Is Higuain Deal A Sign Of Trouble For UEFA?

Juventus just acquired striker Gonzalo Higuain from Napoli for a reported 90 million Euros ($98.9 million). This acquisition takes Juventus into the conversation of Europe’s elite soccer teams giving them an elite goal scorer who found the net 36 times in 35 league appearances from Napoli last season. Even if Paul Pogba is sold to Manchester United as expected, Juventus is still the best team in Italy’s Serie A by far. Juventus has won the last five league trophies.

This presents a problem for European soccer where there are at least two, if not three, of the top leagues where the winner is almost guaranteed before the season starts. The five top European leagues are: England’s Premier League, Spain’s La Liga, Italy’s Serie A, Germany’s Bundesliga and France’s Ligue 1. You can essentially say Italy, France and Germany are over before they start due to one team being substantially better than the rest of the league.

Zaltan Ibrahimovic hoisting the Ligue 1 trophy in 2016. Image courtesy of m.ligue1.com

In France, Paris Saint-Germain won the league last year with eight games to go, and has won the last four league trophies. They won the league on March 13 and their last league match was May 14. The only player of importance they lost is Zaltan Ibrahimovic to Manchester United in Engalnd. They have signed four players who can strengthen their midfield and defense, while letting Edinson Cavani return to his natural striking position, rather than playing out wide to allow Ibrahimovic to play striker.

The German Bundesliga is the other league where parity is not an option, with Bayern Munich winning the last four league trophies as well. Bayern has had a tradition of bringing in the best players and doing well in the Champions League where there is an incredible amount of money for teams that do well as Bayern has in the last three years by making the semi-finals and winning it in 2013. Using this money and proven ability to win trophies they have brought in Mats Hummels from their closest domestic rival Borussia Dortmund and Euro 2016 top young player Renato Sanches. This all but guarantees that they will win the league title this season as well.

Bayern Munich during their Bundesliga trophy celebration in 2016. Photo courtesy of thesun.co.uk.

The problem for European soccer is that only two domestic competitions are really worth watching if you are a neutral fan. Spain has three teams who can win the title in Atletico Madrid, Barcalenona and Real Madrid, while England has Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottemham who can all compete without even mentioning the reigning champions Leicester City.

UEFA, the ruling body for European soccer, probably does not care about not having parity since their big money maker, the Champions League, gets huge international ratings from having the same teams make it in every year and go far into the tournament, but it can’t be good for the game as a whole to have 19 teams in a league all fighting for second place. That kills the spirit of competition and makes fans from outside those few top clubs lose interest over the long haul. If fans lose interest in their country’s competition they could decide to pick a team in a more competitive county and only watch them.

Southampton vs. West Ham United, the match that outdrew Bayern Munich vs. Bayer Leverkusen. Photo courtesy of mirror.co.uk.

This has already happened in the US with more people watching a midtable match in England over the German champions playing a top four team last season. People would rather watch a match that would have no impact on the title race instead of Bayern Munich. Now, even though this is taken from the Bundesliga’s first season being broadcast in the U.S. there should still be a bigger audience. While average match attendance is better in Germany than in England the worldwide TV audience is much higher for England, due many teams having to compete every season. England also has a TV revenue of over four times that of Germany.

UEFA and the rest of the top European soccer nations have to take notice and figure out a way to get their other leagues more competitive before the international fan base forgets that the leagues are there other than the few days a year when a champion is announced.

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