season.
That is, if some dark horses will not spring the same surprises that Leicester and Tottenham sprang the last season – Leicester especially! There were many promising teams which caused initial scares before fizzling out when push became shoving as the competition wore on. It will, therefore, not be out of place if we look forward to a robust field in many of the top leagues next season. In Spain, the suzerainty of Barcelona, its near-invincibility, appears to be coming to an end. Its two closest rivals, Real Madrid and Athletico, have dangerously closed-in on it, even beating it in the season that just ended, with Athletico truncating the Barca ambition to win the treble as it sent it out of Europe in the semi-finals. But without fail, the centre of attraction next season will be the English Premier League. Mourinho and Pep are crowd-pullers and entertainers any day. Arsenal’s Arsene Wenger is also a forceful character; so also is Conte who is taking charge at Chelsea. It will be interesting to see how “the special one” will treat a return to Stamford Bridge and how Chelsea faithful will receive him.