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SBI European Club Top 25

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Which is the best team in Europe?

It is a question that has no perfect answer, merely opinions, but the soccer we watch week to week, and the results we come across, usually do a good job of giving us a sense of who the best of the best are.

As we roll through the new European season it is tough to pick anybody but reigning UEFA Champions League champions FC Barcelona, which is off to a strong start to the new campaign. There are certainly challengers though, from fellow Spanish power Real Madrid to English giants Chelsea and Manchester United, to Italian forces Juventus and Inter Milan.

As tough as it is to try and figure out who the best of the best in Europe are, it is also fun trying to figure it out. It is with that spirit that we unveil the first installment of the SBI European Club Top 25, our impartial view of the best teams in Europe. The first few weeks of the rankings are always the toughest, but we wanted to kick things off with this set of rankings to get SBI readers talking about the teams that are impressing, and the ones that are disappointing, in this new European club season.

Here is our first SBI European Clup Top 25 of the new season:

SBI European Club Top 25

  1. Barcelona (3-0)

  2. Chelsea (6-0)

  3. Real Madrid (3-0)

  4. Juventus (4-0)

  5. Manchester United (5-1)

  6. Inter Milan (3-0-1)

  7. Bordeaux (5-0-1)

  8. Manchester City (4-1)

  9. Liverpool (4-2)

  10. Lyon (4-0-2)

  11. Arsenal (3-2)

  12. AC Milan (2-1-1)

  13. Genoa (3-1)

  14. Sevilla (2-1)

  15. Marseille (4-0-2)

  16. Tottenham (4-2)

  17. Hamburg (4-0-2)

  18. Bayer Leverkusen (4-0-2)

  19. Dinamo Kiev (6-0-1)

  20. Bayern Munich (3-1-2)

  21. Valencia (2-0-1)

  22. Galatasaray (6-0)

  23. Olympiakos (2-0-1)

  24. Sampdoria (4-0)

  25. Benfica (4-0-1)

Other Clubs Considered (not in order)

Aston Villa (4-1), Paris St. Germain (3-1-2), Athletic Bilbao (3-0), Fiorentina (2-1-1), Twente Enschede (4-0-2), Rangers (3-0-2), Celtic (4-0-1), Braga (5-0), Wolfsburg (3-3), Schalke 04 (3-2-1), Werder Bremen (2-1-3), AZ Alkmaar (4-3), Feyenoord (4-1-2), PSV Eindhoven (4-0-2), FC Porto (3-1-1), FK Rubin Kazan (14-3-4), Spartak Moscow (12-6-4), Panathanaikos (4-0), Shakhtar Donetsk (5-0-1)

These records are each team's domestic league record.


Some thoughts on the rankings:

Head to head results do factor in, but that factor diminishes with time, particularly if the teams are heading in different directions results-wise. This would explain why Liverpool is in the Top 10, and Aston Villa is not.

European competition plays a big factor in the rankings as well. Teams that aren't competing in Europe will struggle to move past teams that are. Manchester City is the obvious exception to this rule in our rankings. Their play this season and the increased talent on the squad justifies them being ranked highly despite not playing in Europe. That said, dips in form will hurt them more than teams that have domestic and European competition to play in.

This explains why Aston Villa just missed out on a place in the Top 25. It boils down to the club's Europa League exit at the hands of Rapid Vienna. Villa's a good team and is likely to move into the Top 25 soon, but that Europea League loss loomed large and overshadowed the early-season victory vs. Liverpool (and yes, I realize Villa chose not to play all its starters, but that's not enough of an excuse to justify the early exit).

There is really no perfect way to do these rankings, so while we welcome suggestions, and differing opinions, anyone who gets too bent out of shape about these rankings is missing the point of them. We're trying to spark discussion and inform readers about how top teams are doing throughout Europe. Share your own thoughts on teams, and those you feel are ranked too high, too low, or just right, but we ask that people refrain from posting their own rankings.

I'm sure the rankings will undergo some major adjustments in the early going, but let this set of rankings be the starting point for some good discussion on the teams that are impressing so far this season in Europe.

As for this week? Genoa was going to be ranked higher before it's loss to Chievo. AC Milan hasn't been that dominant early on, but it's Champions League victory vs. Marseille carried them to the higher ranking this week. Sampdoria is unbeaten in Serie A, but has yet to play a top opponent.  And, yes, I left off Bayern Munich from my original list, but have since included them.

What do you think of this week's rankings? Disagree with Barcelona being No. 1? Think French teams are too well-represented? Feel Aston Villa is ranked too low? Which of the unranked teams do you feel is most deserving of cracking the Top 25?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. “SBI-Just because you think it’s dumb doesn’t make it dumb.”

    True, being dumb is what makes it dumb.

