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SBI European Club Top 25


With the European soccer season set to get into full swing this weekend it is time to bring back a staple of the original SBI, The SBI European Top 25.

Manchester United finished as the unquestioned choice for top team in Europe last year, winning the league and Champions League trophies. Things won’t be as easy this time around as Man U will not start the season in the top spot. Chelsea’s off-season improvements give the Blues the edge to start the season.

There aren’t many surprises to start the year. At least I don’t think there are. My darkhorse to be a breakout team is Atletico Madrid, which has compiled an even deeper talent pool than usual and Atletico could be this year’s Villarreal.

Just take note that this is the start of the season so the rankings will adjust over time so don’t get too bent out of shape if your club is lower than you think it should be.

Now, here is the first installment of the 2008 SBI European Top 25:

SBI European Top 25

1. Chelsea

This week: vs. Tottenham on Sunday.

Outlook: The addition of manager Luiz Felipe Scolar, midfield maestro Deco as well as fullback Jose Bosingwa have the Blues looking like EPL and Champions League title favorites. And that’s not including the potential Robinho signing.

2. Barcelona

This week: at Numancia on Sunday.

Outlook: Additions of Dani Alves, Alexander Hleb and Seydou Keita, as well as the team’s decision to keep Samuel Eto’o has the squad looking as talented as the squad that won the Champions League two years ago. Spain’s Euro stars, Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Carles Puyol, lead a team that looks poised to erase the disappointment of last season.

3. Inter Milan

This week: at Sampdoria on Saturday.

Outlook: Arrival of Jose Mourinho makes Inter an intriguing pick to pull the double. Inter has the talent and should now have the organization. Is Mario Balotelli ready for primetime?

4. Manchester United

This week: Off in EPL (vs. Zenit St. Petersburg in UEFA Super Cup on Friday).

Outlook: Playing without Cristiano Ronaldo, reigning European and EPL champions are started slowly but are still among the world’s best

5. Real Madrid

This week: at Deportivo La Coruna on Sunday.

Outlook: Wesley Snjeider’s injury, Robinho’s uncertain status and the club’s inability to land any big-ticket summer signings has the La Liga champions looking vulnerable.

6. Liverpool

This week: at Aston Villa on Sunday.

Outlook: Additions of Robbie Keane and Albert Riera should help Reds shake the ‘underachiever’ label. The big questions are whether Fernando Torres can keep it up and whether Steven Gerrard can stay healthy.

7. Bayern Munich

This week: vs. Hertha Berlin.

Outlook: The slow start doesn’t bode well, but Bayern just has too much talent and the addition of new manager Juergen Klinsmann makes Bayen a favorite to repeat as Bundesliga champions and be a real threat in Champions League. Absence of Franck Ribery can’t be forgotten.

8. Juventus

This week: at Fiorentina on Sunday.

Outlook: Additions of Amauri, Olof Mellberg and (possibly) Stephen Appiah could be the perfect mix for a Juve team that looks poised to challenge Inter for the Scudetto. Can Alessandro Del Piero and David Trezeguet repeat their amazing years?

9. AC Milan

This week: vs. Bologna on Sunday.

Outlook: Additions of Andriy Shevchenko, Ronaldinho and Mathieu Flamini give a boost to an aging club that needed some new blood. The questions are big ones though. Can Sheva regain his old Milan form? Can Ronaldinho work his La Liga magic in Serie A? Can Ronaldinho get into good enough shape to deal with the tight spaces in Serie A?

10. Atletico Madrid

This week: vs. Malaga on Sunday.

Outlook: Additions of Johnny Heitinga, Tomas Ujfalusi and Paulo Assuncao bolster the defense, and the late arrival of Ever Banega via loan could wind up being a huge addition. With Sergio Aguero, Diego Forlan and Maxi Rodriguez in attack, Atletico gets the edge over Villarreal for the last spot in the Top 10. They could be the biggest surprise in Europe this year.

  • 11. Villarreal
  • 12. Roma
  • 13. Lyon
  • 14. Arsenal
  • 15. Ajax
  • 16. Fiorentina
  • 17. Fenerbahce
  • 18. Schalke 04
  • 19. PSV Eindhoven
  • 20. FC Porto
  • 21. Celtic
  • 22. Zenit St. Petersburg
  • 23. Everton
  • 24. Standard Liege
  • T25. Hamburg
  • T25. Aston Villa

So yeah, it’s actually a Top 26. Let me know what you think of the initial rankings. I’m not married to these initial rankings, just a snapshot of how I think things shape up heading into the new season. I’m sure I will adjust them quite a bit as things shake out.

