How English soccer clubs manage to reign supreme in Europe

June 13, 2019 17:40
Liverpool's team bus travels past fans during a parade in Liverpool, UK on June 2. Photo: Action Images via Reuters

This year, English soccer clubs made history by taking all the four places in the UEFA Champions League and the Europa League finals, with Liverpool emerging as the champions in the former.

Nevertheless, one might still remember that merely three years ago, English clubs were definitely the underdogs, with only Manchester City being able to make it to the semi-final in the European Champions League tournament and Liverpool to the final in the Europa League.

So how exactly did English soccer clubs manage to stage a remarkable comeback this year when they were basically at rock bottom in 2016?

In my opinion, the answer perhaps lies in “money” and “professionalism”, with the two elements inter-related.

As we all know, the English Premier League is currently the most profitable soccer league across Europe, with annual revenue reaching the equivalent of over HK$50 billion.

And thanks to the awesome profits, English soccer clubs can hire a large number of professional managers and coaches, and also bring in a large bunch of excellent players in the world.

However, these expensive coaches and players would not necessarily be able to deliver their best performance if it wasn’t for the ruthlessness of the English Premier League: no matter how prominent one might be, he will have to pack up and leave if he fails to live up to expectations.

Because of that, failure is not an option for managers, coaches and players in the English Premier League, which explains why they can rebound so quickly.

Another contributing factor to the might of English soccer clubs is that in the English Premier League, mid- and-low tier teams can often prove fearsome giant killers when facing top-flight teams, and game results are therefore always relatively unpredictable.

As a consequence, the English Premier League has remained highly competitive, and its games are often nail-biting.

And since game upsets are so common, even top-tier teams must make sure they are always in good shape because they can never take victory for granted even when facing their underdog rivals.

All these elements, put together, have become a perfect recipe for success for English soccer clubs.

In contrast, major soccer leagues on the European continent have been routinely dominated by one or two leading teams in recent years. And the continued predominance of these teams could often result in their complacency.

For example, Barcelona and Real Madrid have been reigning supreme in the Spanish LaLiga over the years.

As far as the German Bundesliga is concerned, it has remained pretty much a grudge fight between Bayern München and Dortmund, while the league title of the Italian Serie A has remained in the hands of either Juventus or Napoli in recent seasons.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on June 1

Translation by Alan Lee with additional reporting

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HKEJ contributor