Roy Keane didn't mince his words after Manchester United's timid performance against Olympiakos in Greece last night. He slated the team, especially the lack of quality. The former Manchester United also spoke about the decline in quality within the Premier League.
The Irishman said on ITV " We've been brainwashed by this 'Premier League is the best league in the world' (talk). Nonsense. It's the best brand, but we've seen over the past few weeks with a lot of the English teams struggling that these teams have fallen behind the top teams in Europe, and United in particular."
Looking at the six nations that have provided the last 16 teams in the Champions League, does Keane have a point or have the English teams all just had an off day at the office?
Starting off with La Liga. Whilst it boasts two of the best sides in Europe, the competition is seen as a bit of a no go. The last team to won that wasn't Barcelona or Real Madrid was Valencia in the 2003/04 season. Teams have come close to challenging the top two but the league is predictable. The only main clash that attracts global attention is El Classico, the rest of the league gains very little attention. This season, Atletico have been challenging and lie in third, tied on points with Barcelona. The problem they have is that their best players will move on the summer, either abroad or to the big two teams. In teams of quality, Barcelona and Real Madrid are ahead of the Premier League, but the rest of the league are equal or possibly slightly worse.
The Bundesliga has the best team in Europe. Without question. Bayern Munich have walked through this league campaign, without being challenged. Bayer Leverkusen, Borussia Dortmund and Schalke are all good sides, and would fit in well with the Top 4 of the Premier League. But the rest of the league are nowhere close in comparison. The lack of competition is a turn off to the global audience. The support of each team is second to none though. Sell out games at every home game and travelling fans willing to go anywhere to loudly support their club makes some British teams envious. This league could be the main challenger for the best league in Europe based on support and team quality but as a competition, it is not.
Ligue 1 has seen a dramatic rise in quality since the takeover at PSG and Monaco have attracted top quality players. But with the introduction of the big spending owners, the competition has taken a knock. PSG like Bayern have dominated, although only sit above Monaco by 5 points. The rest of the teams are playing for pride, to try and reach Europe. As Marseille showed in the Champions League this season, the quality in no longer there in French football
In Italy, Serie A is recovering from scandals that rocked the league. The demotion of Juventus gave the league plenty of negative press. With this came a dip in quality of players. However, the league is recovering well. Aided by Mourinho's Inter Milan Champions League win in 2010, the draw of the Italian league is back. With some of the most famous teams in European football and some fantastic players, the league is on the way back. In it's prime, it can take the title of Best league but it may take another couple of seasons to reach that level.
The Greek league is often dominated by Olympiakos, who are unbeaten in the lag this season. The Turkish league doesn't get much coverage although is a tightly run competition. Violence dominates both these league, giving it unwanted negative press. The Russian league seemed as if it was going to kick off with wealthy investors backing teams. Sadly, the money wasn't endless, and one it came to an end, so did the league's chance of becoming big.
So the Premier League. It's unpredictability makes it so popular. Going into the new season not knowing who will win is one of the biggest excitements. This season has been a tight one. This might point to a lack of quality, but it also highlights the smaller teams desire and ability to come up with a shock result. It is one of the reasons why it is so popular globally. The quality of players from years gone by might not be there anymore, such as Beckham, Scholes and Henry, but the results of the team don't matter any less.
The Champions League showcases the best teams in Europe. That's the point of the competition. Yes, Roy Keane may be right that the Premier League may not have the quality within the teams like some of the other squads left in the competition do. But in terms of the best league, in terms of competitiveness and unpredictability, the Premier League is the outright winner.
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