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Naming a league the best is possibly the only discussion that can unite rival clubs and their fans. Still, it’s hard to reach a consensus. Cold numbers won’t deliver the feeling, nor the joy fans feel, which is the main reason why the sports industry became what it is today. Since UEFA and The International Federation of Football History and Statistics (IFFHS) are using vague criteria to rank the best leagues, soccer fans find themselves perplexed trying to match what their eyes see to what numbers tell them. In this article, I will rate soccer leagues based on the overall scores.
For every criterion, each league will be given stars with 5 stars being the highest possible score. The overall atmosphere, the quality of players, the commercial business of the league, the number of fans coming to see the games in the stadium, the wins of the teams in continental championships like the UEFA Champions League, UEFA Europa League, FIFA Club World Cup, are some of the aspects we can’t overlook when ranking the best soccer league. Predictable results will also play a key role in the competitiveness department.
Serie A – Italy
Four World Cup titles, Milan derby, Juventus and Diego Maradona are enough reasons to make Italian soccer attractive to fans around the world. Despite super clubs like AC Milan, Inter Milan and Juventus having had their share of instability in recent years, it has made the league a huge favor. it is safe to say that many lost interests in Serie A when Juventus was thrashing everybody week in and week out. Now the league is slowly climbing back the ladder of best soccer leagues due to the parity and unpredictable nature of the league.
The Italian soccer cart is pulled by passionate supporters who believe in their clubs even during the darkest times for Calcio Italia. This love and appreciation for soccer in Italy is found on all levels. There is a special bond that ties all soccer elements with their beloved league. I remember when Alessandro Del Piero refused lucrative contracts from many giant clubs after winning the FIFA World Cup back in 2006, he, humbly, announced that his current mission is to help lead Juventus back to top tier after relegation to Serie B as a result of match-fixing scandal known as ‘Calciopoli’.
The same feeling got ahold of Zlatan Ibrahimovic at late 30s when he returned to Milan. The capital’s team was full of young players who lack experience and leadership, provided both by the Swedish star, they have crowned champions in the 2021/2022 season.
Investors are pouring funds in other leagues like English Prem and La Liga, and with such, a decline in talent acquisition in Italy was inevitable. What was once the first choice for Maradona, Platini, Ronaldo de Lima, Zidane, and Kaka, has been struggling to produce or attract a name of this caliber. CR7 helped revive the league’s popularity after a move to Torino’s giant Juventus, but in order to pick up on this momentum, a few mega stars will have to make the same choice.
On a European level, Italian clubs are not favorites against their English and Spanish counterparts. Milan remains the highest achiever as their seventh UEFA Champions League title in 2007 puts them second on the list of winners after Real Madrid. Juventus on the other hand tend to find themselves under the weather in finals as they hold the record of seven times runner up. But Europe knows it’s not just the two mentioned clubs, drawing any Italian team will always put you behind the eight ball.. especially in home stadiums. Speaking of stadiums, I personally don’t find Italian stadiums up to the mark. Stadiums are old and look empty from TV, but broadcasts and commentaries are still full of energy and exciting to watch.
Overall atmosphere 3.5/5
Stadiums and broadcast 2.5/5
Continental success 1/5
Attracting stars 1/5
Ligue 1 – France
With twenty clubs and 92 years of rich history, this league remains a household name both in Europe and in the world. Up to 1.6 million people watch a single Ligue 1 game, placing the French top flight among the most popular competitions in the world. The average stadium attendance is around 22,000.
Ligue 1, which has been running since 1932, has seen a number of clubs emerge as dominants at various times. Saint Etienne remains the most successful club, followed by PSG and Olympique de Marseille. While the arrival of heavyweight stars, like Leonel Messi, boosts the numbers of viewers and overall interest in Ligue 1, it has certainly changed the landscape and halted the unpredictability of the competition. PSG became the ultimate favorite with the exception of a season or two since the Arab funds avalanche. Such advantage for the capital’s power house made fans slowly lose interest in domestic games and anticipate bigger meetings in UEFA Champions League. PSG’s brutal squad can decide most games in less than a halftime, thus winning the UEFA Champions League has become the target. A task remains unaccomplished to the date of this article.
Historically, Ligue 1 has produced a number of the world’s most talented players who have gone on to shine for France’s national side. The biggest example we witness today is Kylian Mbappe, the world’s most valuable soccer property. This prolificity made it easy for many to name the league ‘Farmers league’ especially since it scouts the finest talents from countries in ties with France for long years. This advantage alone keeps French clubs ahead of everybody in terms of profits. The biggest portion of players representing Europe’s top clubs have started or played in Ligue 1 early on in their career.
The French league remains solid on most grounds including quality of broadcast and pitches, although it has lost a ton of its appeal due to lack of parity.
