When Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund met in the Champions League final of 2012-13, it seemed to hail a period of German dominance of football but, though Joachim Low’s side would go on and win the World Cup, La Liga wrestled club bragging rights back for one campaign at least.
Real Madrid claimed an unprecedented 10th European crown, fending off the challenge of city-rivals Atletico in the final. With Sevilla winning the Europa League and Barcelona still commanding some of the best players in the world, it is little surprise that it is the Spanish challenge that therefore dominates the Goal 50 with 12 entrants.
The wealth of the Clasico pair ensures that they are able to consistently sign the world’s best players and this is reflected in the appearances of Gareth Bale and Neymar, whose existence in this list is admittedly aided as much by his international form as his somewhat underwhelming first campaign at Camp Nou. And this pair will again have a strong contingent next term, with Madrid’s capture of James Rodriguez and Toni Kroos, and the Catalans’ signings of Luis Suarez and Ivan Rakitic underlining their draw.
On the flip side, Atletico Madrid’s remarkable campaign has seen their squad pillaged. In one of the most stunning upsets in recent times, Diego Simeone’s men became Spanish champions and reached the Champions League final, though their inability to match Europe’s big clubs economically has seen Diego Costa and Felipe Luis both depart to Chelsea.
Despite losing Kroos, German powerhouse Bayern Munich are one club that stars are currently gravitating to, although their approach to the transfer market is typically to sign the best domestic talent. Their dominance in the Bundesliga, which they won last season by shattering several records, is underlined by the fact that five players from their ranks have made the cut for this elite list. This was a tally no other side could match.
|THE BIG BOYS | Europe's top leagues boast three or more entrants|
|Gareth Bale||Mats Hummels||Eden Hazard||Juan Cuadrado||Serge Aurier|
|Diego Costa||Toni Kroos||Aaron Ramsey||Gervinho||Vincent Enyeama|
|Thibaut Courtois||Philipp Lahm||David Silva||Ciro Immobile||Zlatan Ibrahimovic|
|Angel Di Maria||Robert Lewandowski||Luis Suarez||Miralem Pjanic||Blaise Matuidi|
|Diego Godin||Thomas Muller||Yaya Toure||Paul Pogba||James Rodriguez|
|Javier Mascherano||Manuel Neuer||Robin van Persie||Arturo Vidal|
|Lionel Messi||Marco Reus|
|Keylor Navas||Arjen Robben|
Bayern boast four World Cup winners, all of whom have made the list, while Arjen Robben was the key figure as Netherlands finished third. The Bavarians were unparalleled in terms of the positive impact their players had in South America. The ease with which they won a second straight German crown was underlined by the fact that only Borussia Dortmund otherwise have players in the Goal 50, one of whom (Robert Lewandowski) has since transferred to Bayern.
So only one year after the Bundesliga was hailed as the future powerhouse of the European game, its status has already been thrown into doubt by the hegemony of a Bayern side that no other team can hope to compete with currently on a financial basis.
Nevertheless, the Bundesliga remains second behind La Liga in terms of participants in the Goal 50, besting both the Premier League and Serie A, which mustered six each.
England’s top flight suffered from the poor performance of its Champions League participants. Manchester United could only reach the quarter finals of the competition and failed horribly under David Moyes domestically, while neighbours City once more flopped in Europe - though the stellar efforts of Yaya Toure and David Silva undeniably merited a place in this list.
Arsenal were one of Bayern’s victims in the Champions League, but their season was most notable for the stunning return to form of Aaron Ramsey. Nevertheless, Arsene Wenger’s notoriously prudent approach in the transfer market saw only one big-money addition, Mesut Ozil, who failed to live up to expectations and thus missed out on the Goal 50.
Chelsea fared better in Europe, reaching the semi-finals in an unconvincing style, yet they would never live up to their potential and contributed only Eden Hazard to this list.
While it is reasonable to expect the Premier League to recover over the course of the next 12 months, in Italy there is the potential that top players will be lured away.
Arturo Vidal, Juan Cuadrado and Paul Pogba have all been associated with transfers, while Ciro Immobile – the only Italian on this list – has already gone to Dortmund. Miralem Pjanic has given assurances to Roma that he will not depart, while Gervinho is a favourite of coach Rudi Garcia. Nevertheless, it seems that Serie A will be seeking fresh superstars over the course of the next year.
And perhaps a new generation is just what Italy’s top flight needs as big clubs such as Milan and Inter progress through transitional periods, leaving only Juventus consistently competitive at the very top level.
|BEST OF THE REST | The entrants from other leagues
|Greece||Joel Campbell||Portugal||Enzo Perez||Netherlands||Daley Blind|
|Turkey||Caner Erkin||Mexico||Rafa Marquez||Brazil||Charles Aranguiz|
|Qatar||Nadir Belhadj||UAE||Asamoah Gyan||South Korea||Kim Shin-Wook|
|Japan||Yoshitu Okubo||USA||M.Besler, T.Cahill||Tunisia||Abdel'ene Djabou|
In France, meanwhile, moneyed clubs continue to largely dominate – PSG and Monaco account for three of the league’s five representatives.
While Lyon and Marseille, two traditional giants in France, struggle with financial problems, there continues to be a strong youth ethic, of which Toulouse’s Serge Aurier’s presence is testimony to – although he has been snapped up by PSG already this summer.
Elsewhere, the highest ranked player from outside of Spain, Germany, England, Italy or France was Joel Campbell of Olympiakos in 31st place. This demonstrates the dominance of just a handful of leagues in today's football. The championships in Greece, Portugal, Netherlands, Turkey, Brazil, Mexico, United Arab Emirates, Tunisia, Japan, South Korea, and Qatar all provide just one player in the Goal 50, America's Major League Soccer is represented by two names.
Click HERE to see the full list for the 2014 Goal 50
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