Countless articles have been produced, one after another, linking half of Borussia Dortmund’s squad with a transfer to Arsenal. The irony is obvious in that the English side are chronic underachievers, having failed to win a single piece of silverware for eight years and counting, whereas Borussia Dortmund have already established themselves as a European power in their own right by following up their back-to-back Bundesliga titles and a defiant UEFA Champions League run to the final last season by making the marquee signings of Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang this summer.
Borussia Dortmund are financially sound. They have raised the wages of all their stars and could shell out as much as 27 million euros for a player. The assumption that a team like Arsenal, or any other club in Europe, for that matter, could simply waltz into Germany and cherry pick any player of their liking on Dortmund’s roster reveals a blatant lack of awareness regarding the balance of power on the European landscape.
The grating arrogance of some of the articles written is truly astounding. Ever since the recent marquee signing of Mesut Ozil, Premier League oriented sites have produced countless articles linking Marco Reus and Ilkay Gundogan to Arsenal. Premier League fans may be forgiven for thinking that the entire world wants to play in their league, as the league has been a dominant force in Europe over the last decade. Freedom of outside ownership, endless foreign imports and staggering transfer fees ensure that a large number of marquee names have always been present. However, recent evidence suggests that the ‘best league in the world’ claim is highly questionable.
Premier League sides have performed poorly in Europe recently. Aside from Chelsea’s largely luck-induced Champions league victory in 2012, English sides have largely struggled in Europe. Last season alone there were no English participants in the last eight of the competition. Many have written it off as an aberration, but it could still very well be a sign of things to come. While the Premier League might boast the strongest top four clubs in Europe at least on paper, the European performance of these clubs suggest otherwise; Arsenal and Manchester City have regularly underperformed in Europe.
The Premier League can rightfully claim to be more competitive then La Liga due to its unjust distribution of TV rights and the clear cut dominance of the two El Clasico rivals, but it is questionable to claim that is more competitive than the Bundesliga. The German league has had five different winners over the last decade, and the mid-table sides are notoriously unpredictable and are known to be a nightmare for bookies. However, despite the obvious rise of Borussia Dortmund with their back-to-back title victories, the Bundesliga was recently slated by Premier League blogs and followers as a ‘one-horse league’ with Bayern cantering to the title with a 25 point gap. Many attributed the victory to Bayern’s financial dominance and its ability to ‘cherry pick’ the strongest players from its rivals in order to ‘weaken’ them, rather than acknowledge the excellence of Jupp Heynckes and the strength of the same squad the defeated Barcelona 7-0 on aggregate in the Champions League semifinal tie.
The recent controversial signing of Mario Gotze, which was the result of a release clause and the other signings of Dante and Mandzukic may fuel these superfluous claims. However, the reality is quite different. Bayern have often struggled to get players from their domestic rivals. They failed to sign Arturo Vidal from Leverkusen in 2011 and again failed in their approach for Lars Bender, as Leverkusen doggedly refused to sell to their domestic rivals. Countless other players may be included in this list as German clubs have repeatedly refused to sell to Bayern more often than not.
To criticize Bayern for buying players like Mandzukic, Dante and Gotze from fellow domestic sides as a sign of a weak league and to suggest that the same does not occur in the Premier League is downright ludicrous. Every top-four club in the EPL has signed a generous number of the stars from other English sides. Manchester City acquired Gael Clichy and Samir Nasri from Arsenal while Robin van Persie left Arsenal to join Manchester United. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Theo Walcott were signed from Southampton while players like Rio Ferdinand and countless other English stars were West Ham products. To claim that the Premier League is competitive based on the fact that they don’t poach players from domestic rivals and other domestic sides is just not true.
Germany’s dominance in Europe last year was symbolized with an all-German final that took place in Wembley last season. There is evidence to suggest that the recent trend of German prowess might show no sign of abating. Aside from Dortmund and Bayern, who have strengthened with new signings and have been blessed with arrival of Pep Guardiola respectively, the trend could well continue with the strengthening of Leverkusen and Schalke. The latter have managed to hold on to their key asset in attacking midfielder Julian Draxler this summer and have augmented the squad with the arrival of Kevin-Prince Boateng from AC Milan. Leverkusen have excelled under the guidance of Sami Hyypia and prior to their loss to Schalke last weekend were on an eight game winning streak.
There is a great chance that the Bundesliga could better its stellar performance in Europe last season. With these recent developments, not to mention the highest attendance figures in Europe, best stadium infrastructure, fan culture, atmospheres and ticket prices, emphasis of home-grown talent and youth development in Germany, there is plenty of reason to believe that the Premier League, which is replete with foreign ownership, oil money, influx of foreign imports and neglect of local talent, is no longer ‘best league in the world.’ And it’s title may well be due to hype and excessive marketing more than anything else.