Goal.com's Gregory Sica asks which will be the world's best league this season?
With the world's four best players -- Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Kaka -- playing for its clubs, now more than ever is it appropriate to call La Liga the league of the stars. Overall it is the most competitive league in Europe, and it is where reigning European champions Barcelona play. This season promises to be one of the most exciting in history because of the record-breaking purchases made by Real Madrid and Barcelona. The fact that teams like Atletico Madrid and Valencia have managed to hold onto their stars is also encouraging.
Due to the end-to-end style of football adopted by the teams in the Premier League it is widely considered the most exciting league in Europe. It has been the most popular league in recent years, but this season it could be surpassed by Spain's La Liga which has stolen its biggest star. One problem with the league is that the top four are much superior to the rest, and this is in clear evidence on the football field. But if other clubs like Manchester City can begin to challenge for the title it would be even better for the league's already exceptional image.
Serie A has lost a great deal of prestige over the years, not only because of lower attendances and match-fixing scandals, but because most of its teams lack big stars. The quality on hand continues to be of a high standard, but it surely isn't what it used to be. The fact that Inter Milan have won four straight championships doesn't do the league any favours. And this season the only team capable of beating Inter to the title are expected to be Juventus, who have been reinforced with plenty of quality. But it is fair to say that Italian football is in much need of a face-lift.
Unless it begins to sign the best players in the world the Bundesliga will continue to be the 'fourth' best league in the world. There is heaps of potential in the Bundesliga but the best players from around the world prefer to play in England, Spain or Italy instead. A good sign for the league, however, is that Bayern Munich have recently had more competition than usual and now can't afford to slack off if they want to be German champions.
After seven years of total domination from Olympique Lyon, Bordeaux finally put an end to their sensational run last season and became the French champions. This was good news for French football, because the fact that Lyon aren't up there with Europe's top clubs despite their domestic dominance takes some prestige from the league. Otherwise the competition is very strong and several exciting players emerge from the league each year.
Since the inception of the league three clubs have taken complete control. FC Porto, Benfica and Sporting Lisbon have had little competition over the years and have pretty much had to fight between each other. From the three only Porto have made some noise in recent editions of the Champions League, and this has also affected the league. In recent years the big three have made some very important signings, and although this is positive news for the league it further reduces the chances of the smaller clubs.
Even if it isn't very popular around the world, the Russian league has immense potential. Although dominated by Spartak Moscow for a long time, in recent years a few other teams have emerged. The level of competitiveness has grown, with the last two championships having been won by teams who had never won the league before. If more quality players were to emigrate to the country the level of football would surely improve. But the freezing climate of the country means many talented foreigners -- particularly Brazilians and Argentines -- fail to adapt and immediately move elsewhere.
This is where many of the world's biggest stars develop before heading to Europe, including Kaka, Robinho, Ronaldinho and Diego. Still today heaps of amazing players keep emerging from the league, but the fact that they are constantly sold to European clubs for high transfer fees affects the quality on display. With so many "big" teams it is strange that Sao Paulo have managed to win three successive championships. In recent years the league has picked up in terms of quality and this is much in part to the influx of talented foreigners. The return of accomplished superstars like Ronaldo and Adriano has given the league more global exposure this season.
Regarded by the local press as the "most competitive" league in the world because each season there is a new winner, the Argentine league is up there with the world's best in terms of excitement. In recent years smaller clubs have broken the domination of Boca and River and this has greatly benefited the league. But this is due to the effects of the economical crisis on the country, as the top clubs have been forced to sell their best players, and often the smaller clubs would rather stick onto their stars rather than sell them to the big guns for relatively low fees. Argentine football fans are arguably the most passionate in the world, but their passion is often translated into violence.
North & Central America
Visually the Mexican league compares to Europe's top leagues for the colour in the stands and its impressive stadiums. It is also a very competitive league, mainly because of the fact that it is the richest league of the Americas and it can attract some of South America's best players. But what lowers the credibility of the league is that Mexican teams have struggled to rake up international titles in such tournaments like the Copa Libertadores and the Copa Sudamericana. They have also been a huge disappointment in the Club World Cup.
Goal.com asks: Which will be the world's best league this season? Which leagues are getting stronger and which are getting weaker? Rank the top.10 leagues in order of preference...
Gregory Sica, Goal.com