Germany and France rise, England and Spain fall in football power exchange

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When the final whistle sounded at the Estadio Jose Alvalade in Lisbon on Saturday August 15, it didn’t just end a quarter-final – it ended a quarter-century.Lyon’s 3-1 Champions League win over Manchester City brought down the curtain on a 23-year domination of Europe’s premier football competition by Spanish and English clubs – and confirmed Germany’s rise to power and France in their place.

With two representatives each in the semi-finals, which will take place Tuesday and Wednesday in Lisbon, the German Bundesliga and French Ligue 1 can rightly claim continental preeminence in perhaps the most lucrative spectator sport on the planet. Meanwhile, neither the English Premier League nor the Spanish Liga will have a squad among the four European finalists, for the first time since 1996.

The established power bases of European football

It may seem premature or reckless to fire teams from England and Spain: after all, those nations have provided 10 of the last 12 Champions League winners. But the breakdown of semi-finalists since the 1990s reorganization of the European Cup into the Champions League tells an interesting story.

First, a note of explanation. Based on a coefficient analyzing their teams’ performance in recent seasons, some leagues provide more than one team – up to four in some cases. Naturally, this increases the chances of strong leagues to dominate the competition, although the selection of additional teams from a given country gives rise to the old joke that the Champions League is neither a league nor just for champions. .

Spain, England, Germany and Italy are the countries currently allowed with four participants each. Between them, in the 27 seasons from 1993/94 to today, the quartet have provided 90 of 108 semi-finalists – more than three out of four on average each year.

Spain alone provided almost 30 percent of the semi-finalists. This is the first time since 2007 that La Liga have not had a representative in the last four. The country’s two big traditional teams, Barcelona and Real Madrid, are either under reconstruction or in dire need of it. Barcelona surprisingly lost 8-2 to Bayern Munich on Thursday, the club’s biggest loss since 1946.

England falls as Germany rises

The English Premier League is the second largest supplier of semi-finalists, with 24. English clubs have not always been around and often struggle to combine continental campaigns with a competitive domestic league.

Although the Premier League provided the two finalists last season – Liverpool and Tottenham – it was the first time in a decade that England had multiple representatives in the semi-finals. Following dominance from 2007 to 2009, when the Premier League provided three of the four semi-finalists for three successive seasons, it shows how success can switch between leagues.

The last decade also reflects the rise of German football. Even before this season’s results, the Bundesliga had provided more semi-finalists since 2010 (nine) than the Premier League (seven). True, seven of those nine were Bayern Munich, the Bavarian superclub that has now won eight successive Bundesliga titles, but this level of consistency is a marked change from the previous decade: from 2003 to 2009, no German team has reached the semi-finals at all.

Italy is losing, but who will replace it?

Part of this temporary shortage for Germany in the first decade of this century was the presence of the fourth and last traditional Champions League superpower. Italian Serie A has 16 semi-finalists, just behind Germany 18.

In 2003, Italy provided three of the last four, but it was sort of a final hurray for a league that was unmistakably Europe’s top destination in the 1980s and early 1990s. With just four semi-finalists over the past 13 seasons, Serie A has been somewhat sidelined from top European club football.

The question is who could replace him, and France currently seems likely. Not only are the national team currently world champions (and favorites for the delayed European Championships), but Paris St-Germain seem to finally realize their owners’ ambition to be part of the top table in Europe.

With money from Qatar, the PSG team includes the two most expensive players in football history: Brazilian Neymar, prized from Barcelona in a game-changing deal valued at half a billion dollars , and the brilliant young French striker Kylian Mbappe. The club have won seven of the last eight Ligue 1 titles, often by a country mile, but only reached the Champions League semi-finals this year.

There, they will face another rising power: the German RB Leipzig, created barely 11 years ago and which has skyrocketed since. Those fig leaf initials barely hide the power behind the thrust. The club is wholly owned and funded by energy drink maker Red Bull, and with Europe’s brightest young coach Julian Nagelsmann – a tender 33-year-old but already coveted by superclubs – in charge, Leipzig may well strike. the arms of PSG in a fascinating confrontation between two extremely ambitious organizations.

This ambition demonstrates that football is always a sport capable of change, no matter how much traditionally powerful clubs attempt to maintain the status quo. It will be an evolution rather than a revolution – after all, the same six countries have provided all the semi-finalists over the past 16 seasons – but the rise of new clubs suggests that the centers of power in European football may be. -be in motion.

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