Oct 7, 2007

The World’s Top 25 Clubs, Oct. 8 2007 Edition

To reiterate, this is basically a snapshot of the clubs' current form--not a legacy ranking, not a weighting of the clubs' historic successes. Only the current season's records are taken into account. Quality of competition is a factor. To see last week's rankings go here.

(4) Barcelona. On fire. Scored impressive wins at VfB Stuttgart and against Atletico Madrid, without giving up a goal in the process.

2. (3) Arsenal. Moved to the top the Premier League, while remaining unbeaten in all competitions. The two goals conceded versus Sunderland are a slight blemish, but it’s hard to argue with their current form.

3. (2) Bayern Munich. Didn’t give up a goal in a perfect week, but neither team (Benenses and Nurnberg) quite qualifies as “quality competition”. Not being in the Champions League will undoubtedly hurt this team’s ranking as the season wears on. Too bad, because they look really sharp.

4. (5) Inter Milan. Made quick work of #13 PSV Eindhoven in Champions League play, then beat eighth-placed Napoli in weekend Serie A action.

5. (1) Real Madrid. Champs league draw at Lazio is excusable at this early stage of the season, but not if they’re going to top this list. Struggled to beat Recreativo Huelva in league action Sunday.

6. (10) Manchester United. Two impressive wins over Roma and Wigan, with their offense breaking out in the latter game. Sir Alex has Man U. looking like a top 10 side at last.

7. (11) FC Porto. Impressive win at Besiktas Istanbul in midweek Champions League action, along with perfect record in domestic league shows they belong in top ten.

8. (18) Celtic. The week’s biggest movers and deservedly so after knocking off AC Milan and rallying to beat Gretna. The latter victory assured sole possession of first place in the SPL.

9. (15) Juventus. Second in Serie A behind mighty Inter. Appear to have reclaimed their old status. Drew third place Fiorentina on Sunday. But lack of European action leaves little room for error if they are going to hang around the top 10 for long.

10. (16.) Manchester City. Sven Goran Eriksson has these guys playing very well indeed. Third in the prem. No European action this year will also hurt in long-term though.

11. (-) Chelsea. They’re ba-ack, after wins at Valencia and Bolton. Looking good after Mourinho-inspired turmoil.

12. (-) Olympiakos. Beat Werder Bremen and sit top UCL Group C, tied with mighty Real Madrid. Won their other game this week in the Greek league and are second with zero losses.

13. (6) PSV Eindhoven. Loss to #4 Inter in Champions League was first of season and a forgivable offense at that, but they did not look like a top ten side. Beat up on Wilhelm II in Eredevisie weekend action.

14. (7) Liverpool. A bad week, with inexcusable home loss to Marseille and home draw to Spurs. If it weren’t for Fernando Torres’ injury time equalizer, would have undoubtedly dropped even further.

15. (12) Villareal. Beat some crap team in UEFA Cup competition, then succumbed to Osasuna in domestic league action. Probably deserved to fall further, but lack of quality competition in the ranks behind them worked in their favor.

16. (-) Shakhtar Donetsk. Won at Benfica this week and lead what is turning out to be a quality CL group (Celtic and AC Milan are the other two teams).

17. (-) Chivas de Guadelajara. Top non-European team this week made major strides. Knocked DC United out of Copa Sudamericana, then won at SuperLiga champs Pachuca and now sit atop Group 3 in Mexican Apertura.

18. (19) Rangers. Nice win at #25 Lyon put them in position to move up dramatically, but loss at home to Hibs hurt.

19. (13) Sao Paulo. Lost to Flamengo at mid-week, then only managed draw against 17th placed Corinthians. But continue to lead Brazilian league by a comfortable margin (12 points advance on second-place Cruzeiro with five games to play) and are still alive in Copa Sudamericana as well.

20. (8) Valencia. Lost twice at home this week, to Chelsea and Espanyol Barcelona. Espanyol sit fifth in La Liga, but still…

21. (22) AS Nancy. Beat Monaco this week to remain second in French league. No continental action will wear on them though.

22. (21) Santos. One of two unbeaten teams left in Mexican league. Struggled to beat UNAM's Pumas this week.

