Wed, 04 Oct 2023

European soccer has long been viewed as the epicenter of the sport - it is where players aspire to play and where the biggest clubs are located.

While many other regions have a rich soccer heritage, Europe dominates the landscape like no other continent on the planet.

A quick look at the list of the most popular soccer teams highlights that point to perfection, with European clubs filling the top 10 places.

Investment from major broadcasters and global brands has fueled a talent drain from other regions into European soccer.

When Pele was helping Brazil win three World Cups between 1958 and 1970, he had plenty of offers to join big European clubs.

He resisted the temptation to play club soccer outside the Americas - something that would be unthinkable for any top player in the modern era.

Talented youngsters are now conditioned to dream of playing for clubs such as Real Madrid Barcelona, Manchester United and others.

Several big European clubs have become soccer powerhouses by marketing themselves way beyond the boundaries of their local markets.

A quick look at the 50 most valuable sports teams highlights that point to perfection, with nine soccer clubs featuring in the list.

Madrid ($4.8 billion) and Barcelona ($4.7bn) both make it into the top 10, while Bayern Munich ($4.21bn) and Man United ($4.2bn) are not too far behind.

Liverpool ($4.1bn), Manchester City ($4bn), Chelsea ($3.2bn), Arsenal ($2.8bn) and Paris Saint-Germain ($2.5bn) are the other European clubs in the top 50.

Unfortunately for the rest of the world, they have been unable to keep pace as the European soccer juggernaut has powered forward.

While selected countries such as China and Japan have offered vast sums of money to sign players, they have rarely attracted top stars.

All of this goes a long way to explaining why European soccer has increased its advantage over every other region in recent years.

This point is perfectly demonstrated by the FIFA Club World Cup, an annual tournament between the champion teams of each continent.

First staged in 2000, the competition has been by European clubs on 14 occasions, while South American sides have recorded just four victories.

The Club World Cup's predecessor, a Europe vs South America play-off called the Intercontinental Cup, was far more difficult to predict.

South American clubs won 22 to Europe's 21, demonstrating just how far the balance of power has shifted during the 21st century.

It is a similar story in the World Cup, with Brazil's success in 2002 the last time a team from outside Europe lifted the prestigious trophy.

While international soccer remains hugely important for non-European players, the riches on offer at club level on the continent tends to be their main focus.

This is unlikely to change any time soon, with European club soccer continually attracting investment from new sources.

From Middle Eastern oil states to American billionaires and more, Europe is the place to be for anyone looking to be involved at the top level in soccer.

Factor in lucrative sponsorship deals and eyewatering broadcast deals and the gravy train in European soccer shows no signs of slowing down.

With many top European clubs creating global networks by acquiring clubs in other regions, it is difficult to see how the rest of the world will ever catch up.

Manchester City are a perfect example of this in action having recently completed a deal to buy Italian club Palermo.

The City Football Group already owns several clubs across the world, including Melbourne City FC and New York City FC, and more may be added in the future.

Quite where things will end up is anyone's guess, but it is questionable whether Europe's growing monopoly on soccer is good for the sport as a whole.

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