The Bundesliga has truly been amongst the most unpredictable leagues over the last ten years. Six different teams have won the title between the 00/01 and the 09/10 season. A number of historic clubs were relegated and a stream of new teams have managed to make their debut in the league. In itself, that change is exciting to say the least, particularly when you consider the oligarchic grip some teams have in England, Italy and Spain. That said, the high entertainment value of the league also has its drawbacks and in the great scheme of things it may outweigh those values.
The dreary numbers
From the 00/01 and until the 09/10 season only Bayern managed to grab one of the international spots in the league table for all ten seasons. Placing behind Bayern are Werder Bremen, VfB Stuttgart and Schalke 04, who managed to wrack up 7 international finishes.
Out of the 5-6 teams that qualified directly for an international competition in that time period, an average of 37% failed to grab an international spot the following season. Three teams that did qualify directly for an international competition were subsequently relegated the following season (SC Freiburg 01/02, VfL Bochum 04/05 and Hertha Berlin 09/10). 1. FC Nürnberg represented the Bundesliga in the Uefa-cup in the 07/08 season after winning the cup. They too were relegated while playing international football that season.
This season could see Mainz qualify for their second appearance in European competition in the club’s history, while Hannover 96 are on their way to a comeback to an international competition after 19 years. Both Werder Bremen and VfB Stuttgart won’t defend their international finish from last season and are still battling to avoid relegation , while Schalke could sneak into Europe by winning the cup or the Champions League.
How those stats hurt the Bundesliga
At this point you might say, great, but how on earth is all this hurting the league? The Bundesliga has just surpassed Serie A in the UEFA coefficient rankings, and it could be on its way to overtake Spain in the next couple of years as well at this rate.
The answer is simple. When the Uefa draws the groups for the next tournaments they divide the different contenders into 4 pots, based on how the clubs themselves, not the league that they come from, have performed in the last 5 years. Bayern Munich and Werder Bremen have done well in that respect in the last 5 years, and are therefore 4th and 11th on the UEFA club rankings. If both qualified for the Champions league, Bayern would be seeded at the top of their group, while Bremen receive the number two seed. Both are rather favorable seedings and should provide a comfortable entry into the competition.
Bayer Leverkusen and Borussia Dortmund haven’t covered themselves in glory in Europe during the last 5 years however, and are much further down the UEFA club rankings. Leverkusen will most likely be the third seed in their group, while both Dortmund and Hannover (should they qualify) will receive three difficult opponents, all listed above them in said UEFA rankings. That proposition could very well prove too difficult for sides looking to re-enter Europe’s premier club competition.
So Bayer will face a tough group, while both Dortmund and Hannover will face an uphill battle to go through or reach the third spot that would give them the opportunity to compete in the Europa League in the second half of the season. The same goes for Mainz and Nürnberg should either qualify for the Europa League.
With four out of five teams likely to struggle in next year’s international competitions, the Bundesliga will have a hard time gathering enough coefficient points to get past Spain in the 5 year UEFA coefficient. None of that bodes well for the Bundesliga considering Italian clubs are undergoing a transition and rebuilding period of their own and are right up the Bundesliga’s bottom seeking to reclaim the 4th Champions League spot once more.
Why is the Bundesliga so volatile?
England has four teams in the top 10 of the UEFA club rankings while Spain has three and Italy two. Germany has for the last ten years depended solely on Bayern Munich to achieve results in Europe, while the rest of the league has had a marry go around, with clubs constantly changing positions and struggling to find a solid footing.
There is only room for speculation to explain this phenomenon. Part of that could be the lesser amounts of money from TV-rights or a lack of long term planning at club level. One could even make the case that German sides simply don’t adapt to the style necessary to perform in European competition. The only thing we know for certain is that most German clubs have underperformed when playing in Europe.
If the Bundesliga really wants to have a chance in surpassing La Liga in the 5 year coefficient rankings, much depends on how the top of the table looks in the coming years. Depending on inexperienced teams like Mainz and Hannover cutting the mustard in Europe would be naive. If 3-4 teams could establish themselves as table toppers, and stay in the top half of the table over a long period of time, those clubs will eventually climb in the UEFA club ranking. Only then will the Bundesliga have a serious shot at moving ahead of La Liga. In the meantime, it will have enough problems staying in front of Italy.
What do you think? Will German teams be more successful in Europe in the future? Leave a comment below.