    “I’ve done it for years and had exactly one complaint about it. Seems to me that people have figured it out.)”

    Doesn’t make it not dumb.

  2. Saw Rapid Vienna at their home stadium. (It would be a perfect,simple stadium for the MLS; and cost effective; plenty of seats covered from elements. They are a quick, coordinated , well coached team that plays FOR GOALS. Loaded with eastern europeans/serbs/hungarians that can slice up a defense. I recommend you check them out someday.

  3. Come on Ives how doesn’t Braga make the top 25?…Their 5-0-0 to start the season, and two of those wins came against Sporting (Away) and Porto (Home)…Also Benfica should be little higher…I mean they have the best scoring record in all of Europe right now…Really do need to start following the Portuguese league more Ives

    (SBI-I do like Benfica a lot, and there’s certainly a case for them being higher, but I’m not really sold on Braga.)

  4. Thanks for the response.

    My comment wasn’t meant to be anti-“Eurosnob”. I love following foreign leagues as well as the domestic.

    Ultimately, this is your site and it’s up to you to determine the best direction. I wish you the best of luck in the future.

  5. “Okay, I can tolerate it for MLS, but seriously, can we do W-D-L for non-American teams like everyone else on earth? W-L-D makes zero sense for any soccer to begin with because that way you’re reporting the numbers worth 3, 0, and 1, instead of reporting them in descending point value,”

    Posted by: CarlosT | September 22, 2009 at 06:47 PM

    Here Here. Excellent idea. Come on Ives, get with the program.

    “(SBI-Carlos, should I maybe switch to the metric system too? ”


    “How about I convert all financial references to euros?”

    Either way, they are fairly close.

    “Like me to start writing in olde English? ”

    No, just get rid of the broken English. (just kidding on that one)

    “Seriously though, SBI is an American blog, and in America the standings list Win, Loss, Tie.”

    And for soccer, that is dumb. We continue to do dumb things just because we’re American?????

    (SBI-Just because you think it’s dumb doesn’t make it dumb. I’ve done it for years and had exactly one complaint about it. Seems to me that people have figured it out.)

  6. Villa’s exit to Rapid Vienna doesn’t look quite as bad now that Rapid has beaten Hamburg 3-0.

    (SBI-Yes, that is true, which is why I stuck Villa back into the top 25 before the whole Bayern snafu. Villa will be in the rankings soon enough. Can’t see them not being there. And please don’t think I don’t like Villa, I pegged them for a top four finish in the EPL, much to the dismay of fans of the “Big Four”.)

  7. How dominate Barca has been in all its encounters, save for Inter, only furthers their argument.

    Posted by: Kobao | September 22, 2009 at 06:40 PM


    I think Barca pretty much did dominate Inter, or at least controlled the match. They were just unable to put away their chances.

  8. Villa are joint 4th(5th on goals scored) with a game in hand and a 5 game winning streak over all competitions. Aside from Liverpool they have had some easy games though so are hard to rank.

    To make things more interesting, Rapid Vienna beat Hamburg 3-0 in their first group stage game. Vienna might not have beaten Villa if O’Neill hadn’t waited until the last minute to sign defensive replacements for Davies, who played that game with a bad shoulder that has since been operated on.

    (SBI-Ifs and buts, ifs and buts. Seriously though, I’m a big fan of Villa’s play this year and picked them to finish third in the EPL, but I just couldn’t overlook that Europa exit when doing this first ranking. It just hung there when comparing them to other clubs that are competing in both the Champions League and Europa and actually doing well. As the season progresses, if they keep winning, they’ll obviously be in the rankings.)

  9. wow. french league better than bundesliga. bundesliga will surpass serie a next year or 2011. Bundesliga teams earned more points in europe than french and italian teams the last three years. Most times the german teams win against the french teams when they face each other in european competition. Bundesliga is the best attended soccer league in the world but hasn´t got many fans in this forum i think.

    (SBI-Once again, who said that exactly? Let me say it one more time in German: I don’t think the French League is better than the German League, I think the top French teams are currently enjoying better seasons than the top German teams. We’ll see soon enough, when Bayern faces Bordeaux, just how far off I am.)

  10. “Have an American starter bonus.” – Ives

    Totally how i was reading the list, i was thinking, “does this team have an American…? no? oh Gooch! Milan check. i’ll rank ’em higher…”

    btw Ives has some hilarious lines in this post, I’m gonna star it in my Google Reader. I know he’s recovering from a Birthday happy hour hangover last night. Still on his game! i know i’m a bit funnier the day after partying…

    Cheers from Cali!

  11. “Even Barca look pretty weak defensively at times…(early indications from the Inter match support this).”

