Football leagues are becoming less competitive across Europe and some familiar names take up the top spots, enjoying various achievements in all national and international competitions.
Some countries always have had historically uncompetitive leagues. For instance, Spain’s league has always been an unceasing rivalry between Barcelona and Real Madrid who together account for two-thirds of all championships.
Fewer new teams are winning leagues than before across Europe's top 5 soccer leagues. As usual, there are some familiar names at the top of the competition tables along with a couple of old giants who have returned to their glories.
Of the 20 richest clubs in the world, 9 are English and taken together the league outspent all its European counterparts. With managers like Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp, all this money is presently being marshaled to powerful impact.
How a league’s clubs tolls against the best of Europe, however, is only one quality parameter for any league. A league’s power is also characterized by how fiercely contested it is.
Much of sport’s appeal lies in the uncertainty of outcome, yet in leagues across Europe, results are becoming increasingly predictable.
There have been 5 different champions in Premier League over the last twenty years, while there were 11 winners between 1950 and 1970.
It should be admitted that there are many more leagues around the world with top-level teams and players.
The Primera División in Spain, widely known as La Liga, is the top Spanish football league, where the world’s top players can be found.
The competition for Spain's top soccer teams takes place between 20 different sides, each playing others once at home and once away from home.
The team that finishes the season with the most points is delegated the champion, while the bottom three teams are relegated to the second division of Spanish soccer and the top three teams from the second division are promoted to take their place.
La Liga, established in 1929, is the officially recognized top division of professional soccer in Spain.
The league includes 20 teams from around the country, with the top spot winning the La Liga trophy. In 1929, however, there were only 10 teams (Barcelona, Real Madrid, Athletic Bilbao, Real Sociedad, Arenas Club de Getxo, Real Unión, Atlético Madrid, Espanyol, Europa, and Racing de Santander) due to the promotion/relegation system, not all teams are in the top flight in the modern era.
Indeed, only three clubs have the bragging rights to claim that they’ve never been relegated to the second division at any point in league history, namely, Barcelona, Real Madrid, and Athletic Bilbao.
Barcelona and Real Madrid are the two teams to dominate La Liga comprehensively. For the last 30 years, the two sides have been a clear cut above the rest, with only Atlético Madrid really threatening them and conquering both to win the league in 2014.
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Matches between Real Madrid and Barcelona, known as El Clásico, are fierce on the pitch and powerful off of it.
Rooted in history, El Clásico is often used to provoke political movements; it takes place between two of the world’s greatest ever teams and currently features the world’s best players and coaches.
Top facts about La Liga:
· La Liga was founded in 1929 and Barcelona won the title.
· Real Madrid won their first titles in 1932 and 1933.
· Athletic Bilbao set the pace winning in 1930, 1931, 1934, and 1936.
· The oldest club in Spain is Recreativo de Huelva founded in 1889.
· 2016 league final was an all-Spanish champions between Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid.
· La Liga’s top goalscorer is Barcelona’s Lionel Messi with more than 633 goals.
· Atletico Madrid are known as the ‘Colchonerod’ or ‘mattress man’ because many believe that their kit looks like old Spanish mattresses!
· Spanish people call their top goal scorers ‘Pichichi’. It was originally the nickname of Atletico player, Rafael Moreno.
· Real Madrid was considered to be the richest club not only in Spain but in the whole world. However, in the 2018/2019 season, the club generated a revenue of approximately $890.7 million while Barcelona generated a record revenue of $959.3 million, overtaking Real Madrid to become the world's richest football club.
· The oldest footballer to debut in La Liga was an Englishman named Harry Lowe, born in 1886, who was 48 years old when he played his first and last match for Real Sociedad.
· Argentine Luka Romero (15 years old) became the youngest player to ever play in La Liga when he came on for Mallorca during their 2-0 loss to Real Madrid.
Germany's top division, known as Bundesliga, which means the "Federal League,” contains 18 of the country's top soccer teams. Each season teams compete for the Meisterschale, or Champion's Plate.
The top four teams each year qualify for the elite Europe-wide Champions League, while fifth and sixth place gain entry into the Europa League, the second tier of European competition.
At the other end of the table, the two teams that finish in 17th and 18th are relegated to Germany's second level of professional football, known as 2 Bundesliga. The top two teams at that level are promoted to the top tier.
The interesting fact about Bundesliga is that the team that finishes in 16th place in the Bundesliga must play a two-match playoff against the team that finishes third in the second division.
