The test of any great league isn’t the size of its TV deals or the cost of it’s latest transfer, but the quality of its exports and its ability to mould a player in to the type of world beater that can perform on any stage. Rupert Murdoch, Qatari oil dealers, and fraudulent Italian presidents will come and go, but the ability of a league to continue or produce a landscape of development will stand the test of time.
This month saw the transfer of Bayern Leverkusen wonder boy Arturo Vidal to Juventus, after previously rejecting an offer from Bayern Munich, for the fee of around ten million pounds to release him from the final year of his contract. Doing the league a favour in the long run as he fulfils his career, to its credit.
Vidal was outstanding last season; a playmaker, a defensive barrier and all round box to box midfielder rolled up in one – think Steven Gerrard with composure and compassion for his fellow man. With ten goals and twelve assists in thirty-one games for Werkself last season, Arturo Vidal was the clear and obvious reasoning behind his side’s surprising second place finish. If Klopp and his kids hadn’t run off with the limelight, 2011 would have been known as the year of Vidal.
He moves to a Juventus side desperate for change. The Turin club finished in an underwhelming seventh spot in the league last season as it still struggles to regain its identity and tradition as one of Europe’s finest. New coach, Antonio Conte has brought in Vidal along with a whole list of new arrivals including Fabio Quagliarella and Andrea Pirlo, hoping to usher in a change at the Old Lady and instil some success that has been absent for so long.
Although, Vidal doesn’t just denote another young player full of promise and enthusiasm leaving the German league’s for the sweet nectar of Southern Europe – he signifies the continuation of a relatively new phenomena of world class players being produced in Germany, for Europe’s pleasure.
Where Dutch endeavours in the art of youth academies were once for all to see through the sprinkling of ex-eredivisie players throughout the great Milan and Barcelona sides of the nineties and early noughties, today’s game shows a very different sport, with a slight Germanic tint to it.
Bayern Munich’s Owen Hargreaves – Canadian born, and Bayern youth product – came to Sir Alex Ferguson’s rescue when Roy Keane decided to call it a day and nobody looked fit to take his role. Despite how short lived or patchy Hargreaves career at Old Trafford has been, his influence and ability predominantly in a midfield role that has so often haunted United, was evident to see from the Premier League and Champions League trophies the club picked up in his début season.
Similarly, Hamburg’s Nigel de Jong has been an institution in midfield for Manchester City since his arrival. Although learning his trade at Ajax until the age of twenty one, the Dutchman spent three years at the Bundesliga side where he became the world class midfield warrior that and has provided a level of consistency to allow his club to aim for the title.
Even Jose Mourinho – the special one – has turned to the Bundesliga in aid as he looks to overcome his hardest obstacle yet, recruited Stuttgart’s Sami Khedira, Mesut Özil of Werder Bremen, and recently Nuri Sahin of Dortmund to battle the forces of total football, with a system of his own, built from the corner stone of Bundesliga development.
That’s not to say that the Bundesliga is nothing more than the feeder league of choice or a one stop brothel of continental quality for Europe’s most extravagant clubs. The league can hold its own against the best, as shown by the ever entertaining endeavours of Bayern Munich in their run to the Champions League final two seasons ago. Or Schalke’s unpredicted run to the semi finals last season, at the expense of Valencia and Bayern conquerors the season before, Inter Milan.
While it’s true that mid-table Bundesliga side’s shed their young prospects like they were to go out of fashion, it is no more evident than that in Spain or Italy. Clubs become a victim of their own nurturing success and before they know it, their star player no longer feels his ambitions match the club. Couple that with the top sides such as Bayern with their Robbens & Riberys or Dortmund with their incredibly talented squad still intact, and you have the makings of a league that is simply in a good place right now.
Europe’s eyes are firmly placed on Germany, as it looks forward to a new age of flourishing football with the stars of tomorrow.
You can follow Stefan on Twitter @Stefan_gla.