Real Madrid, Arsenal, AC Milan, I could go on. All these teams are without a doubt ‘giants’ of the footballing world. What makes these teams entitled to the title of ‘giant of the footballing world’ though?
Real Madrid, for example, haven’t dominated La Liga or rivalled Barcelona for a good three to four years now; Arsenal haven’t won anything for six years (and with each Premier League fixture that passes it is looking more like seven years), and AC Milan have recently been humbled by Champions League débutantes Tottenham Hotspur, not the best advertisement for footballing ‘titans’.
Despite the obvious shortcomings of these teams, they’re still referred to as some of the best teams on the planet with the likes of Barcelona, Champions League holders Inter Milan and Manchester United. So how are these teams, like so many more, still viewed as great teams despite no recent success?
Numerous teams on the elite ‘list’ have very illustrious and successful histories. Liverpool have won the same amount of league titles as Manchester United, Real Madrid have won the most European Cup titles and Arsenal are still talking about their Invincibles season, but all these clubs still speak of such stats and achievements for two reasons; they have a supreme pride in them, but mainly it is to relive the ‘glory days’ of a bygone era. Surely being great ‘once upon a time’ doesn’t allow you to maintain your superior and elite status amongst the all the footballing clubs out there? Leeds United, for instance, used to be giants of the game, but in more recent years they find themselves flirting with promotion and relegation in the lower leagues on a yearly cycle.
The likes of Liverpool, Real Madrid and Arsenal all have stadiums over 45,000 capacity and week in, week out have full houses; a terrific fan base is instrumental in maintaining elite status. The fans are at the core of any club, they represent what a club is about. Liverpool supporters create a remarkable noise at Anfield, creating an amazing venue, but then again so to do Celtic fans, and no one ever really classes a Scottish team as one of football’s elites, despite their remarkable past accolades as well.
Nothing can work without solid foundations; a good set-up from pitch-side right down to the tea lady is instrumental in helping a club make a name for itself. A youth system has to be successful in bringing through new talent; Liverpool have recently seen the emergence of Martin Kelly and Jay Spearing, while Arsenal reap the rewards so regularly from their youth set up, Kieran Gibbs and Jack Wilshere come to mind. But of course the best example of this is in Barcelona’s La Masia, the youth academy which, year after year, brings through great footballers and which produced no fewer than nine of Spain‘s World Cup winning squad. Helping blood the team with future stars is key in maintaining high status in the footballing world.
All the ‘big’ clubs have huge investment; Chelsea and Manchester City have, in recent seasons, propelled themselves on to the elite stage with huge takeovers and are now being bankrolled by billionaires. Despite not having the most illustrious of histories, such teams are being classed as ‘big’ clubs; perhaps the saying is true, ‘money talks’. With UEFA’s new fairplay rules coming in over the money being spent by clubs this may all change, but for now, money is the ultimate divide between being a ‘big’ club and not.
You thought I was finished didn’t you? Well I sort of was, but I haven’t really said anything different or ‘out there’; we all sort of knew these things really. So I got thinking some more; does it ultimately boil down to location? Blackpool are a joy to watch but will never house 60,000 weekly because of where they are.
Similarly Celtic won’t ever reach the ‘elite’ standard simply because they play in a country that isn’t huge on football and doesn’t have the strongest league. The same with the likes of Santos in Brazil or Suwon Bluewings in Japan; yet the beauty of these teams is in quite the opposite vein of Man United’s global business, it is in their local meaning being truly embedded in their community; and that my fellow fans is what built football teams from the ground upwards.
Daniel Blazer writes regularly for FootballFancast.com.