The winner of the match gets to play in the Bundesliga in the next season, while the loser drops into the second tier.
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The Bundesliga's biggest, best-known, most successful side Bayern Munich, is from the country's south. Nicknamed FC Hollywood, Bayern has a habit of buying up Germany's best players and building virtually unbeatable teams.
The club has won the Bundesliga seven times in a row. The last time they failed to win the league, in 2012, they were beaten out by Borussia Dortmund. Over the next two seasons, Bayern bought three of Dortmund's star players, cementing its dominance in German football.
Other big clubs in the league include Dortmund, their local rivals FC Schalke 04, Borussia Mönchengladbach, and the controversial RB Leipzig.
Leipzig is particularly interesting, as it has risen from the fifth tier of German football to the Champions League in under 10 years, powered by the financial backing of the energy-drink giant Red Bull.
The Bundesliga's top three sides, namely, Bayern, Dortmund, and Leipzig, are among Europe's top-scoring clubs.
Having scored 73 goals, Bayern is told to have the continent's second-deadliest attacker behind Paris Saint-Germain.
Top facts about Bundesliga:
· Bundesliga was founded in 1963 and FC Köln won the title.
· Klaus Fichtel became the oldest player to feature in the Bundesliga at 43 years and 184 days, when he played for Schalke in the 1987/88 season.
· Borussia Dortmund's Nuri Sahin is the youngest ever to appear on the pitch in the Bundesliga. He was 16 years and 335 days old as he made his Dortmund debut in 2005.
· With 602 appearances in total, Karl-Heinz Körbel is the player that has played the most Bundesliga matches.
· Bayern München have won the Bundesliga 29 times out of 57 campaigns, more than any other club.
· Gerd Müller is the Bundesliga all time goalscorer with 365 goals, Klaus Fischer is the second with 268 goals, and Robert Lewandowski is the third with 236 goals.
The Premier League or the Premiership is the pride of football in the United Kingdom. It is usually called the league of the riches. The league is relatively young and was formed in response to the decline of the sport in UK during the 1980s.
Football stadiums were being neglected and English football clubs were banned from competition in Europe as a result of the disaster that occurred during the 1985 European Cup Tournament at Heysel Stadium in Brussels.
The Heysel Stadium disaster was a human stampede that occurred when Juventus fans were pressed against a collapsing wall in the Heysel Stadium in Brussels, Belgium, before the start of the European Cup Final between the Italian club and Liverpool. As a result, thirty-nine people died.
The Football League First Division, which had been the major English football league since 1888, lagged well behind its Italian and Spanish rivals and numerous top English players chose to play abroad.
Around the early 1990s, things begin to turn around as England successfully reached the semi-finals in the 1990 FIFA World Cup and Europe’s governing body of football, UEFA, lifted the five year ban on European competitions in that same year.
The English Premier League (EPL) is presently the most lucrative football league among the Europe's top 5 football leagues. It has seen an explosion in growth and is currently the most-followed and the most-watched sporting league in the world.
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In 1992, The FA Premier League was formed and the first games were played in August of the same year. Originally, there were 22 clubs in the league.
Top facts about Premier League:
· Premier League is the most-watched football league in the world, which was founded in 1992.
· Manchester United have won the Premier League 13 times in its 21 year history.
· Premier League all-time goalscorer is Alan Shearer with 283 goals.
· Arsenal have the longest unbeaten streak in a single season (2003/04). So, they are known as ‘The Unbeatables’.
· The oldest player ever played a game in the Premier League is the goalkeeper, John Burridge, who was 43 years 162 days when he played for Manchester City against Newcastle on April 29th 1995.
· The youngest player ever played a game in the Premier League is Liverpool’s Harvey Elliott at 16 years and 30 days, who made his debut against Wolves when he played for Fulham.
· The fastest hat-trick was scored by Sadio Mane, who netted 3 times in 178 seconds for Southampton against Aston Villa on May 16, 2015.
· Manchester United player, Ryan Giggs, holds the highest substitution record. He has been substituted 134 times in his playing career!
Italy's top domestic league is known as Serie A. It includes various professional football clubs that are usually located in major cities (e.g., AS Roma, AC Milan, or Juventus of Turin), and employ the best players money can buy.
Serie A, Lega Nazionale Professionisti Serie A, is the name of the top Italian football league and has existed since 1898 and since 1929 as structured today. Since 1961, the winner gets the trophy called Coppa Campioni d'Italia.
