A Ryder Cup for football?

29 Apr

As popular boy band JLS found to their cost, power shifts can be fast and brutal.  One minute you are kings of the kennel, the next you’re whimpering in the corner as One Direction become the new daddies of the dogs’ home.  We might be on the cusp of a similar changing of the guard in European football.

The football teams of Spain have been the undisputed alpha-dogs for some time now.  Yet Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund tore into the Spanish top two like they were week-old puppies.  Did the manner in which both Barcelona and Madrid were brought to heel by German foes, with such unquestioning obeyance, represent a wider shift in supremacy?  The new breed of Bavarian thoroughbreds certainly had tongues wagging.

National pride is at stake when arguments turn to who has the best league.  Even in countries with little home-grown talent, football fans delight in asserting that their teams are the strongest.  Everyone thinks they have the prettiest wife, as Arsene Wenger once put it.  In the first flourishes of the 21st Century, the English Premiership had good claim to being the pack leader.  This is palpably no longer the case.  The spin-doctors at Sky Sports tacitly acknowledged as much by revising their claim of the Premiership being “the best league in the world” to now calling it “the most exciting league in the world”.  A subtle tweak in vernacular that New Labour would be proud of.

From my perspective, the last 20 years has seen the crown perched a-top four different heads:

1993 -> 1999 Italy

2000 -> 2004 Spain

2004 -> 2009 England

2009 -> 2012 Spain

2013 – Germany…?

If I were to relent to the demands of argumentative geriatric, Ray Winston, and have a bet, I would wager that 2013 will be seen as a blip in the continuing Spanish reign.  The Cromwellian Bundesliga will push La Liga close but, ultimately, not relieve Spain of its hegemony.  This is only my opinion, of course.  And opinions, as they say, are like arseholes (everybody’s got one).  Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a way we could empirically assess which league was the strongest?  Well it just so happens I have a suggestion…

Introducing the Platini Plate: “the Ryder Cup of Football”.  Europe’s top leagues compete against each other – 1st plays 1st, 2nd plays 2nd, right down to 20th plays 20th.  A win scores one point and a draw gets you a half.  Football schedules are already more cramped than Ricki Lake in a 2-door Jag, so let’s keep it biannual, taking place during the pre-season of every odd year.  Rather than the frankly unwatchable friendlies currently in situ, you would have Bayern Munich versus Manchester United, Borussia Dortmund versus Manchester City, right down to the grudge match of Reading versus Greuther Freuth.  It could work on either an invitational basis (the Premiership could challenge a different league every two years), or the country of the previous year’s Champions League winners could play the defending champions of the Platini Plate.  The title of “Europe’s Strongest League” would pass back-and-forth like a boxing belt.

The beauty of the Platini Plate (I’m working on a better name.  Suggestions welcome…) is it’s no use having one or two powerhouses in a league otherwise full of carthorses.  The criticism, unfairly in my view, that La Liga comprises of Real Madrid, Barcelona and 18 whipping boys could be put to the test.  Would Norwich beat Athletic Bilbao in the battle of 14th place?  Are Valencia really going to struggle against their 6th place counterparts, Everton?  Champions League teams are, in reality, outliers, rather than indicative of a league’s strength in depth.  This tournament is more interested in the mean average than the cream of the crop.

Would the viewing public be interested in such a contest?  I think they would lap it up.  The match-ups could be staggered over 4 days, building up to a crescendo as the last two teams do battle in a potentially thrilling finale.  Since games would overlap with each other, the red button would be your friend.  Think of the excitement as Martin Tyler announces “there’s been a goal at the Britannia…”.  Cue cheers across the nation as the screen-within-screen shows John Walters firing Stoke into a 2-0 lead against Real Vallodolid.  A point safely in the bag there by the Potters.

As for the players, I can’t help but feel that they would be stirred by a mixture of patriotism (for some, at least) and a desire to demonstrate that they play in the best league in the world.  Everyone likes to think that they work in the most demanding environment.  Here is a chance for players to prove their league is pre-eminent.  You would think Rickie Lambert would jump at the opportunity to show he can score goals against defences across Europe.  And, with Liverpool looking like an absentee from Europe next year, Luis Suarez would presumably be dying to sink his teeth into, well, you get the picture.

So what do you think, Mr Platini?  I’ll not charge a penny for the idea.  It’s yours to do with as you wish.  In lieu of payment, I ask only that you take a flexible attitude to Manchester City when the Financial Fair Play Rules come into force next year.  Do we have ourselves a deal?

————————————————————

You’re so manly, Ray.  I wish my Granddad was as cool as you.

CORRECTION:
After much brow-furrowing and some careful use of the Too Good abacus, it became apparent that there are only 18 teams in the Bundesliga.  In the spirit of the Ryder Cup, Germany are therefore allowed two wild card picks.  Welcome to the party Eintracht Braunschweiger and Hertha Berlin.  The Spanish, Italian, French and English teams all have 20 teams in their top-flight at the time of writing.

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3 Responses to “A Ryder Cup for football?”

  1. Laurence Parker-Brown May 1, 2013 at 2:42 pm #

    Well put sir – this could be the best idea since one N Gallagher picked up a guitar. I eagerly await the first tournament…

  2. Chris Moorcroft May 14, 2013 at 9:33 am #

    Damn sight better idea than the Home Nations Cup. Get this man into the FA, Uefa, Fifa or preferably all three..

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Transfer Window | Too Good for the English Game - September 10, 2013

    […] the glamorous one some fans expected to see.  Great news, though, for England when the inaugural Platini Plate gets off the […]

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