European Premier League: Predicting the awfulness of it all

FIFA

The only solace the wider footballing audience can take from the idea of a European Premier League is just how depressingly soulless it all sounds.

Both Sky Sports and the Sun have spoken about how any breakaway involving the powerhouses on the continent would be ring-fenced, with German media even suggesting earlier this year that founder clubs could not be relegated for 20 years.

So go on, have your fun. Move away and create something that sounds exciting in the naive mind of a pre-teenage FIFA player if playing the rabble below isn’t good enough for you.

Sorry we couldn’t cater to your every need as you totted up trophies and cherry-picked the best talents from other clubs because they had the audacity to challenge you, no matter how briefly.

See how tantalising a spectacle AC Milan vs Manchester United is when it pits 12th playing 13th with about as much riding on it as a trip for Crystal Palace to St. James’ Park in May.

Oh, how satisfying it would be to watch one privileged member of the elite slowly morph into the Burnley or other mid-table outfit of this Eton of European football.

And who would? By the sheer nature of league competition, teams lingering in mid-table is a direct consequence. Indeed, former powerhouses in Preston, Stade de Reims, Torino and Eintracht Frankfurt can tell you that after watching their glory days fade away to varying degrees.

So, given some of the names the Sun has offered up, we’re going to rank the European Premier League.

18. Marseille

Marseille

A hotbed for football, it’d be desperately sad to see Marseille - who largely pride themselves on not being their great rivals from the capital - turfed out as cannon fodder for the more monied elite.

France’s only Champions League winner deserves so much more than this.

17. Napoli

Napoli

As romantic a club as they come and steeped in Diego Maradona-led history, Napoli are undoubtedly an entertaining side but their relative lack of spending power compared to the names we’re about to mention would surely see them struggle towards the bottom of the division.

Having so famously beaten the rest of the seven sisters to the Scudetto during Serie A’s golden age while relying on one of football’s greatest stars who consistently called on an underdog spirit, seeing them sell out would be akin to watching your favourite underground band don microphone headsets during a guest-slot on X Factor.

16. RB Leipzig

RB

Though RB Leipzig made waves in the Champions League last season, title challenges in the Bundesliga over the last few years have been undermined with an inability to turn draws into wins against sides lower down the division.

Pitted against some of the best in the world, even more investment will still leave them behind some of the big boys, despite their interesting tactical set-up under Julien Nagelsmann.

15. Lyon

Lyon

Lyon’s impressive ability to generate youngsters through their esteemed academy means that lightning is caught in a bottle really rather frequently.

Still, the lower blocks of the division is somewhat a much of a muchness considering the institutional strength of the higher tiers, so it’s hard to see where Lyon would pick up points all too regularly.

14. Sevilla

SevillaEL

For a club who pride themselves on being the best of the rest by winning the Europa League so often their victories seem to roll into one for those outside Spain, joining the elite would see them merely blend into the background somewhat.

One of the most consistently interesting sporting projects in Europe, the vacuum that is a closed super-division would taint some of the stories Sevilla have written over the last few years.

13. Manchester United

MUFC

Speaking of a sporting project (or lack thereof), Manchester United’s descent into mid-1970s Elvis Presley relying on the name more than anything would be complete in this most stuffy of formats.

Their glory days become the stuff of legend we tell future generations and YouTube becomes the only place to see them.

Here, United would just be one of many superclubs and not a particularly well-run one at that.

12. AC Milan

AC Milan

Much like United, AC Milan have their own history in becoming a bloated tribute act of their former selves though perhaps Liberace is a more apt comparison.

Still, as James Horncastle of The Athletic reported, the Rossoneri have a grand plan to return to the top and have shown some promising signs under Stefano Pioli with a host of talented young players led by the evergreen Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

The superstar Swede is unlikely to be around by the time this idea gets off the ground but true geniuses plant trees under whose shade they do not expect to sit and all that...

11. Borussia Dortmund

Dortmund

Perennial bottlers Borussia Dortmund would undoubtedly be an awful lot of fun to watch and perhaps the infamous Yellow Wall would be the only glimmer of authenticity in this league but we can expect them to be beaten by some of the bigger teams.

Sadly, that’s just what happens at Dortmund. They look good but rarely achieve anything of note in the modern era, outside of Jurgen Klopp's spell.

10. Internazionale

Inter Milan

The other Milan side on their way back to the big time, Internazionale once again have the funds and the structure behind the scenes to succeed.

Indeed, appointing former Juventus sporting director Gisueppe Marotta to plot the same journey the Old Lady went on after recovering from the Calciopoli scandal and becoming the most dominant force in Italy again, the Nerazzurri will be a force to be reckoned with.

If they can ever shift the ‘Pazza (Crazy) Inter’ tag, of course.

9. Chelsea

CHELSEA FANS

In a strange oxymoron, Chelsea are the original new kids on the block.

