Rather than the more traditional season preview of the Bundesliga, which started last night with Bayern Munich recording a stoppage time winner against Wolfsburg, I thought this would be the time to offer some praise of the Germans. Despite the fact that Bayern are the constant Ubermen of the league, the Bavarian giants having won the title 22 times and the fact that Mark van Bommel should be banned by international treaty the structure and organisation of the German league is the best in the world.
The main factor that makes the Bundesliga the best in the world is the genuine chance of silverware for the majority of top flight clubs in any given season. For example, in the last three seasons Wolfsburg finished 5th, 1st and 8th since 2007, Hertha Berlin 10th, 4th and 18th or Borussia Dortmund 13th, 6th and 5th. These huge swings in the fortunes of various clubs show that there is real entertainment value in the league and that for German sides next year could really be their year. Since 2001 five clubs have won the title. That is a level of variation unfound in any other major league in Europe. In Spain the Real-Barcelona duopoly is more established than ever after being briefly interrupted by Valencia under Benitez and the biggest “shock” in the last five years that the Premiership has provided is Spurs taking Liverpool’s Champions League spot. The fact that petro-club Man City are spending money like its going out of fashion to compete with United and Chelsea is not “surprising” and it should be even less necessary.
Conversely, more fans are flocking to watch football in Germany each year where, by an unbelievable coincidence tickets are cheaper than England and you can smoke, drink beer and stand on the terraces. Coming into the 2010/11 season Schalke 04, Wolfsburg, Bayer Leverkusen, Werder Bremen and Hamburg all have realistic hopes of mounting a creditable title challenge to perennial favourites Bayern.
Moreover these sides are all doing this without the debt of small African nations burdening them down. The giant financial game of Chicken that is being played by the other big clubs in Europe, each praying that another club busts first is not affecting the German league. Indeed Bayern have the healthiest bank balance in the world as well as being domestically successful and reaching the Champions League final last season. I realise that since the inception of Sky the concept of not gambling the future of a club in order to compete with the big boys is virtually heresy, the concept that it should be unnecessary even more so, but yet with logical efficiency, the Germans seem to be managing it.
Albeit the Bundesliga may not have the stars that La Liga does but as football fans we need to decide what we want to see. For myself, the prospect of genuine competition trumps seeing the same two or three clubs tie up all the trophies season after season. There are flaws with the German league but it is indisputably the purists league.