The best league in Europe: The Premiership or La Primera?
I had intended to answer a comment and found myself typing potentially enough for another article. One comment from a commenter named Striker said:
"The debate has been opened , the EPL best league at the moment? Is this relevant?"
"Not to me. I wonder if the media consider the EPL the best because there are three EPL sides in the last four. I don't know the critieria one would use to establish which league is the best and I'm not bothered about it either."
"Ferguson was the one who came out with the comment that the Premiership was now the best- but although the Premiership does dominate the semis Champs League line-up, it really is premature to say that. For example, although Liverpool beat Barca over two-legs, could even the most ardent Pool fan say that their Liverpool side is better than Barca's? Different but equal is how I would describe the comparison between the Primera Liga and the Premiership."
Using the Champs League fixtures between British and Spanish clubs maybe one criteria but surely included would have to be the UEFA fixtures too. Spain have three teams in the UEFA semis and I watched Spurs v Sevilla, both legs. Seville are second in La Liga and I have felt they look so far a team worthy not only of their league position but to be in the Champs League as well. La Liga itself has taken a different shape the past season or two. Sevilla, Valencia, Barcelona, Real Madrid, Real Zaragoza are currently going for the title whereas before the likes of Villarreal, Deportivo, Celta Vigo, Athletico Bilbao were common names amongst the title contenders.
In the EPL the top four are spoken of. Before it was the top three of Man Utd, Chelsea and Arsenal. I've always advocated for a title chase between six teams, therefore guessing the title winners would be less predictable and the title chase more enthralling. Plus it opens up the competitiveness of the EPL. I've also noticed a common trait with teams like Man City, Aston Villa, Blackburn, perhaps Newcastle, who are considered more mid-table teams who can start very well at the beginning of the season then falter as the season goes on. Then you see a common favour of the considered top teams emerging into the top places.
Take the top five sides in both leagues respectively: Man Utd, Chelsea, Liverpool, Arsenal, Bolton; Barcelona, Sevilla, Real Madrid, Real Zaragoza, Valencia. In terms of Barcelona's play in La Liga compared to that of Liverpool's in the EPL, plus the calibre of players both teams have in their squads, then one would point out Barcelona are better than Liverpool. Certainly most believed Barcelona would emerge into the QF as a result. The belief is Barcelona play better football in La Liga and have better players compared to Liverpool's general play in the EPL, therefore Barcelona will win. But football can either run along such thoughts or can throw surprises to the contrary.
What was the majority opinion on the winner of last year's Champions League final? Arsenal, who had finished 4th in the EPL, or Barcelona who had won La Liga? Arsenal had seen off Villarreal and Real Madrid along the way to the final, Barcelona overcame Chelsea. If the form of both sides in their respective leagues and their run-up of matches to the final were not enough, then it would depend on how they play when they met each other. Arsenal took the lead, the handicap of their goalkeeper dismissed early in the game, Barcelona came back controversially, as their first was argued to have been offside, and then scored the winner. Did this final tell a tale of which league is the better of the two?
Liverpool's Steven Gerrard said after Arsenal had overcome Villarreal in last year's Champions League semi-final: "Our league’s getting stronger and stronger all the time - I think you can see that in Europe because each year in the Champions League the English teams are doing better and better. I think certain teams underestimate the strength of the English teams." Good point, successive English sides in the Champions League final before Arsenal and Liverpool include Liverpool twice in '84 & '85 and before that was Liverpool twice, Nottingham Forest twice, Liverpool again then Aston Villa in the years '77 & '78, '79 & '80, '81 and '82 respectively. The Champions League began in 1955 where Real Madrid were the winners every year until 1960. To date Spain have had 11 European Cup winners and 9 runner-ups, England have had 10 winners and 3 runner-ups. Could this tell go some way to determine which league is better?
This is why I agree with Striker that the statement about the EPL being the best, with the added comparison by T of the EPL with La Primera Liga, is irrelevant. The teams in one league can look better than those in another but when one side from either league meet up, only one principle throughout football supersedes all in victory; the winner is the team who scores at least one goal more than the other. The most ardent LFC fan is not concerned with who is better, they are concerned with scoring that one goal more than the opposition, for that is the key to victory, not reputation. I would assume all teams would agree on that last point.
There is a BBC article relevant to this subject: http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/606/A21674586 that may be of interest. Take a look. Perhaps if football were to lose its respective domestic leagues and had an inter-European league involving all European teams (a bizarre notion I admit and not one I would like to see), then perhaps we could establish more.