In recent seasons, we have witnessed (and continue to witness), slowly but surely, the elegant destruction of what we know as the ‘big’ teams. Spain, Italy, France, England, Scotland, Germany, Holland, Russia, Greece, and Turkey have all fallen to the inevitable rise of the ‘middle’ teams. Let’s review the movers and shakers:
Last season, Real Madrid broke the spell and snatched the title from Barcelona on the last day, with Sevilla having played extremely well. The season before that, Osasuna broke in to the top four. That same season, Villarreal pulled off an impressive feat by reaching the Champions League semifinals. This season, Villarreal are currently in 2nd place, with Atletico Madrid in 4th. One big team which has fallen from here is Valencia: a perfect example of my theory.
Although Calciopoli contributed to this, Chievo Verona achieved 4th in the 2005-06 season, and Lazio did the same last year. Fiorentina have, effectively, confined AC Milan to the UEFA Cup this season and, let’s not forget, Udinese had an okay run in the Champions League in 2005/06 (or was it 2004/05?).
AS Monaco crashed out of the elite after 2004/05, and a host of clubs like Marseille, Bordeaux, and, recently, Nice and Nancy, have troubled Lyon. Marseille returned to Europe this season, and Bordeaux made it last season, with Nice set to take a Champions League birth for next season.
It may be less evident here, but Everton beat Liverpool to 4th in 2004/05, and threw away a chance this season. Tottenham have twice scraped with Arsenal for 4th in the past two seasons, and Manchester City came close this season, along with Portsmouth and Aston Villa. Give those teams some time and money, and I guarantee you there will be a different ‘Big 4’ in seasons to come.
The Old Firm have retaken control, but Hearts beat Rangers to 2nd in 2005/06 and (I can’t remember which club) is pressuring Rangers and Celtic recently.
A prime example. Last season brought about the end of the Bayern era. Stuttgart proved that giants aren’t forever, and this season Hamburg, Werder (again), Schalke, Leverkusen and Stuttgart are fighting Bayern for the coveted title. Expect fireworks (figuratively, of course).
AZ Alkmaar were outstanding last season, in it until the last day in which PSV won by one goal over Ajax. Ajax’s decline has been ever more evident in the past seasons, losing out to the likes of FC Kobenhavn, and PSV crashing out of the Champions League at the group stage this season opened a window for Feyenoord and AZ.
Zenit St. Petersburg became only the second ever non-Moscow club to win the Russian Premier League last year, and continued their supremacy by defeating Bayer Leverkusen 4-1 away from home in the UEFA Cup quarterfinals first leg in Leverkusen. CSKA didn’t make the Round of 16 in the UCL, again, and Spartak failed to qualify.
AEK Athens burst onto the scene last season, leapfrogging the once-great Panathinaikos and the eternal champions Olympiakos. This season, Asteris Tripolis has impressed, and clubs like PAOK and Thessaloniki getting better. Plus, a new movement is trying to sieze ‘partial’ control of Panathinaikos to ‘return the greatness’ to the club. Good luck…
Sivasspor came out of nowhere to shock Fenerbahce and Galatasaray this season, while Besiktas came out of the shadows to achieve UEFA Champions League qualification for this season. Everyone’s just waiting for Trabzonspor to come back…
However, there are notable exceptions to this theory. In Portugal, Porto has never relinquished its hold over the SuperLiga, and in Ukraine Shakhtar and Dynamo always continue their duel for supremacy. In the Nordic Leagues, Kobenhavn, Gothenburg, and Brann continue their reigns, while in Serbia and Romania its always either Bucharest clubs (in Romania) or Belgrade clubs (in Serbia).
Feel free to criticise me in the comments section below.