23. (-) Dynamo Zagreb. Knocked Ajax Amsterdam out of UEFA tourney (and So-So's Top 25) and sit tops in domestic league.

24. (14) Olympique Lyon. Reclaimed top spot in domestic league with win at Bordeaux, but home loss to #18 Rangers hurts.

25. (-) Atlante. The other undefeated team in Mexico's Apertura. Led by Venezuelan striker Giancarlo Maldonado (11 goals in 11 games). Made quick work of Veracruz last week and face Pachuca at home on Saturday.

Dropping out: Schalke 04 (9), Fiorentina (17), Ajax Amsterdam (20), Club America (23), DC United (24), Independiente (25).

England had the most representatives on the list (five clubs), followed by Spain (four), Mexico (three), Scotland, France and Italy (two each) and seven countries with one club each. Regarding the Mexican league's weighting, I feel it is justified on several levels: 1) The league is rich, bankrolled by the country's various business cartels (Cemex, Telcel, FEMSA, Bimbo, etc.) and widely viewed as the best outside Europe. It certainly has more depth than many if not most European leagues, 2) No Mexican team is in the top 15 anyway, and two are clustered in the bottom fifth (20-25th), 3) The Apertura started in early August and intra- and inter-regional club tournaments are at advanced stages (Copa Sudamericana) or have already concluded (Superliga). Plus the region's national teams had a busy summer with two major tournaments (Gold Cup and Copa America), all of which means Mexican teams are likely closer to mid-season form than their brethren in Europe's top leagues, 4) The club world's "middle ground" area, defined by teams not in the G-14 but just below it, is in my view very competitive. The case can be made that the best Mexican league teams are right there with the best of them, especially in light of items 1-3.

So why only two Italian clubs? The Italian league has been watered down by the financial scandals that have compromised most clubs' buying power. That and I hate Italian soccer. It's boring. This personal bias aside, Serie A clubs really have not done very well. Fiorentina needed penalties (against Dutch club Groningen) to make the UEFA group stage and Palermo, Sampdoria and Empoli were eliminated by (in order) Mlada Boleslav, Aalborg and FC Zurich. Besides Zurich, I couldn't even locate any of these teams on a map (Boleslav is Czech and Aalborg Danish, in case you're wondering).

There is also a notable absence of Argentine clubs. This is because that league's leader, Independiente had a mediocre week, losing Sunday to 12th placed Newell's Old Boys. The second-placed team (going into the weekend) Boca Juniors lost the superclassico to River Plate and have separately also been eliminated from the Copa Sudamericana. River itself, while alive in the Copa, have been pretty horrible in the domestic league--this weekend's result notwithstanding--and sit well off the leaders. Bottom line: I just couldn't find an Argentine club worthy of the top 25. That may change next week. Stay tuned.


  1. Interesting list!
    Is it correct that this list is based solely on your football mind, or is there some sort of math model in the background?
    If you`re doing this without math, then you have a good deal of football sense.
    I have developed a mathematical sysmtem to assess the strength of the various European leagues and by this have a tool for inter-league comparison. My top 25 is not that much different from yours:

    1 Man U
    2 Real Madrid
    3 FC Barcelona
    4 Inter Milan
    5 Chelsea
    6 Arsenal
    7 FC Valencia
    8 FC Sevilla
    9 FC Villareal
    10 AS Rom
    11 FC Liverpool
    12 Lyon
    13 Celtic
    14 Porto
    15 Atletico Madrid
    16 Real Zaragoza
    17 Bayern Munich
    18 Schalke 04
    19 Werder Bremen
    20 Sporting Lisboa
    21 Benfica Lisboa
    22 Stuttgart
    23 FC Everton
    24 Rangers
    25 FC Portsmouth

    Only European clubs. Fot me there is no way to compare American clubs with their European counterparts. Details of my method can be found on Big Soccer, search by my username khucke.

  2. no mathematical model. This is based solely on my football mind (or lack thereof). I am familiar with the challenges of comparing European with American clubs, but it was precisely this challenge that led me to create the list in the first place! European lists are a dime a dozen. Having said that, I would be interested in learning more about your methodology and will look for you on Big Soccer.