England top UEFA ranking as Premier League rules Europe

May 2nd, 2008 - 1:32 pm ICT by admin  

Hamburg, May 2 (DPA) The first-all English Champions League final between Chelsea and Manchester United has lifted the Premier League to the top of the European football rankings for the first time in 23 years. The ruling body UEFA does not post the five-year rankings on its website, but according to the Thursday list on the German site, www.5-jahres-wertung.de/APD/Online/5-Jahres-Wertung.htm, which has official character, England has leapfrogged eight-year leader Spain.

England lead the way with 75.499 points from Spain (75.266) and Italy (60.285). France are fourth on 52.668 points, followed by Germany (48.722) and Russia (42.500).

The UEFA coefficient determines the number of participating clubs in the various continental competitions. The top three nations have two direct entries into the Champions League plus two teams in the qualifying rounds.

England led the list due to strong showings until 1985, the year its clubs were banned from Europe for several years after the Heysel disaster in which 39 mainly Italian fans died as a result of rioting by Liverpool fans at the Champions Cup final in Brussels.

But after returning to European action English clubs made big progress, in part due to the number of foreign coaches and players, that have increased in the 1990s and in later years due to the influence of foreign money and owners like Roman Abramovich (Chelsea).

Chelsea has the likes of Ivorian Didier Drogba and Germany captain Michael Ballack, United boast Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo, Liverpool field Spanish striker star Fernando Torres and the Arsenal team of French coach Arsene Wenger often fields 11 foreigners.

“The English Premier League and its clubs is strong. But the main reason is that they employ many foreign top players,” said German football icon Franz Beckenbauer.

All four English teams made the Champions League quarter-finals this season, with Liverpool, Chelsea and United making the semis en route to the United vs. Chelsea final.

It is the first all-English final in the elite event but the fourth year in a row that a Premier League side is in the final, with Liverpool winning against AC Milan in 2005, Arsenal losing to Barcelona in 2006 and Milan beating Liverpool in 2007.

“The level of English teams is high. It is very difficult to beat them because they are very strong. They are very organised and all get behind the ball. It is very tough to beat an English team,” said Barcelona coach Frank Rijkaard, whose side was ousted by United Tuesday.

“The type of football they play is only in the Premier League. They defend as though their lives depend on it. And they are very successful.”

The fans also had their saying Thursday.

An online poll by The Guardian daily said Thursday afternoon that 55.3 percent said an all-English final was bad for European football, with only 44.7 percent saying it was good.

The Sun’s website forum also showed fan awareness that English clubs but not necessarily English football is good - highlighted by the national team’s failure to qualify for Euro 2008.

“The fact that English clubs are among the best can’t hide the problems of English football. The fact that the national team is out of 2008 Euro is a real shame. A shame for England but also for us, in Europe, who love to see big games,” said one user.

Another one was more blunt: “Money can buy you success at club level, but not at national level.”

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