Feel free to list your own Top 10, and also share your thoughts on my rankings in the comments section below.


  1. Listen guys, you REALLY need to relax. I put out an initial Top 25 to get the discussion going. You can disagree with selections, I welcome that, but the “How in the world could you put team A over team B” talk is tired. Is Milan a bit high? Sure, but that’s my call. Should Marseille be in the rankings? Definitely, but I overlooked them. It’s really as simple as that. As we get into the season I will definitely tighten up the rankings.

  2. I don’t know how you rate AC Milan over Roma. They added a few good players and where 2nd in the scuddetto last year.. while AC might have talent but so does tottenham.. talent doesnt equate to chemistry

  3. Ives said:

    “This is the first ranking, so no it’s not really based on form yet as much as on my expectations for the teams heading into the season.”

    Not to belabor this point, but I’m guessing that your expectations for Marseille are quite different than the rest of the French press, who’ve tapped OM as the clear challengers to Lyon’s Ligue 1 dominance.

    Even if we discount current form, OM’s 08-09 expectations are quite lofty: usurp Lyon, challenge for Coupe Nationale, and make a deep run in Champions League.

    If Celtic (whom I love) is 21st, based at least partially on this year’s expectations and last year’s CL round of 16, then Marseille simply have to be in the mix of the 25 best teams in Europe. When you add in current form, it’s a no-brainer…

  4. Zenit have been utter crap domestically. I can’t see why they are so high. (I mean, who really cares about the Super Cup)

    Rubin Kazan, meanwhile, have been in first basically the whole season (2/3 of the way through in Russia) with an impressive 11-6-2 record. They should probably be somewhere near the bottom of the list.

  5. I love Everton; but I think most are probably right–in terms of expectations, I don’t rate them top 25 in Europe. They’re starting 11 IS basically in tact, but depth is a big problem right now, and without 4 or 5 more significant signings to go with the 3 they’ve just made, they’re not poised for a run in the Prem or in Europe.

    I hope to hell the prove me wrong; but even David Moyes is afraid they can’t finish top 6 or 7 with what he has. Their matchup with Standard Liege in the next month will tell us a lot.

  6. Hey Joe D., another Napoli fan. However no way they can be listed in the top 25. I hope they do well but they have to prove it for now.

  7. I can never understand how you put Real Madrid below Barca when Real is coming off of a league championship. Barca has a great team — on paper. But when you watch them you see that they have serious chemistry issues. You think a player like Alves is going to help that? What’s so great about Hleb? I don’t rate him much.

    Scheuster has Madrid playing team ball, and that is what is going to keep them at the top. I will very interested to see what happens if they land Drogba for Robinho. If Madrid had a bad locker room guy last year, it was the enigmatic Robinho.

  8. hamburg, celtic, liege really? just to name a few awful list. Here are my 25 in no particular order


    2. Man U

    3. Liverpool

    4. Arsenal

    5. Inter

    6. AC milan

    7. Juventus

    8. Roma

    9. Bayern Munch

    10. Stuttgart

    11. Barca

    12. Real Madrid

    13. Villareal

    14. lyon

    15. bordeux

    16. ajax

    17. psv

    18. leverkreusen

    19. schalke

    20. Zenit

    21. CSKA

    22. Shakhtyor

    23. Rangers

    24. Atletico M

    25. marseilles

  9. I do wonder why people think Everton will suddenly be terrible. If they get Veloso to go with Saha I think they’ll be looking pretty good for a top six finish.

    And folks, I was very high on Tottenham before the EPL season began, but after those first two weeks I just wonder if they’re going to pull it together. It sure is a lot of talent, but sometimes you through talent together and it doesn’t work.

  10. A few things:

    This is the first ranking, so no it’s not really based on form yet as much as on my expectations for the teams heading into the season.

    I’m high on Barcelona, and really think they’re going to be a beast this year. Yes, I get that Real Madrid owned them last year and won the league but that was last year and I just feel like Barcelona got significantly better in the off-season while Real Madrid essentially stood pat with the exception of adding Van Der Vaart (an addition that would be canceled out by Robinho leaving).

