Everyone is suffering during this trying period COVID-19 has instilled upon us. Fans can’t watch any games, players can’t perform their jobs, and club are losing money at unprecedented rates. The entire world of sport will have to adapt once the virus disappears.
One of the most notable consequences of the virus is the financial aspect of football. As we all know, football is unfortunately ruled and dominated by money, and many clubs are attempting to take extreme measures in order to avoid severe financial loss. Major clubs like Barcelona and Juventus have asked their players to take pay cuts, but these are not the ones we should be worrying about. Lower league sides receive a great percentage of their revenue from ticket sales, and with all games being postponed, they are making none of this money. The big fear is that these smaller clubs will go under and disappear.
When this period comes to an end, big decisions will have to be made. One idea currently floating in conversation amongst top European club officials is the idea of a European Super League. This competition would take the Champions League a step further, by ensuring all teams are of elite caliber. Top clubs wouldn’t participate in their respective country’s leagues, enabling a potential financial reshuffle and fund redistribution. This could potentially save many clubs in lower leagues.
While I worry greatly about these lower league sides, whom deserve the same chance to play club football and run their businesses like top clubs do, I want to take a closer look at what this European Super League (ESL) would look like.
Picture 20 teams, all chosen from the big leagues, similarly to the way the Champions League qualification functions. Clubs from only UEFA’s biggest countries would receive bids. The 20 teams would play a full season, mimicking the home-away fixture setup against every other team. Ideally, the bottom three teams would be relegated, meaning the next best team from the relegated team’s domestic league would be promoted to the ESL for the following season. Based on the 2019-20 tables across Europe, the qualifying teams would be as follows:
From England, the top four: Liverpool, Manchester City, Leicester City, and Chelsea.
From Germany, the top four: Bayern, Dortmund, Leipzig, and Mönchengladbach.
From Spain, the top four (sorry Atletico): Barcelona, Real Madrid, Sevilla, and Real Sociedad.
From Italy, the top four: Juventus, Lazio, Inter Milan, and Atalanta.
From France, the top two: PSG and Marseille.
From the Netherlands, one team: Ajax.
From Portugal, one team: Porto.
How mouth-watering does this look? Would Premier League teams be more cut out for this setup, given the physical and competitive nature of their domestic league? Or would sheer attacking prowess from Atalanta or Leipzig prove to be more effective? After a full season with 38 match days, I predict the table would finish as such, based on every club’s form from this season:
Porto haven’t had the best of seasons, yet find themselves at the top of the Liga NOS table. I don’t think they’d do well in this competition, as they have majorly struggled in the Champions League for the past few seasons.
Despite still playing fun and attractive football for all to watch, Ajax now desperately miss their two young talismans (no not talismen, apparently). They just went out of the Europa League to Getafe, a team that should be worse than them. Ziyech’s departure will hurt them even more given the current downturn they are suffering since last season’s Champions League run.
18. Real Sociedad
In an ESL season, Real Sociedad would provide viewers with entertaining football and potentially a few upsets. Their young core shows great promise, but wouldn’t be good enough to secure them safety in this league that takes no prisoners.
Sevilla would struggle greatly against these big teams consistently. Their older and more experienced core would give them enough stability to keep them just above the relegation zone.
Marseille is a tough one. Part of me wanted to put them in the relegation zone given French clubs’ inability to challenge for any European title this decade. That being said, Marseille are becoming a bigger force in Ligue 1 this year. The pairing of Benedetto and Payet through the middle is dangerous, and their defense is solid enough to guarantee André Villas-Boas (LEGEND) and his side safety.
The other Borussia started this season on flames, and were top of the Bundesliga for almost half the season. Now they trail 2nd place Dortmund by just two points. Their squad is young and exciting, but they concede goals. They won’t finish above the next few teams for just that reason.
Chelsea are curious customers. Having started the season on fire, Lampard’s reign looked like it was in great shape. However, a few hiccups in recent months have led to several lead-blunders and bewildering performances. They have enough quality to stay near the middle, but given what we’ve seen from November – February, they won’t do that well.
