Most predictable football leagues in Europe ranked

Parity in football is not exactly commonplace. Some leagues have it, others have less. However, it is part of the excitement in all competitions.

In fact, a lack of competitive nature makes those shock runs at titles or European spots much more exciting. A team challenging Bayern Munich for the Bundesliga, while rare, is exciting for the German top flight. LOSC Lille shocked PSG in 2020/21 to win Ligue Un on the last day and brought much needed attention to French club football.

At the same time, it can provide a behind-the-scenes look at why some competitions are so popular. The Premier League is the most popular European league in the United States for a number of reasons. Among them is the unpredictable nature of the competition. Serie A is experiencing a rebirth, and part of that is due to the disruption of the Juventus hegemony that dominated in the 2010s.

In recent years, some competitions have simply been more predictable than others in Europe. Here are some of those leagues ranked.

The most predictable football leagues in Europe

1 – Bundesliga – One winner over 10 years

In the 2021/22 season, Bayern Munich won another Meisterschale. That, along with a record 32nd title, was the club’s 10th win in a row. Since the 2008/09 Bundesliga season for which Wolfsburg finished top of the table, Bayern Munich have won 11 of the titles. The only other two over that period went to his biggest rival, Borussia Dortmund.

That’s what makes the Bundesliga so predictable. You know that Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund will finish to the top of the table. Dortmund is much less consistent, to be honest. Still, since back-to-back title wins in 2010/11 and 2011/12, Dortmund have only finished one place outside the top four. That was in 2014/15, the last year under the leadership of Jürgen Klopp.

Now RB Leipzig has entered the fray in recent years. For the first time in the Bundesliga in 2016/17, Those Roten Bulls impressed with second place. Including that season, Leipzig has six seasons in the top flight. It finished sixth in its second season. But apart from that ‘outlier’, Leipzig has a couple of second places, two third places and a fourth place.

You could add some other teams to round out the top four over the past decade or so. Bayer Leverkusen, Wolfsburg, Borussia Mönchengladbach or Eintracht Frankfurt flirted with that area. The fact that Dortmund are fifth and Bayern are three points ahead at the halfway point of the season is a surprising achievement.

2 – Ligue Un – Three winners over 10 years

While Bayern Munich won each of the Bundesliga titles after the 2011/12 season, Paris St. Germain has had similar successes. Despite the fact that the Ligue Un is of a lower quality than the Bundesliga as a whole, PSG have ‘only’ eight titles in that ten-year period.

Monaco won the title with its amazingly talented team of Bernardo Silva, Fabinho, Thomas Lemar, Radamel Falcao and a certain Kylian Mbappé in 2016/17. Then in 2020/21, the aforementioned Lille shocked its chances of finishing top of Ligue Un.

What makes Ligue Un so predictable in European football leagues is the talent gap between the top teams. PSG are in a class of their own, not much of a surprise with Mbappé, Neymar and Lionel Messi leading the pack. Even the clubs competing for the other top four places, clubs like Lyon, Marseille, Monaco or Lille, have recognizable names. They often lose those names to European top clubs, including PSG.

3 – LaLiga – Three winners over 10 years

LaLiga is a fairly competitive league. At least that applies to the top three. Atletico Madrid, Barcelona and Real Madrid are overwhelming favorites to win every LaLiga title.

The last time a team that wasn’t Barcelona, ​​Real Madrid or Atletico won LaLiga was in 2003/04, when Valencia lifted its sixth trophy. That balance of split hegemony puts LaLiga in the middle of Europe’s most predictable leagues.

In the history of Spanish football, only nine teams have ever won the top division. That speaks to the dominance of Barcelona and Real Madrid, who together account for 61 of the 91 titles.

So if there is such a clear gap between these three teams and the rest, it should be level with the Bundesliga or Ligue Un. Well, at least LaLiga has a title challenge every season. From the 2013/14 season onwards, Atletico Madrid has two titles, Real Madrid three and Barcelona four. It’s consistent between the top teams, but still a challenge.

