Apr 17, 2017

The Top 5 Soccer Clubs in the World

Just for fun, and because a top 25 is way too ambitious. And of course this could just be called "European clubs" since teams from other continents are some ways off of their quality. A note on methodology: This ranking is subjective and meant to capture (or intend to capture) the status on a seasonal basis. So this is not a ranking of form, but of the team's body of work throughout the season. Wherever possible, objective measures are weighed in the rankings: wins, losses, head-to-head, etc. Also weighing heavily is whether a team is still alive in continental competition, primarily the UEFA Champions League, now halfway through its quarterfinal fixtures. Oh yeah, for our purposes matches played over two legs count as one victory or loss. So let's get to it:

5. AS Monaco

Record in all competitions: 37 wins, 7 draws, 5 losses (76% winning percentage)
Notable victories: Tottenham Hotspur (twice), Paris Saint Germain, Manchester City
If their sweep of Spurs in the Champions League group stage didn't convince English fans of Monaco's quality, then the memorable victory over Man City certainly did the job. This is an exciting team with exciting players which rightfully deserves to be mentioned with Europe's elite. Everybody knows Kylian Mbappe's name by now, but the club from the principality have no fewer than five players who could become bonafide superstars (probably not at Monaco but that's another story). Leonardo Jardim's men started the season rather slowly, with a tough Champions League qualification victory against Fenerbahce Istanbul and draw at home against Guingamp. Yes exactly, Guingamp. It's been smooth sailing since. One of the season's five losses came against Bayer Leverkusen on the final day of their Champions League group stage after Monaco had already won the group (which realistically shouldn't be counted as a loss but we'll let it stand for purely technical reasons). One blemish is a recent loss to PSG in the French league cup finale. Les Monegasques have a three point lead over their Parisian rivals with five matchdays remaining, having not lost a Ligue Un match since December. They also carry a 3-2 lead into their CL quarter final return leg against a Borussia Dortmund team that has had (much) better seasons. If Monaco blow this they'll make us look like clueless a-holes. We don't like being made to look like clueless a-holes.

4. Bayern Munich
Record in all competitions: 30 wins, 6 draws, 4 losses (75% winning percentage)
Notable victories: Arsenal, Atletico Madrid (x2), RB Leipzig, Dortmund
Notable losses: Dortmund (away), Hoffenheim (away)
The German Rekordmeister (it means they've won more Bundesliga titles than anybody else. One of those compound German words that needs an entire sentence to be explained. Kind of like Schadenfreude) are alive in all competitions though kind of hanging by a thread in the Champions League thanks to a weak home loss to Real Madrid in the first leg of their quarterfinal match up. You get the sense the Germans were not properly tested yet this season before that game. Certainly not by an Arsenal in turmoil, whom they easily dispatched in the round of 16, and not by their Bundesliga competitors. How bad is the German top flight this year? RB Leipzig, a promoted team, are Bayern's closest competitors for the league title (another promoted club, SC Freiburg, are sixth). A club with the name TSG Hoffenheim sit third. That bad. In fact, you could make the point that it's a bit of a farce.

3. Barcelona
Record in all competitions: 32 wins, 6 draws, 5 losses (74% winning percentage)
Notable victories: That comeback win over Paris Saint Germain
Other notable results: Drew Real Madrid 1-1 at home in December
Barca trail their rivals from Spain's capital city by just three points in La Liga, while boasting a better goal difference (+61 to Real's +49), so everything to play for there. Recent losses at La Coruna and Malaga have been costly but the return leg against Real looms April 23. The blaugrana split their Champions League series with Manchester City, with a 4-0 beatdown at Camp Nou followed by a 3-1 loss at the Etihad. The Champions League group stage was otherwise forgettable, with easy victories over hopelessly overmatched Celtic and slightly less overmatched Borussia Moenchengladbach. Unforgettable on the other hand was that ridiculous comeback against PSG, though it may have masked some deeper flaws with the club. With Barca that is. PSG's flaws, a choke-artistry that can only be described as uniquely French, were readily apparent.

2. Real Madrid
Record in all competitions: 29 wins, 9 draws, 3 losses (71% winning percentage)
Notable achievements: Eliminated Napoli in CL Round of 16, drew Barcelona at Camp Nou, won 3-0 at Atletico Madrid
There are a couple of blemishes on Real's record: a loss to Celta Vigo over two legs in the Copa del Rey quarterfinals was certainly the major disappointment of the season so far, and their performance in a relatively weak Champions League group (finishing second behind Borussia Dortmund) also left a little bit to be desired. Other than that this club seems to have everything. While Cristiano Ronaldo certainly isn't getting any younger, with former Tottenham players like Gareth Bale and Luca Modric feeding him the ball that doesn't really matter all that much now, does it?

1. Juventus
Record in all competition: 34 wins, 4 draws, 4 losses (81% winning percentage)
Notable victories: At Sevilla in Champions League group stage, Roma
Notable losses: Inter, AC Milan, Genoa, Fiorentina (all away)
Masimiliano Allegri's men boast the best winning percentage of the clubs tracked here. Fresh off a 3-0 dismantling of Barcelona in the first leg of their Champions League quarterfinal, the old lady of Italian football is firing on all cylinders. Their eight point lead atop the Serie A standings should be safe with six matchdays remaining, though a visit to second-placed Roma looms on May 14. Speaking of safe, that three-goal cushion over Barca should be sufficient as well, since, well, Juventus are not Paris Saint Germain. Paulo Dybala is looking like the next Argentine superstar.

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