Football, like almost anything, is what you make it. You can enjoy it however you want. You can find joy in it wherever you want. It doesn’t have to be an unnecessary competition between fans of different leagues that it ultimately, inevitably devolves into every single season. But sometimes in a more general sense, it’s difficult to find excitement. When we’re not focusing on specific clubs, title racesa��or the lack thereofa��take center stage.
And across the board in Europe, domestic title races are few and far between.
Suddenly, Bayern Munich hold a 13-point advantage over RB Leipzig in Germany, where the shine is gone. Chelsea, meanwhile, hold a 10-point advantage over Tottenham Hotspur in England while in Italy, Juventus is well on their way to a fifth consecutive Serie A title. As it stands, they lead Roma by eight, Napoli by ten, and have taken 28 of a possible 30 points from their previous 10 matches.
In fact, you have to go all the way to France to find a genuine race. Strange, considering Ligue 1’s recent domestic history. But at the moment, it’s no longer Paris Saint-Germain’s league to lose. Though, following their undeniably horrific collapse against Barcelona, it’s arguably all the Parisians have left.
Then we head to Spain. You know, presumably the league of the three-horse race. But instead of AtlA�tico Madrid causing chaos at the top, Sevilla has taken their spot. Real Madrid lead Barcelona by two points (with a game in hand) while Eibara��and their stadium capacity of just over 7,000a��still rest on the fringes of a Europa League qualification spot. Consecutive draws may have hindered those chances, but there’s no denying that Eibar have taken full advantage of their second chance.
Still, the all-important, ever-crucial league title races that we tend to crave remain few and far between. That parity some of us so desperately yearn for just isn’t there. And I’ve got news for you.
But before that, if you’re looking for excitement, relegation battles aren’t going away. Not all of them, anyway. That might be all we have at this point. Or, just take a look at one or two of the more notable clubs currently fighting for their survival. After all, each of us could do with a good head-scratcher from time to time, right?
What La Liga doesn’t (kind of) lack in their title race is more than made up for at the bottom of their barrel, where Granada (19) and Osasuna (11) sit on less than 20 points. Moreover, Sporting de GijA?n (21) are only slightly ahead of Granada. Osasuna is the worst top-flight club across the five major European leagues, and their return to division one appears to be short-lived.
There is no title race over in Italy. There also is no relegation battle, just three sides jockeying for position to see who’s worse. Palermo (15), Crotone (14) and US Pescara (12) all rest well below the 20-point mark. Additionally Palermo, the best of the worst, are seven points worse off than Empoli. In short, it’s over. It’s simply a matter of time.
Speaking of Palermo, former chairman Maurizio Zamparinia��who just recently stepped down after 15 years in chargea��made his mark with over 40 managerial changes in 15 years. Eight would occur during 2016 alone. As for Crotone, following promotion to Serie A for the first time in club history last season, are right back on their way down. And Pescara, competing in the top-flight for the first time since 2012-13, aren’t sticking around either.
Then there’s the Bundesligaa��poor Ingolstadt and Darmstadt. One season after their first in Germany’s top-flight, they’re nearly done. So, which sides still have a shot at survival?
Some Kind of Battle (Sort Of)
One of the only leagues with a genuine title race at the moment, Ligue 1’s relegation battle is fairly heated as well. Just outside the playoff rests Dijon FCO (28). Newly-promoted AS Nancy Lorraine are right there with them, but the 10-goal difference separates them. Right now it appears to be more of a battle to attempt to get into said playoff than anything else. But at the very least, clubs remain in the fight. Yay, parity?
Cripes, we’re really grasping at straws here. Don’t worry, the lesson is coming.
Meanwhile back in Germany, Hamburg are firmly in the relegation playoff. But, only two points below FOUR other sides: Mainz, Werder Bremen, FC Augsburg and VfL Wolfsburg.
Oh, Wolfsburg… you should not have sold Kevin De Bruyne. You should have waited one more season. Just one. The lack of direction since his departure has been staggering, evidenced by the club stunting the development of both Andre SchA?rrle and Julian Draxler. (They’ve each moved on to bigger and better things since.)
Hell, let’s go a little deeper. Clubs like Schalke, Borussia MA�nchengladbach and Bayer Leverkusen are struggling as well. We just mentioned Hamburg, who with 27 points are in the relegation playoff. As for those other three? Well, they’re not far off. Schalke are on 33, BMG rest on 32 and Leverkusen find themselves on 31. They all have money and talent; they all have excellent youth academies. And yet, here they are.
We can say this about each and every league, but since the Bundesliga is so bottom-heavy right now, it’s this simple: It’s not Bayern’s fault that other teams cannot get their (redacted) together. You could use the money excuse in La Liga, where the distribution of funds from top to bottom is comical. Italy has had plenty of financial trouble (and scandals) in the past. Every team in England gets moneya��and lots of ita��for staying in the Premier League. (Of course some are richer; that’s the case everywhere.)
But specific to Germany, these are genuinely rich clubs with decades of past success. There’s no excuse to be made. But in our desperate, seemingly never-ending search for parity, the lesson doesn’t end in Germany.
Taking it one step further, we don’t need to make excuses for any league. Or for any club. We’re so desperate to rationalize why we think this is better than that, or that is better than this. On and on it goes until we’re blue in the face, but why? The parity so many of us seek? It doesn’t exist. There will always be clubs much richer than others. There will always be clubs much more influential than others. This isn’t exclusive to football either, by the way. This is just how it is.
And that’s okay.
So if you’re searching for intriguing title races, or your preferred club is locked into a nerve-wracking relegation battle, fine. Find a way to enjoy it. Otherwise we’re all just screaming into the void, hoping for a world where every team is as good as any other. Where every team has as much money as every other. Some folks want a Leicester City (or Kaiserslautern) story every season, but guess what? Those stories happening every season wouldn’t make them special anymore. The parity we crave would have a reverse effect.
So like what you like. Because eventually, something special will happen. You don’t have to seek it out.