No competition: Euro 2012 proves the two best club teams
It continues to amaze me that a number of people I know consider Premiership teams to be the best in the world and say, regularly, that "Barcelona and Madrid wouldn't last a minute in the English league". It amazes me because it's not only wrong, it is easy enough to prove.
Euro 2012 was the perfect opportunity to see the differences between Madrid/Barcelona and the rest of Europe, even including Champions League finalists Bayern Munich. Certainly the domination of Spain over the last few years can be cited as a major reason for their quality, but even ignoring the Spanish players it is evident.
Using a rating scale of 0-10 (based on a combination of coefficients from public voting to expert match ratings and UEFA's players of the tournament) and cutting down to everyone over 6.5/10, I'm left with the twenty-one best players of the international competition. Of these twenty-one world-class footballers, fifteen play in Spain, two in England, two in Germany and two in Italy.
But it's interesting to split it down further; there are five non-Spanish footballers in that list at Madrid (Coentrao, Khedira, Ozil, Pepe and Ronaldo) compared to five non-Spanish footballers in the rest of the world! Excluding Madrid (8) and Barcelona (6), no team has more than two players on that list. Manchester City, who won the premiership, have only David Silva on that list, and Liverpool (eighth in the tournament) are the only English team to make the list with stalwart Steven Gerrard somehow getting 11th.
So Madrid and Barcelona dominate the best European players. Certainly Manchester City are lacking Zabaleta, Adebayor, Aguero and Tevez, but Madrid are missing Marcelo, di Maria, Higuain and Kaka whilst Barcelona miss Alves, Messi and Macherano. And, on top of that, Spanish powerhouses David Villa and Carlos Puyol couldn't make the tournament. Manchester United, by comparison, lacked Anderson, Hernandez and Rafael, Valencia and Berbatov - but best players Nani, Rooney and others failed to impress whilst others (such as de Gea) simply weren't good enough to make it onto the first team.
Spanish club players also (unsurprisingly) had the most goals of any nation, though the presence of Silva at Manchester City kept England second in goals and above Spain on assists. The only player from a Spanish team that wasn't Madrid or Barcelona was Alba, who is nonetheless moving to Barcelona this summer.
All this leads me to conclude the following: Barcelona, with a core team closely resembling the Spanish squad, are easily the second best team in the world - and Madrid (with Ronaldo topping the 'best striker' category and with eight players making the top twenty) are the best. In fact, as noted above, of the top twenty players, only ten weren't from Spain - and of those ten, five were from Madrid. This alone should stop people from thinking that either Manchester squad - or any of the less competent British teams - could classify themselves as better than the Spanish giants.
As people foolishly compare this year's Spanish squad with the best international teams in history, people also seem to foolishly compare Barcelona with the best club teams of all time... and though they're not statistically even the best club team in the world at the moment, it has to be said that they're a cut above the rest of us.