Then if we add that team in fourth, Sevilla are about as sure as they get to complete a top four. Sevilla has achieved four fourth places in that period, even if the club is struggling in the 2022/23 season.

4 – Serie A – Three winners over 10 years

If you had asked three years ago which European league is the most predictable, Serie A would be serious business to top that list. However, Italy’s top flight is experiencing something of a renaissance in terms of parity.

Juventus, who won every Scudetto from 2011/12 to 2019/20, have been through a hugely difficult period. Instead, Inter Milan and Milan both won a Serie A title. In the 2022/23 campaign, the series of changes looks set to continue. Halfway through the season, Napoli has a comfortable lead in the title race.

Part of what makes Serie A unpredictable, at least compared to the three leagues mentioned above, is how teams come and go. Atalanta have emerged as a fan favorite in recent campaigns to challenge for Champions League spots. Roma fell a little bit when Juventus collapsed. After a number of top-four finishes, it failed to return to that level after the 2017/18 season.

Still, there is hope for every team that belongs to the elite. Inter, Milan, Juventus, Napoli, Roma and Lazio. All competitors, and this is evident from recent editions of rankings.

5 – Premier League – Five winners over 10 years

That five different clubs win the Premier League over a 10-year period may surprise some people. After all, Manchester City has half of the Premier League crowns in that period. For the record, it added that one 11 years ago. In many ways, Manchester City winning the title has become the norm in England. The first and only centurions in Premier League history have had an era of dominance under Pep Guardiola.

Still, looking back over the past decade, Liverpool, Chelsea and even Manchester United won the title. Leicester City also secured the most unpredictable title in the history of any European football league, winning the league after starting as relegation favourites.

Next, what makes the Premier League stand out more in terms of unpredictability is the talent at the top. Compare the ‘difficult times’ of Barcelona with Manchester United or Arsenal. Barcelona have not won LaLiga for three seasons, which is abhorrent in LaLiga. Arsenal have not won a title since 2003/04. In addition, it has not finished in the top four since a second-place finish to Leicester City in 2015/16. Now it is the top of the league. Manchester United have bounced in all directions over the past ten years. A couple of second places, two more top fours, three sixth places. The form also changed for other teams. Liverpool, Chelsea and Spurs, even Leicester City. It went from promotion to relegation battle to champion to top six. Now it’s back in the bottom half of the table.

The Premier League has more ebbs and flows than any other league, making it the least predictable of the top five leagues in Europe.

How does MLS work?

MLS – 7 winners in the last 10 years

If we look at the top five European leagues and look at Major League Soccer, there is reason to consider MLS to be more unpredictable. Note that this does not overtly make MLS better. Talent is lower across the board. Instead, consider it more balanced.

This looks at the winners of the MLS Supporters’ Shield, which at the end of the regular season goes to the team with the best record. It is more in line with the way the top five leagues in Europe determine a winner. Seven different teams won the MLS Supporters’ Shield. Interestingly, only two of those teams won the MLS Cup that season. That was Toronto FC in 2017 and LAFC in the most recent campaign.

Obviously MLS is less predictable than other leagues. The reasons for this are quite obvious. MLS has a salary cap, European leagues do not. Teams are constantly fighting to stay under wraps. If players ask for raises after strong seasons, the money may not always be there.

Players don’t crave going to the MLS, weakening some teams and making it more balanced. Miguel Almiron, for example, left Atlanta United after the team won the MLS Cup in 2018. During his tenure in Atlanta, Almiron aligned himself with Josef Martinez to dominate the league. It won a US Open Cup and an MLS Cup, even though it missed out on the Supporters’ Shield. He left (and Martinez dealt with injuries) and Atlants hasn’t been the same since, shattering his performance and success.

PHOTO: IMAGO / Sammy Minkoff

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