Football is a global sport, not just because it is played in over 200 countries but for the way it transcends boundaries, culture, and social disparity and connects the world through a fabric of emotions. From experiencing the jubilation of a goal following a sequence of mesmerizing play to the heartbreak of a disappointing loss, fans across the globe tune in to watch their favorite players in action playing in the most competitive leagues in the world.
However, opinions tend to get divided when the discussion extends to determining the best football leagues in the world. If you throw up the question now, perhaps the answer would be a resounding nod in unison to the German Bundesliga, being the only league which is back in action to provide us with our weekly dose of football (unless, of course, you are a fan of or have been following the Belarusian Premier League, which remained active through these troubled times).
European leagues have always attracted the best football talents ever since the game has been globalized for a multitude of reasons – better media exposure, a chance to shoulder push (pun intended!) the best in business, and of course, the money. It is, thus, no wonder that the leagues there are considered the most competitive. Apart from their local fans, leagues in England, Spain, and Germany can boast of a dedicated following sprawling across continents. Let’s take an insight into the top leagues in the world as we await their restart.
1. ENGLISH PREMIER LEAGUE (EPL)
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The English Premier League, synonymous with the lion in its logo, declares itself at the pinnacle of club football. It is considered the most exciting league for viewers, with fast paced end-to-end game style, offering a perfect mix of technical play along with the physicality needed for a contact sport like football. Unless one has been living under a rock, it’s unfathomable not having heard the name of a premier league club before.
In recent times, the league has been a witness to a titanic clash at the top for the title, with both Liverpool and Manchester City redefining brilliance, coached by two managers considered the best in their trade. The fabled matches featuring the ‘Big Six’, the resurgence of fallen giants like Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal, and the fairytale championship-winning campaign of unfancied Leicester City are the hallmark of what makes this league special. What makes the league unique is the level of competitiveness with many smaller teams capable of punching above their weights with the likes of Wolves, Crystal Palace and Everton.
Perhaps, the only negative, amidst the enormous pressure to get rapid results and the big money signings being made by clubs, is that the focus on nurturing young talents takes a backseat. Yet with spectacular goals, appealing tv broadcast, and unlimited media attention – if one needs to introduce football to the uninitiated, the Premier League is the ideal ambassador.
2. SPANISH LA LIGA
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It's not football. It's LaLiga!
Perhaps all of us have echoed the sentiment of the little Asian kid in the La Liga ad at some point in our lives, captivated by the technically beautiful football on display (despite the horrendous and almost criminal, zoomed out telecast). Not considered as fast-paced or direct as the Premier League, La Liga is hailed as the hub of education for footballers looking to improve the technical aspect of their game and control on the ball. Possession based football, a quick build-up with fast counter-attacking style, or tactics built on the foundation of a resolute defence, there’s a flavor available to suit every taste.
The league is the home to ‘El Clasico’, a rivalry of epic proportions between Barcelona and Real Madrid which divides the world into ‘All Whites’ and the ‘Blaugranas’.The duo and Atletico Madrid form the elites of the league, often engaging in a three-horse race at the top while the other teams are left to scramble for the remaining positions due to the disparity in incomes, leading to the forced motivation to promote talents in the teams’ youth academies or make shrewd buys in the transfer market. Despite being unable to sustain their challenge throughout the campaign of the long season, the relatively smaller teams with the likes of Sevilla, Valencia, Real Sociedad, and Real Betis have enough quality to cause an upset against the ‘Big Three’ on direct encounters. For the fans, the league is the home for the purists of the game (but still needs to improve the camera angles and tone of the telecast).
3. BUNDESLIGA (GERMANY)
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Efficiency, that’s the word that one would associate with a German-manufactured product. Their football is no different. Beyond the glamour and glitz of the Premier League and La Liga, Germany’s Bundesliga is often overlooked despite being one of the most hotly contested championships.
Though dominated in recent years by Bayern Munich, their road ahead isn’t a path of roses, evident from the current league campaign which is being fiercely contested with almost 4 teams in contention for the title. Teams like Borussia Dortmund, RB Leipzig, and Borussia Mönchengladbach have invested heavily in youth, at a player as well as managerial level, and are buoyed by their energy and desire to make a mark on the footballing scene. With the likes of Sancho, Haaland, Kimmich, Gnabry, Werner, and Thuram setting the field alight, it’s not a big leap to presume that the next big thing in football would be a contribution of the Bundesliga. For a player at the dawn of his career, the Bundesliga provides better adaptability with a more adventurous style of play and lesser focus on individualistic brilliance.
