The Premier League may have long considered itself to be the leading football league in the world; able to effortlessly attract any of the best talents while casting a watchful eye over it’s shoulder at the chasing pack from Spain and Italy. What it may have missed, however, is the prominent arrival into the eye of the neutral of a league which combines all the best characteristics of each of those leagues and could quickly overtake what England has to become the best football product in Europe.
In the past five years the Bundesliga has had four different champions, offered a number of surprise packages competing for European places and continues to boast one of the most impressive youth production lines in European football. 18 clubs contesting in a league which has one of the most unorthodox titles of all the leading football nations: a shield rather than a cup, and perhaps an accurate representation of just how unique this league is. Certainly something to admire from the other leagues who consider themselves to be of the elite but who have their own glaring shortcomings.
One of German football’s most impressive offerings are its stadiums, atmosphere and fan and player interaction. The wages, huge transfer fees and a sometimes underserved sense of importance among footballers has created a huge chasm between them and supporters in England. Atmosphere in many grounds around the country have suffered greatly for one reason or another and Premier League clubs—no matter where they’re placed in the league—can often struggle to sell out their grounds on a match day. But rather than just being a football match, there is a real sense of a party atmosphere at Bundesliga stadiums, with colourful backgrounds from shirts, flags, and anything else that may be brought into the grounds. Not forgetting the hugely impressive standing terraces at Borussia Dortmund’s Signul Iduna Park. The Premier League and specifically Liverpool love to talk up the magic of the Kop End at Anfield, but I’ve yet to see something more impressive in a major European league than the standing terraces at Dortmund. FC Koln, who finished last season in 10th place in the league and only gained promotion back into the top division in 2008 can boast the impressive 50,000 seat RheinEnergieStadion; bigger than Stamford Bridge, Anfield and White Hart Lane.
The German national team has benefited greatly from the regular emergence of quality in youth in recent years. Sebastian Deisler was going to be the next big product of Germany football in the early 2000s, only to retire early due to injury; Lukas Podolski struggled to make a meaningful impact at Bayern Munich and eventually returned to FC Koln; and Bastian Schweinsteiger has only in the last few seasons found his niche in the middle of the pitch from his former stomping ground on the wing. The assembly line, however, has since gone into overdrive with players such as Mesut Ozil, Thomas Muller, Mario Gotze, Holgar Badstuber and Mats Hummels finding their way into the national side. There has incredibly been no shortage of goalkeepers either, as Manuel Neuer picked up his big move to Bayern in the summer and established himself as Germany’s No.1 at the last World Cup; and we’ve seen Bayer Leverkusen snap up Bernd Leno from Stuttgart—an exceptionally promising ‘keeper—as well as Ron Robert Zieler and Marc-Andre ter Stegen receiving deserved praise.
The Bundesliga hardly ever fails to pull surprises and excitement out of the hat. Just after their winter break Borussia Monchengladbach welcomed Bayern Munich to Borussia Park: a match which Bayern needed to win to remain firmly ahead of defending champions Dortmund, and one which Gladbach needed to further cement a place in the Champions League. With much talk surrounding the recent snub to Bayern by Marco Reus, it was the future Dortmund player who capitalized on another Manuel Neuer mistake. The team who just escaped relegation last season had now done the double over Bayern in the league, finishing with a 3-1 victory and a brace from another rising star Patrick Herrmann.
The fascination surrounding the Bundesliga is greatly warranted. A league so rich in genuine enthusiasm for the game and players who draw their performances through the exuberance from those in the stands. Offering a variety almost every season with newcomers—both clubs and players—catching the imagination. Recent champions Wolfsburg have found difficulty in replicating the form that took them to the league title with Edin Dzeko and Grafite as their forwards, dropping off in much the same way Stuttgart have done; and the eye-opening run Hoffenheim went on a number of seasons ago to find themselves at the top of the table going into the winter break has been replaced by similar feat in Lucian Favre’s side at Gladbach.
German football has taken the best elements from the other top leagues and found a perfect balance in presenting an exciting and varying product each year. It surely won’t be too long before German football takes it’s place as one of the leading, if not, the leading football league in Europe.