    You folks are right on Everton. I shouldn’t have included them. As soon as I get a better connection (I’m out of the office) I’ll take them out.

    As for who goes in. I actually had Sporting Lisbon and Werder bremen in my initial list. Those of you who followed my rankings know it has good representation from several leagues (though maybe not some of the wacky inclusions I hear some people suggest sometimes).

  11. agree with briguy marseille should be in the rankings 9 goals in 3 games in ligue 1 and is leading ligue 1 aswell and have one of the best attacks in the world with hatem ben arfa karim ziani baky kone and mamadou niang even if they lost djibril cisse

  12. I never knew Standard Liege was so good I oughtta follow up on them more, I knew they were Belgian champs but after the Liverpool series theyve shown me what they’ve got. Zenit is another team under the radar that is just beating everyone lately

  13. Why is everyone hating my Toffees (Everton)? They had a bad first game but came back the week after. They have made 3 significant signings in the past week. Let’s not forget the most important fact… They have Tim Howard! One of the top 5 keepers in the world! Not to mention Yak, Lescott and the rest of the lot!!! Go Toffees 🙂

  14. looks good Ives. only one I wonder about is Everton being on there. I know it’s early, but I wouldn’t get too excited if I was an Everton supporter. that said, not sure who I’d replace them with…

  15. I’ll be interested to see if AC Milan warrants all this optimism. When you think about it, 2 of the 3 players they signed have not had a good year since 05. Ronaldinho was lousy at the world cup, so it wasn’t just last year. Sheva has lost a step with age that he never had to give. He always succeeded despite his average pace and now he is one of the slowest forwards around. We’ll see though, maybe he and Jar-jar will have a mutual Renaissance.

  16. My top 10:

    1. Chelsea

    2. Inter

    3. Real Madrid

    4. Barca- Gotta go with the reigning La Liga Champions. Very Close, but Real Madrid looked really good against Valencia with 2 men down.

    T5. Milan

    T5. Juve- Juve is in Champs league and look like they will only be better than last year. The negative side is that we pretty much know what we will get out of Juve. Milan has a more talented roster, but you never know what will happen when you make a lot of changes to your team.)

    7. Lyon- I think Lyon’s mix of youth and experience will be lethal in both French and European play

    8. Roma- Loss of Mancini is big, but if a couple players step up they will be dangerous as they were last year.

    9. Man U- They look pretty bad right now. They Desperately need Ronaldo and Hargreaves. Also, what the hell Scholes.

    10. Bayern Munich- If I based this solely on current form, then there is no way Bayern makes the top 10 same is true with Man U. Bayern, like Man U, needs they’re attacking leader badly. (Ribery)

  17. what?!? No Napoli?!? They just got through Intertoto (2-0 agg) and destroyed their competition in the UEFA Cup preliminary round (8-0 agg). They are going to have a sick attacking strike force this season. They added German Denis to go along with Lavezzi, and they still have Hamsik and added Maggio to their midfield. Zalayeta coming off the bench…they will definitely be fun to watch!

  18. I think that Arsenal deserves to be a bit higher, and putting Barca before Real Madrid is completely wrong imo.

    Looking forward to the next rankings though 🙂

  19. may i ask how everton is in 23rd. How about sporting lisbon, marseille, and werder bremen? I don’t think there should be six english teams in this.

  20. You got it right, Ives – Standard Liege belongs on this list. They’ve been really impressive for two years now. I didn’t get to watch this week’s Anfield match, but by all accounts it was a close affair that Liege was unlucky to lose.

    I actually think Gooch should stay on and make a run through UEFA with those youngsters Mbokani and Fellaini.

  21. Barca, Chelsea and Inter will be fighting it out for top spot. Man U, Bayern, Real and Milan will will be a notch below. Schalke and Atletico will be surprises. Liverpool and Lyon will be disappointments.

  22. Dunno about liverpool being rated that highly. Although stacked with talent, there have been a ton of poor purchases combined with terrible tactics. I think they will be lucky if they find themselves in the top 4 this season and Benitez still has his job.

  23. Good for a starting reference point for the season, Ives. This should be a once-a-month feature. It takes that long for things to move significantly when considering multiple leagues, cup competitions, WCQs. I like the idea though.

    Your points about Inter and Juve are spot on. I may actually pay closer attention this year as it might be interesting…a little.



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