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Champions League Debate: Bundesliga Improving or Serie A On The Decline?

Germany winning the coefficient battle against Italian counterparts.

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The UEFA Association coefficient, or ‘league coefficient’, is calculated each year by UEFA and determines the number of places in continental competition for each league. This year has seen the rise of the German League into third spot, forcing the position of Serie A down to 4th. If these provisional coefficients are the same come the end of the season, then the Bundesliga will have 4 teams entered into the Champions League, along with England and Spain, while Italy will only have 3. These changes will come into action for the 2012/13 season.

For years the Italian League has provided teams that have been a force to be reckoned with, such as Carlo Ancelotti’s Milan, Jose Mourinho’s Inter as well as Lazio. From the 1989 Champions League final to the 1998 Final, only one in 1991 did not have an Italian team in. During the same period only one German team was involved in the final, being the Borussia Dortmund winners of 1997. Since this golden period, it seems that a lack of depth in quality teams provided from the Serie A has seen it fall behind the Germans. The domestic league has a handful of quality teams, continually competing for top spot, while the rest of the league remains streets behind.

Whereas in the Bundesliga, despite Bayern Munich’s dominance, the rest of the league is highly competitive and provides differing teams for qualification each year. Juventus used to be a formidable team to face in the competition but have fallen away in recent years. They have tried to keep a core to the team, with Buffon and Del Piero but have struggled to return to their heights of the 90’s after their forced relegation in 2006. Roma were notorious runners-up from 2000-10 and while doing OK in the Champions League, they have never really been serious contenders for the European Title.

Italy has supplied the joint most winners of the Champions League, twice as many as the 6 German winners. They have also supplied the most winners of the Europa League/Uefa Cup at 9. It is a league with so much heritage which has been host to many of the World’s greatest players such as Ronaldo, Maradona and Zidane. Does Italy deserve to lose it’s place among Europe’s elite?

The Bundesliga is far more entertaining to watch than the Italian League with so much more competition. Germany gains its place in the coefficients due to it’s performance over the past 5 years in competition on the continent. It seems harsh when Italy came out on top in last years Champions League, as Inter Milan beat Bayern Munich . Bayern would still have a tough game against Inter or Milan, but would arguably stand a good chance against Juve or Roma.

As you move down the tables, comparing teams, It could be argued that the German league is stronger. To be fair, the German’s haven’t really had a fantastic record in European Competition in the past few years in terms of winning. But they do always seem to have a couple of clubs near the end of the competitions. On this basis it does show the improved quality of the German League, while not a decline in the Italian League, but definitely an increase in the gulf in class within Serie A.

The coefficients don’t lie and over the last 5 years the German clubs have certainly been far more impressive. It will be interesting to see how German clubs will fair in the tournaments to come if they maintain the 3rd spot in the coefficients. It is a shame that having such a fantastic history, the Italian league is having it’s 4th Champions League spot taken away for now.

This is not to say that it will be final. Italian teams may come strong this year and take the 3rd spot back. Serie A does not boast the same amount of quality that it did in the 90s and now the Bundesliga has capitalised on that. It will certainly bring an interesting dynamic next year, as the 4th Italian team, Sampdoria, failed to qualify this year. However, qualifying through this route has become more difficult due to Platini’s reforms meaning that teams from the top countries face each other in the qualification rounds. I think there is a bit of both aspects in this change to the European game. The German league is certainly improving in depth and quality, whilst the Italian quality has remained the same, but the same level of depth just isn’t there.

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