Last week, I gasped after ESPN FC released its latest power rankings composed by former Trinidad and Tobago goalkeeper Shaka Hislop. The video seemed to be the ultimate proof that being a former player does not guarantee being a competent soccer analyst. The list displayed Hislop’s rather comical understanding of the European landscape. His compilation of teams was inundated with Premier League sides in what appeared to be a ranking vaguely based on a combination of spending and Premier league fandom.
The list featured Real Madrid in first, followed by Bayern Munich, Chelsea, Juventus, Barcelona, Manchester City, Manchester United, Paris Saint-Germain, Liverpool and last but not least, Borussia Dortmund. The amusing thing about the list is that there are no consistent criteria as to his selection of teams. On the basis of spending alone, Bayern, PSG, Real Madrid, Barcelona and even Monaco belong high up on the ranking whereas United and Liverpool do not even deserve to be mentioned. But if he was going based on pure merit and recent successes, Bayern and Dortmund should be topping the list while Manchester City, Chelsea and Liverpool have no business even being mentioned. No matter which way you break down his rankings, the only thing that remains consistent is his bias in favor of the Premier League given the unwarranted abundance of English sides. Mentioning Liverpool on the list of top ten teams in Europe based on any criterion was bad enough as it is, but to rank them ahead of Dortmund, who were placed last, was so absurd that it made the list look like a parody of some sort.
Amateur football analysts who devote generous amounts of time following the Premier League and a few Champions League games here and there can be expected to come up with such pieces and rankings. However, this particular compilation showed us all that even former players who are now analysts can be equally atrocious in this role. The piece is also an example of countless such articles that are plagued by misconceptions and inherent prejudices that are in favor of the Premier League. The EPL is indeed a strong league and is collectively without question the league with the most spending power, but one must doubt that it is the best league in terms of quality. While the spending of sides such as Manchester City and Chelsea suggest that they are strong, one still doubts whether their success in spending can be translated onto the pitch. Chelsea enjoyed a rather fortuitous Champions League victory in the 2011-12 season, but put up the worst title defense ever imaginable as they crashed out before Christmas in the following season. Manchester City, despite being bloated by oil money, remain the joke of Europe after consecutive seasons of failure in surviving the group stages. As for Real Madrid, letting go of Mesut Ozil while paying well over the odds for Gareth Bale show that club are more interested in making headlines than actually attempting to address several glaring issues in their squad. The Spanish club continues to succeed in hiding the fact that they have been hugely underwhelming in Europe over the last decade, with a failure to make even a single Champions League final appearance.
Borussia Dortmund on the other hand developed a team that collectively cost less than the move Liverpool made for Andy Carroll, yet ended up playing in the Champions League final after back to back domestic titles in Germany. Last season was no flash in the pan. Despite their loss today against Napoli in the Champions League, Dortmund have not only compensated for the loss of Gotze with the arrival of the prolific Mkhitaryan, but have further augmented their squad with the signing of the speedy and dynamic Pierre-Emerick Aubamayang,, a player who touched Usain Bolt’s sprint time.
Dortmund already sit top of the Bundesliga so far this season and are Champions league favorites again. Klopp has toned down the smash and grab approach of last season and the side are looking far more stable this time around. The comical list compiled by Hislop may come back to haunt him as BVB look more likely to win the Champions League than Real Madrid, PSG or any other Premier League side that has splurged this summer.