Thursday, 3 May 2012
The Bundesliga - the place to be?
While the Bundesliga is ostensibly setting the standard in Europe, especially in the eyes of supporters, there is one telling factor which suggests otherwise.
Following Bayern Munich's defeat of Real Madrid - propelling the Germans into the Champions League final on home territory - our perception of the Bundesliga was invariably enhanced. And this is largely justified. Average attendances of over 45,000 puts the Bundesliga in a league of its own; the average attendance in the Premiership is just 34,000 closely followed by La Liga, with Serie A lagging behind with a meagre 23,000. Subsidies from the German government mean ticket prices average out at just £17, and away fans receive free rail travel - which I say without any hint of jealousy. *cough*.
And this isn't there just to look good. Unbelievably, German champions Borussia Dortmund brought over 20,000 away(!) fans to a match earlier this season against Hertha Berlin. Twenty thousand! And we thought taking 3,000 to Bolton was commendable! Moreover, fans are allowed to drink beer during matches and safe-standing terraces such as Dortmund's - which holds 26,000 - generate fantastic atmospheres. In many ways, the Bundesliga sets an exemplar for all to follow.
Yet, yet. The praise it receives from us fans does not seem to be reflected in the players. Instead of top English footballers moving from the Premiership to the Bundesliga - the league now tipped by many as the best in Europe - it's the other way round. Podolski's recent arrival at Arsenal, following that of Per Mertesacker (and Thomas Eisfeld) provide a good example of this. If you think back over the years, can you remember any reputable English players going to Germany from the Premiership, or even the old First Division?
Well there was Kevin Keegan's move to Hamburg in the late 70s, where he was crowned European Footballer of the Year, after departing from Liverpool. Mind you, I'd probably pay to leave Liverpool at the moment with King Kenny in charge. Sorry, perhaps that little dig was as 'bang out of order' as Suarez's ideological stance. Sincerest apologies.
Ex Arsenal forward Tony Woodcock is another rare example. He started his career with Nottingham Forest under a certain Brian Clough, winning numerous trophies, most notably the 1979 European Cup. Like Keegan, Woodcock's quality was recognised as he won the Young Player of the Year award. Despite flying with Forest, he moved to Germany to play for Koln - a team we are certainly aware of after our most recent acquisition - where he remained for three years. He then returned to his homeland when Arsenal manager Terry Neill signed him in 1983, before going back to Koln in the late 80s. Make your mind up!
Our best friend Mark Hughes left Manchester United in '86 for Bayern Munich (via Barcelona), albeit his time abroad was somewhat of a failure - he returned to Utd two years later. One factor that may have lured Englishmen away from home at this time was the prospect of European football. After the 1985 Heysel disaster, English clubs were banned from Europe, and thus a move to the continent, and in some cases Germany, seemed very attractive - coupled with higher wages.
A more recent example is Dale Jennings, the 19 year old who last year left Tranmere for... Bayern Munich?! Yes, I shit you not! Admittedly he is playing for Bayern's reserves, but this is one of the scarce examples I could find of players moving from England to Germany.
Much of the exciting talent emerging - or established - in Germany seem destined for England. Well - that's the impression we get from the media, especially regarding the likes of Goetze and Großkreutz, with the latter already stating his desire to one day play for Arsenal. Now why is this? Well, the Premiership is a better league! I'm sure this (and no doubt higher wages) is what persuaded Marko Marin - the 'German Messi' - to sign for Chelsea. While as fans it is easy to admire the Bundesliga, especially after Klopp's resurrection of Dortmund and Bayern's Champions League advances, I think it is interesting that despite its clear qualities, top players from Germany leave for England whilst top Englishmen remain here! You could say the same about any other top European league, but the reason I'm focusing on the Bundesliga is because of the praise it has been receiving - quite justifiably - over the past weeks.
The Premier League is still the place to be!
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