Clive Ke-Sumbu | Football Editor | Monday 1 August 2016 | GMT 13:00 | firstname.lastname@example.org
With the 2016/17 football season imminently approaching, I can assure you as a fellow football fan that we’re going to be entertained like never before. There are so many questions that need to be answered, but the most important being: who will win the ultimate domestic prize in Europe’s top five leagues (the Serie A, Ligue 1, Bundesliga, La Liga and Premier League)?
With many bookies already producing their potential champions, to conjure up such predictions for the forthcoming season will be difficult and with the unpredictable nature of last season (in the Premier league especially), my predictions may backfire or (hopefully) make me a more credible editor. But regardless of the outcome, I’m going to put forward my predictions as to who I believe will win each of the top five leagues in Europe in the forthcoming 2016/17 season.
Italy – Serie A
In recent seasons, Serie A has been dominated by a formidable giant in the form of Juventus and with five successive Serie A titles stretching back from 2011/12, it looks like they are certain favourites to secure a record sixth straight Serie A title. Despite the clear stronghold Juventus have on Serie A, the slow emergence of Roma and Napoli in recent seasons should make Juventus’ stronghold a little more difficult. But whilst this is the case, it is unlikely with the demise of the most successful clubs in Italy’s history (Internazionale and AC Milan) that Juventus will considerably falter. Last season was meant to be the year in which they did.
As late as 31 October, it looked like Juventus was firmly out of the title race. However, their poor run of results during those early months of the season was quickly followed by a number of scintillating performances that restored them to the top of the league, winning Serie A with a few games to spare. Thus, last season was a clear demonstration of Juventus’ dominance, aided by the perpetual failure of their title rivals to keep up.
With that being said, Juventus’ finance compared to other Italian teams is vastly superior, mainly due to the revenue of their new stadium. Juventus are only one of three teams to own a stadium outright in the Italian league and this has allowed them to lure more attractive players to the club. In addition, what they have done to their squad during this summer further epitomises their dominance.
The recent acquisition of Dani Alves, Miralem Pjanic (one of the Roma’s best players) and the record domestic signing (£75 Million) of Napoli’s potent striker, Gonzalo Higuaín, is a clear strategy by Juventus to weaken their title rivals whilst in turn making themselves much more formidable. But, with the loss of Alvaro Morata to Real Madrid (due to the buyback clause) and the potential loss of one of their best players– Paul Pogba – to his former club Manchester United, Juventus will evidently be hurting.
But taking into account all that has been stated, I have to go with Juventus as my Serie A champions of 2016/17. With their financial superiority and performances over the past five seasons, there isn’t much evidence to suggest that another team may pip Juventus to the title. In addition, the acquisition of Miralem Pjanic limits the severity of potentially losing Paul Pogba and with the recent acquisition of Napoli’s star man Higuaín, they have managed to acquire one of the deadliest strikers in Europe, upending the loss of Morata.
Ultimately, a 6th successive Serie A title would mean that Juventus would overtake Internazionale’s record of five consecutive league titles (2006-2010) and at the moment, placing that bet would not be irrational.
France – Ligue 1
Whilst Juventus’ stronghold on Serie A is clear to see, Paris Saint-Germain’s (PSG) is even more apparent. The utter ease in which PSG won Ligue 1 last season was frightening to say the least. Since 2012 when Qatar Sports Investments became the sole shareholder of the club, it led to a feeling that PSG had sought to monopolise the French league. With four consecutive league titles and unprecedented successive domestic quadruples, there has never been more reason to justify this case.
PSG’s financial superiority over French clubs has allowed them to boast about the players they have at their disposal – players like Edison Cavani, Marco Verratti, Thiago Silva and many more. However, their dominance over Ligue 1 is not only based on finance, but the weakness of their rivals Lyon and Marseille.
With the recent departure of Michy Batshuayi and the potential departure of Georges-Kévin N’Koudou to the Premier League, Marseille has been weakened further and the club will find it difficult to replace their key players as they simply don’t have the same financial might as their giant rivals PSG. Whilst Marseille’s problem is not being able to retain their key players, Lyon’s problem lies elsewhere.
It’s been a struggle to get back to the heights that made them a formidable force domestically and in Europe during the mid-2000s. The latest departure of Samuel Umtiti to Barcelona leaves a big gap for Lyon to fill and makes it a lot harder to break PSG’s dominance. Although the recent departure of PSG’s talisman and all time top goal scorer (Zlatan Ibrahimović) will inevitably hinder their potent attacking force, they already have a striker in the form of Cavani capable of producing similar displays to Ibrahimović albeit his talismanic nature is not as prominent as his predecessor.
Overall, with the weakened opposition of Ligue 1 and the financial superiority of PSG, this further adds weight to my prediction to PSG being clear favourites to win another league title for a 5th consecutive season. It is only a matter time before PSG close in on Lyon’s record of the most consecutive league titles won (7) – another League title this season would put them one step closer to that record.
My other predictions continue next week Monday, where I’ll look at the rest of Europe’s top leagues including La Liga, the Bundesliga and Premier League.