Maybe the most exciting side to watch in Europe this year, Atalanta find themselves in fourth in Serie A, and have qualified for the quarter-finals of the Champions League. They have (historically) netted 7 goals on three separate occasions this season. They bring more to the table than Chelsea and Mönchengladbach, but their leaky defense will prevent them from finishing higher.
12. Leicester City
Leicester have seriously found their feet in the Prem this season, leaning upon the midfield trio of Maddison-Tielemans-Ndidi and Vardy’s goal-scoring prowess. They can beat anyone on their best day, but can be thrashed on a bad day. Their squad depth and consistency will see them finish above Atalanta.
Lazio had been in fine form when the COVID-19 suspension hit, and play with the same kind of attacking mentality as Atalanta. Immobile might be the most prolific scorer in Europe right now, and Liverpool rejects Luis Alberto and Lucas Leiva have found new life under Inzaghi. They are better than people think, but won’t finish above bigger teams.
10. Inter Milan
Despite Lazio being in better form in 2020, I still believe Inter have a better spine and setup. Lukaku and Lautaro bang in the goals, while De Vrij, Godin, Skriniar, and Handanovic stop them from coming in. Not too bad.
Dortmund are frustrating. They can beat anyone on their best day, but can crumble easily on any given day. Obviously Haaland’s addition helps the squad tremendously, giving them a dependable goalscorer. With Sancho and Reus by his side, look out. Unfortunately for Dortmund, there are better and more consistent teams in Europe at the moment.
Pushing for Top Four
8. RB Leipzig
Leipzig have been fascinating to watch all season. They impressively held Bayern to a 0-0 draw a few months ago, much to the credit of their young mastermind, Julian Nagelsmann. The team’s core is immensely talented and promising, and can play pretty much any system. Adding a bit more quality at the back and in the middle would push them higher up in these rankings.
This is where it gets extremely tricky. A few seasons ago, Barça would have been champions of this league, without a doubt. These days, they look beatable. Injuries haven’t helped, but Messi’s supporting cast isn’t getting it done like they used to. They might be top of La Liga, but not many teams are scared of them like they used to be.
PSG have added some serious pieces to add depth and quality to their side. The most important, Idrissa Gana Gueye, is everywhere on the pitch. He was crucial in finally getting PSG to the Champions League quarter-finals. Had the season not been suspended, I would have given them a great shot at winning the whole thing. Gaping holes in their team, that usually keep them behind Europe’s top teams, have been covered with band-aids for now.
5. Real Madrid
Despite trailing Barça in La Liga, Madrid have showed that they are now ready for life after Ronaldo. Zidane has played with several systems to play to the strengths of his wide array of top class midfielders. With promising talent being added left and right, Real are ready to rise back to the top.
4. Manchester City
What most might consider a bad season given the past two years’ success, City are now more complete, and deeper than ever. They have two world class players at every position (maybe aside from center back), meaning they are built for this type of competition. A victory at the Bernabeu was excellent for their CV, but they aren’t the cream of the crop yet.
Ronaldo has been in fine form this season, leading the line as Juventus look to roll to another Serie A title. A surprise exit to Ajax last season means they haven’t proved themselves a potential champion yet. That being said, having CR7 in the squad gives them a better chance than most teams.
A team that most would have predicted champions, Liverpool have been in the sort of form we haven’t seen since the greatest team England has ever seen, Arsenal’s ’03-’04 Invincibles. After having looked unbeatable all season, hiccups at Watford and against Atletico Madrid have made them look a little more vulnerable.
After having faltered in the beginning of the season, Bayern haven’t lost a competitive match since December 7th, 2019. The squad seems perfectly assembled to play most systems, and more importantly to compete with anyone. Bayern are younger and more potent than ever before. After a few nail-biters with other contenders, they’d prove to be the best team in Europe.
Don’t like my picks? Let me know what you think on Twitter @TopBinsTalk!