While that does indeed sound like a nu-metal band name of the early 2000s, it’s the position in which the Blues sit across Europe after some of the investment from China and the Middle East.

Weirdly, we’re kind of missing the heartwarming tale of a mega-wealthy Russian oligarch buying his way to the top, rather than state-backed soft power machines. That’s how bad it's got.

Still, it’s not as if Chelsea have been particularly great at any one thing of late, more winning trophies seemingly out of sheer force of will than anything else. Given the level of competition in this polished prison of an idea, it’s not unreasonable to expect that to dry up.

8. Atletico Madrid

Atleitco

A hipster choice in 2014 by virtue of not being Real or Barcelona, the days of Atletico Madrid acting as the underdogs are over now.

Boasting a costly playing squad - including the most expensive teenager in the world - and a brand new stadium, they can’t get away from the superclub tag now, despite the presence of one Diego Simeone.

Which, of course, is a problem in itself. Indeed, without the tag of underdogs going into war, what really are Atletico? A team who have struggled to integrate their array of attacking signings into something more expansive than the team we saw six years ago.

7. Manchester City

Man City

Brilliant they may be but Pep Guardiola’s constant tinkering in European fixtures has cost Manchester City time and time again. As a whole, the club have notoriously struggled in the Champions League despite all the money in the world and it’s been over two years since we saw the kind of team who broke records in the Premier League.

On the continent, they just do not strike the fear of God into opponents.

6. Juventus

Juve fans

Cristiano Ronaldo was not signed to win Juventus Serie A. Winning seven in a row before his 2018 arrival, they had already proved they could do so at a relative canter.

No, the Portuguese goal machine was brought in to deliver a first Champions League in two decades but the Old Lady appear to have regressed. Such is the dominant and all-consuming nature of Ronaldo, the rest of the team has suffered and they now look further away from winning it than when Max Allegri took them to two finals in three years.

Now in a transitional period with an ageing squad and having to pay one of the biggest superstars the game has ever seen his eye-watering wages, Juventus’ domestic dominance means little on the continental stage.

5. Barcelona

Messi Barcelona

Where to start with Barcelona?

For an institution who pride themselves on being more than just another football club, they really have messed up on many of the principles Johan Cruyff brought to the Catalan capital and now represent the worst run of the super clubs.

Hugely expensive signings in the shape of Ousmane Dembele, Antoine Griezmann and Philippe Coutinho haven’t worked and limit what the Blaugrana can do in the market, while they have somehow manage to annoy Lionel Messi so much he is now in open revolt.

Without Messi this current iteration of Barcelona are nothing special and, given he’s expected to leave upon the expiration of his contract, there must be dark times ahead.

4. Real Madrid

Real Madrid

While Real Madrid are not in as big of a crisis as their great rivals, the core of a side to have won three Champions League titles on the spin has now either gone or is growing old in the Spanish capital.

Well over €350m was spent in the summer of 2019 in order to usher in a new era but deals for Eden Hazard and Luka Jovic are yet to work out and the half a billion euro revamp of the Santiago Bernabeu is, naturally, taking up an awful lot of their funds.

The most successful team in Champions League history also appear to attack in spells. For a club of such pedigree, they’ve suffered droughts as long as thirty-two years and twelve years respectively.

Given what’s going on now, it’s not hard to imagine another dry spell setting in.

3. Paris Saint-Germain

PSG

Oddly enough, perhaps the change in format could suit Paris Saint-Germain.

After all, the words ‘soulless’ and ‘fake’ are synonymous with the Ligue 1 giants who so often crumble when dealing with the pressure of knockout games (last season aside) so turning into a league where they can rely on simply having better players than most of the others to carve out more wins does eliminate at least some of the luck and pressure needed.

Still, it’ll be absolutely hilarious to see them fall at the final hurdle. Again.

2. Liverpool

The Kop

Liverpool’s leading role in Project Big Picture and this abomination of an idea, as well as their decision (though reserved it must be said) to furlough some of their staff in the midst of a pandemic, hasn’t exactly painted them in the best light.

The team of the every man, they certainly aren’t.

However, it’s hard to doubt their quality on the pitch and the manner in which the sporting side of things is run by Michael Edwards and Jurgen Klopp, so they’d be a major force in whatever format European competition takes.

1. Bayern Munich

Bayern

As Rory Smith from the New York Times noted, Bayern Munich’s impressive ability to move from one trophy era to another with relative ease is nothing short of remarkable.

A powerhouse of European football, their ruthlessness in winning trophy after trophy would surely translate even when not playing in the Bundesliga, such is their majesty. Even more impressively, the core of their current squad who recently won the treble is relatively young.

The continent’s major players as it stands, ‘FC Hollywood’ have nothing to fear other than what this competition is likely to do to top-level football itself.

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