Those of us living in the USA generally have to look abroad for good association football coverage. This is even more true when you’re following a team or league outside of the English-speaking world. Our biggest newspapers and sports web-sites will dutifully report the scores of a big game, but usually don’t perform any deep analysis or interviewing. So it’s always a nice surprise to see Karl-Heinz Rumenigge quoted in the sports page of the New York Times.
The article is only a brief two pages, if you feel like reading it. It’s follows a strange sort of path, first talking about KHR’s role and Bayern’s place on the German stage; then discussing the FIFA-mandated international break; then addresses the possibility of a “Super League” featuring only the biggest and best European clubs; then back to the international break, but this time with the author agreeing with FIFA (seriously, it’s a pretty rambling article). Prominently mentioned is AC Milan owner Silvio Berlusconi’s old idea for a league that would combine the best clubs from across Europe. This would not be a Champions League-style tournament, in which clubs play UEFA-wide games in the mid-week and domestic games on the weekend; rather, the hope/fear is that the biggest clubs could generate massive amounts of revenue by forming a full-time league with each other, and also be in a position to refuse FIFA’s demands for an international break.
As the Times article is quick to point out, plans for such a Super League have been thrown around for years and never gone anywhere. Personally, I love Bundesliga fuβball, and I think the combination of domestic play and a UEFA-wide tournament beats anything that a Super League could put together by itself. But it is an interesting idea even if only imaginary. The article mentions the old G-14 group (which started with 14 clubs, later expanded to 18, then merged into the bigger European Club Association). Before it disbanded, the 18 members of the group were as follows (in no particular order):
- FC Bayern
- BvB Dortmund
- Bayer Leverkusen
- Real Madrid
- Man U
- AC Milan
- Inter Milan
- Olympique Lyon
- PSV Eindhoven
If a new Super League were to be formed, all 18 of these would probably make the cut (although neither Porto nor PSV has looked great in recent years). If they were to expand to 20 clubs, they could have the same number as the Premier League, and if they went to 24, they could have the same number as the nPower Championship (or could break into 6 groups of 4, if they wanted to do group-play style). Additions to the above 18 would probably include Chelsea, Manchester City, AS Roma, maybe Werder Bremen, maybe Tottenham, maybe Benfica, maybe Sevilla, maybe Villareal … and a few others would be in contention. Wolfsburg doesn’t have a long history of trophy-winning, but their recent success and their affiliation with WV would help. Lazio would maybe be in the running. Schalke and Stuttgart could make an argument. Maybe Lille?
Anyway, this idea has been discussed for percolating for years, and it doesn’t seem like it has enough support to go anywhere. It’s just interesting to consider who would make the cut if they pulled only the best 20 teams, if they pulled only the best 25, only the best 30, etc. There are maybe 9 or 10 clubs, like Bayern, who would obviously have to be a part of any Super League. But once you get into the high teens, you could make an argument for any number of teams. Would a club with a ton of money and recent success beat out a club with a long list of trophies that has fallen off in recent years? Would a club with massive debts find it harder to crack the Super League, even if they had some of the world’s best players? And what would the world look like for the 7 to 10 pretty large clubs that didn't make the cut?
In the mean time, we’ll stick with the Bundesliga, which kicks off this weekend. We’ll be back later this week with a look ahead at Bayern’s match-up with ‘Gladbach, and a brief preview of the whole slate of games. Thanks for reading.