At first, the league included 18 clubs; it has decreased and expanded many times from 16 to 21 clubs (since the 2004-2005 season, 20 clubs have been included). Today the division is also referred to Lega Serie A, or more commonly only Serie A.
The Serie A season runs during the same time most other leagues play, including the English Premier League. It begins in September and ends in May.
Serie A is regarded as one of the best football leagues in the world and it is often depicted as the most tactical and defensively sound national league.
The top three teams in Seria A are qualified for the Champions League (one place also goes to the winner of the Coppa Italia) and the teams that are placed 3-6 also get the chance to play in European Cups.
Since the season 2006-2007, the three teams placed at the bottom of the table (places 18-20) have been relegated to Serie B. In the 2005-2006 season, only two teams were relegated.
Before that two teams (places 18-20) were relegated directly and two teams (places 17-18) would go to playoffs consisting of a two-legged game, in which the winner escapes relegation.
A few of the most notable players of Serie A include Cristiano Ronaldo, Wesley Sneijder, Gianluigi Buffon, Daniele De Rossi, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, as well as American Michael Bradley.
Top facts about Serie A:
· Serie A has been operating as a round-robin tournament for over ninety years since the 1929–30 season.
· Juventus of Turin have won the league title a record 27 times since the league’s inauguration in the 1890s.
· International of Milan, better known as Inter, has won the Serie A title 18 times, including five consecutive times from 2006 to 2010.
· The other Milan club, AC Milan, has won the Serie A title 17 times.
· The oldest player ever played a game in the Serie A is Marco Ballotta who was 44 years, 1 month, and 8 days old at the time of the specific 2008 match between his Lazio and Genoa.
· The youngest player ever played a game in the Serie A is Pietro Pellgri who made his debut when he came on as an 88th minute sub for Genoa against Torino.
· Top goalscorer of Serie A is Silvio Piola, who scored 274 goals in his club career between 1929 and 1954. He played for different clubs, including Pro Vercelli, Lazio, Juventus, and Novara. Francesco Totti is another top goalscorer with 250 goals between 1992 and 2017.
Ligue 1 has been the name of the top division in the French football league since 2002. It used to be called Division 1.
Ligue 1 is among the best football leagues in Europe inaugurated around 90 years ago, two years after professionalism in French football became legal.
The winners have received the “Hexagoal” trophy designed by Pablo Reinoso since 2007. It replaced the old trophy, called ‘le Trophée de Ligue 1’, designed by d'Andrée Putman.
The 20 clubs play against each other in home and away games, resulting in 38 for each team during a season. It is based on a system of promotion and relegation from/to Ligue 2.
Top facts about the French Ligue 1:
· Paris Saint-Germain has the highest record of points during a season by securing 96 points in the 2015-2016 season. They have been the back-to-back title winners since 2018.
· Monaco won their first Ligue 1 title in 2017, preventing PSG from earning a fifth consecutive trophy.
· French clubs that have won the Ligue 1 more than once include Saint-Étienne with 10 titles, Olympique de Marseille with 9 titles, and Nantes, Monaco, Paris Saint-Germain, all with 8 titles.
· Top goalscorer of Ligue 1 is the Argentinian Delio Onnis that played in Monaco, Reims, Tours, and Toulon (1971-1986) and scored 299 goals in 449 appearances.
Like some other leagues, the top-tier of French football is always accused of being a one-horse race with a single topside dominating the league at any given time.
PSG have dominated Ligue 1 in recent years, and the league seems to be capable of being only dominated by just one club during a certain period of time.
Moreover, Ligue 1 is accused of being a 'farmers league'. It is usually believed that Ligue 1 is the least elite of the competitions, though they have raised their profile and status in recent years relying on star players such as Kylian Mbappe.
The critics believe that Ligue 1 players are not as skilled or at the level of other footballers in the other top European leagues.
The Ligue has also been called 'feeder league' since several top Ligue 1 players have left the league to play in other top leagues in Europe like Premier League.
Eden Hazard left Lille in 2012 to sign for Chelsea, both Riyad Mahrez and N'Golo Kante left to join Leicester, and Alexandre Lacazette left Lyon to join Arsenal in 2017.
However, the investments in big teams like PSG and Monaco have resulted in Ligue 1 becoming a more attractive option to world-class talents such as Neymar who left Barcelona for PSG in 2018.
The fact that such a giant club is still under-performing in the Champions League is still a notable argument. Quite surprisingly, they have never progressed past the quarter-final of the competition even in their dominant seasons.