Overall atmosphere 3.5/5
Stadiums and broadcast 4/5
Continental success 1/5
Attracting stars 3.5/5
Bundesliga – Germany
Let me start by saying that it’s Bayern Munich and co. So far, not one club was able to save Bundesliga’s competitiveness by challenging Bayern’s comfortable dominance. It seems like second place and a cup title every now and then became a league on its own. Despite a couple of promising attempts, including BVB Dortmund and RB Leipzig, this gap was not bridged for long years. But make no mistake, every season there are bad days at the office for Bayern. This lack of parity is, surprisingly, not reflected on numbers of attendance and overall atmosphere of the league. Bundesliga remains first on the list when it comes to stadiums average attendance. In 2006 FIFA world cup, German stadiums received a complete makeover. Such top notch infrastructure helped enthusiastic supporters find the perfect niche to display their love for the game. Tifos, smoke and non-stop chants are a constant in every German soccer game down to the fourth tier. Bundesliga fans can enjoy this fantastic show on channels designated for the league. Although, this evident interest in the league is domestic for the most part. Non German fans prefer to watch Bayern or BVB Dortmund in a European challenge since German clubs have been successful continentally with 22 trophies. This restricted popularity outside German borders can be blamed on the number of stars present in Bundesliga. Pep Guardiola and Lewandowski at Bayern were the only big guns in the league. Again it’s Bayern and no one else. I, personally, believe that the main reason behind it is German mentality ‘we don’t wait for a super talent, we create a super team’. It will always be disciplined attitude and well-designed youth systems incubating the best talents that produce well rounded players for the Mannschaft. The same strictness in soccer industry forced clubs to play their A-game financially to avoid sanctions. Unlike the rest of leagues mentioned in this article, Bundesliga clubs are the only debt-free clubs on the list. The German Football Association does not tolerate debts and sends defaulted clubs to the lowest divisions mercilessly. Therefore, the league is viewed as financially stable and profitable.
Overall atmosphere 5/5
Stadiums and broadcast 5/5
Continental success 4/5
Attracting stars 2.5/5
La Liga – Spain
When we think Spanish league, it’s Real Madrid and Barcelona who come first to our mind. Two teams with long rich history of trophies, stars, and financial edge to compete with any team in the world. However, La Liga is more than just two big teams. It is the second biggest football league in both following and revenue. The likes of Atletico Madrid, Sevilla and Valencia are certainly doing a great job boosting the popularity of the Spanish top flight. Possibly, La Liga does not have the depth of the English Premier League, but continentally Spanish teams, particularly Real Madrid and Barca, own the most UEFA Champions League titles. In Europa League, another team that is giving the top teams a run for their money is Sevilla. The Club has won the Europa league more than any other team in the competition’s history and continues to prove a solid adversary in the Spanish top flight. Attacking spirit is shared in all La Liga top teams which make every match unpredictable.
Each and every side is willing to fight as hard as possible for the 3 points as long as the match lasts. A school of soccer that has resonated with fans all over the world, making it a Spanish trademark to play beautiful possession tactics. When it comes to players’ caliber, it’s fair to say that La Liga both cultivates some of the best young talents and attracts globally established stars. Most of the scouting is done in Latin countries sharing tongue with Spain hence overcoming the adaptation hurdles. On the other hand, 90% of Ballon D’Or winners have joined a Spanish side at some point of time and there is no better demonstration than El Galácticos of Real Madrid.
Aesthetically, La Liga is a joy to watch. Excited supporters and well harmonized broadcast make it a nice experience whether you attend in venue or watch it on TV. Such success in viewership section grants around 70 million euros of broadcasting income per club. Looking at today’s transfer fees, La Liga has to find new streams of income soon in order to be able to keep elite players coming to play in Spain.
Overall atmosphere 4.5/5
Stadiums and broadcast 4/5
Continental success 5/5
Attracting stars 4/5
The Premier League – England
In the 2003–04 season, Arsenal team managed by Arsene Wenger was crowned champions of the English Premier League after completing a 38-games season undefeated. The glorious run that extended to 49 games has earned this team the nickname ‘The Invincibles’. While The Gunners don’t have full bragging rights in English soccer, other English super clubs like Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester’s duo keep dreaming of matching this achievement. Due to the parity and the caliber of all soccer elements in England, it’s almost impossible for big teams to not drop points along the way. There is no such thing as a pre-announced victory by the supposedly strongest side. A competitiveness level that is capable of producing a champion underdog every now and then a la Leicester City F.C. in 2015-16. And to put it in fair words, nothing attracts fans to a soccer competition more than unpredictable results. This is why the English Premier League is by far the most followed and viewed soccer league in the world. One simply can’t know the final outcome of a game in England until the referee blows the final whistle.
Back when the league depended on local coaches exclusively, English soccer was labeled a rough physical league with nothing but long deep passes into opponents’ box, but as more coaches from different leagues started managing teams in English Prem, we have seen a significant change in the style of play in the most-watched sports league in the world. EPL broadcasts in 212 territories to 643 million homes and a potential TV audience of 4.7 billion people. The average Premier League match attendance is 38,181.
That said, money is something that surely isn’t lacking for the wealthy English championship clubs. Million-pound broadcasting contracts fill up their safes allowing them to invest more in signing even better players. Top players from around the world want to represent English clubs sometime during their careers. England may struggle to some extent in producing local talent, but the ability to import players from other countries helps keep the Premier League strong. Nonetheless, developing national youth talent is an area for improvement in most clubs.
Continentally, English clubs packed a big punch with six clubs qualifying for the knockout rounds of the Champions League and Europa League. In the period between 1992–93 and 2020–21, Teams from the Premier League won the UEFA Champions League six times (and seven runner-up spots).
Many leagues have tried to replicate the Premier League. But it is still the best soccer league in the world. It has the most competition from top to bottom and frenzied fan base that keeps things moving.
Overall atmosphere 5/5
Stadiums and broadcast 4.5/5
Continental success 4/5
Attracting stars 4.5/5