While the high pressing and quick tempo football have resulted in an astonishing rate of 3.25 goals per game, Bundesliga is also famous for its intimidating home support.
4. ITALIAN SERIE A
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If football would have been a Harry Potter saga, the Serie A would have suited the character of Fawkes, rising from the ashes of obscurity due to a lack of challenge to the throne despite its top team featuring in the finals of the Champions League twice in recent seasons. The signing of Cristiano Ronaldo by Juventus brought back the much-needed spotlight on the Italian league and although Juventus has been dominating the league almost unchallenged since the turn of the decade, that is set to change with the return of Antonio Conte (who kick-started the Juventus domination) to Italy at Inter and the rise of Lazio under Simone Inzaghi, brother of legendary Milan striker Filippo, resulting in a nail-biting title race.
With most teams in the league built on the famed rock-solid Italian defences, the football can feel slow and dull, but the games are measured and tactical and rise of free-scoring mavericks Atalanta (with four 5+ goals victories in the league) has recaptured imagination. The league fares much better in talent development lately as young Italians form the backbone of most teams in the league.
5. LIGUE 1 (FRANCE)
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Often erroneously discredit as a farmers’ league, Ligue 1 suffers from the same malaise as Serie A with one team ruling the roost. Albeit a single season when Monaco triumphed, PSG has claimed 7 titles in the last 8 years, fueled by the Qatari oil money. However, often overlooked is the fact that it is the route into European football for many young African and South American footballers, who bring with them a certain flair and athleticism to the game. While also attracting talents from lower leagues across Europe. Many young talents have honed their skill in Ligue 1 before moving a level upwards to England or Spain. Despite playing attractive football, the lack of competition often hinders French clubs on the continental stage where they face greater challenges.
6. EREDIVISIE (NETHERLANDS)
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Established in 1954, parallel to an existing league until their merger later, the Eredivisie is another plethora of young European talents. Though Feyenoord and PSV are a regular in the continental stage, Ajax is the dominant force in the league. After all, who can forget their giant-killing run to the Champions League semifinals in 2019?
7. PORTUGESE PRIMIERA LIGA
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Known to the world for producing sensational talents like Cristiano Ronaldo and Joao Felix, the Primeira Liga is the home to ‘Os Três Grandes’, the three most powerful football clubs in Portugal - Porto, Benfica and Sporting CP, regulars in the Champions League and Europa League. The league has not only produced talented players but has also given managers like Jose Mourinho and Marco Silva their initial gory.
8. SUPERLIGA ARGENTINA
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The rivalry between Brazil and Argentina isn’t just restricted to their national teams, it extends to their respective leagues as well with both vying to claim the mantle of the best league in South America. The league was in news recently for the intense rivalry between its two clubs, River Plate and Boca Juniors, which forced the second leg of the continental cup final to be played in Spain due to fan violence marring the original fixture.
9. BRASILEIRO SERIE A
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Brazil has always been known to produce footballers with flair, who redefine the game. With regulations prohibiting European clubs to snap up overseas talents younger than 18 years of age, the league serves are the first stage for future superstars to exhibit their talent to the world. Having produced talents like Neymar, Alison, and Vinicius, the league is the most-watched league in South America showcasing fierce competition.
10. MLS (USA)
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In a country where football itself is called by a pseudo name, soccer, the MLS has come a long way since David Beckham gave it its first dose of fame. Though viewed as a retirement league for aging stars, the truth is MLS has provided a platform for aspiring young footballers (yes, we will still call it football!) to compete and learn from the best talents in the game. For a brief period, this was also the home for our Indian national team captain, Sunil Chhetri.
Football is a game driven by emotions and for that sole reason, the topic of evaluating the best league in the world in subjective terms like playing styles and popularity often leads to conflicting answers. If one asks fans for their opinion, they would identify with the style closer to their heart and support a team or league which identifies with their idea of playing football and upholds the values they idolize or holds any geographical importance to them. However, without denying that some leagues are a class above the rest in terms of the level of football on display, the beautiful game is embracing enough of all its variations on display, with a reach far beyond the boundaries that serve to divide.
This is our list of the top 10 best football leagues in the world.
- ENGLISH PREMEIR LEAGUE (EPL)
- SPANISH LA LIGA
- BUNDESLIGA (GERMANY)
- ITALIAN SERIE A
- LIGUE 1 (FRANCE)
- EREDIVIDIE (NETHERLANDS)
- PORTUGESE PRIMIERA LIGA
- SUPERLIGA ARGENTINA
- BRASILEIRO SERIE A
- MLS (USA)
- By Gaurav Mishra