    Posted by: Colin Ferguson | September 22, 2009 at 06:37 PM

    Wrong. I must admit I was waiting for Maicon to come blazing up the flank for an awesome goal – and yet, he never (maybe once?) attacked. Wow. That means Barca shut him out. that’s a big deal when we’re talking about the *best right mid* in the world.

    Sure a few counters went through, but very few. Barca *owned* inter, and the Special1 played his cheap utilitarian play, unfortunately; but to his credit he secured a tie.

    Barca is #1 no doubt. They don’t just win games, they dominate. Even against Inter. That’s amazing.

  12. Marseille is definitely worthy of the Top 25. They looked great against AC Milan and were unfortunate not to get a result in that game.

    Dechamps will make them into a dark horse in the Champions League, and it will be between O.M., Bordeaux, and Lyon for the Ligue 1 title.

  13. Re: Steve’s comments

    I have the exact opposite reaction. I like how Ives has expanded his coverage and will check SBI more often because of the information on European soccer. I would love to see more on South America football at some point — I don’t follow it much, but I have a Brazilian friend who loves their domestic league and I would like to be more informed. I watch Boca Juniors (and other big Argentine teams) when they are on television but that is about it for me.

    While I am interested in MLS, my number one interest is the USMNT and La Liga comes in second. So I am all for the “something for everyone” approach — great stuff.

  14. In doing research to argue with these rankings I have realized how ridiculously difficult it is to come up with a list like this.

    Like who knows how good Dynamo Kiev really is? So they’re dominating the Ukrainian Premier League. I’d imagine Aston Villa would dominate it too. And they beat Rubin Kazan in the Champion’s League. Well, that’s not terribly impressive. But, on the other hand they couldn’t really be doing any better.

    Galatasaray is in a similar situation, except that they’re playing in the Europa League, and the Turkish Super League is arguably better than the Ukrainian Premier League.

    And the French teams are doing well against Italian teams, but does that mean that Ligue 1 competition is on par with Serie A competion? Probably not?

    I would like to say however, that as an Everton supporter I completely agree with no consideration being given to Everton. They’re going to have to do something significant to prove that the ridiculous loss to Arsenal was an aberration.

  15. I have no issue with the current rankings. Bayern had a crap start. Although, I have been really impressed with them since Robben came along. With him and Ribery in the middle, I really think they’ll do much better going forward.

  16. The top 15 has 3 French teams, but 0 teams from Germany or Portugal. What gives?

    (SBI-Read the comments above regarding Germany. As for Portugal, I’d rate Bordeaux and Lyon well ahead of any of the Portuguese teams this year. Marseille’s probably rated too highly, something I’ll adjust in the next rankings.)

  17. Barca deserve to be number one, the champs are the champs until it’s taken from them. Chelski looks damn good right now though. Still, it’s early, another month or two will seriously clarify the picture.

  18. Where the hell is Hull? They topped your list constantly last year!

    (SBI-They didn’t “top” any list last year, they were merely in the Top 25 one week early on after a great start. Obviously it didn’t last.)

  19. Ives – I know I haven’t posted much as I am one of your newest fans. Just want you to know that I follow you for WORLD soccer news given from the perspective of Americans. I particularly like news on Americans playing abroad and of course, the USMNT. Keep up the good work !!

  20. bradley played 90 and apparently a good 90 from what i can find. I think (hope) he’s served his time in the doghouse and is good to go

  21. Kobao- I’m confused. So is Atletico (1 draw, 2 losses, -6 goal differencial), or Getafe (1 win, two losses, 0 gaol differential) better than Tottenham and Man U?

  22. Okay, I can tolerate it for MLS, but seriously, can we do W-D-L for non-American teams like everyone else on earth? W-L-D makes zero sense for any soccer to begin with because that way you’re reporting the numbers worth 3, 0, and 1, instead of reporting them in descending point value, but you’re reporting numbers that are reported elsewhere and they don’t match. Someone looking at Inter’s record would think they have 9 points instead of 10.

    (SBI-Carlos, should I maybe switch to the metric system too? How about I convert all financial references to euros? Like me to start writing in olde English?

    Seriously though, SBI is an American blog, and in America the standings list Win, Loss, Tie. That’s how American sports fans grow up reading standings. As long as you know that, what’s the problem? And if you’re too slow to figure it out, I’m not sure what to tell you. It seems as though you know how I list them, keep it in mind going forward and you’ll be all good.)

  23. Better than Hull, Sunderland, Fulham, Burnley, Stoke City, Porto, Tottenham and Man U? Well Tottenham and Man U aside (although remember it took penalty kicks to beat Man U)there isn’t much quality there plain and simple.

    Atletico is a good side and Getafe is no slouch either. I would take either of those teams over the relegation dodgers. Also I’d say while they only tied Inter that game helps their case as well. at least a lot more than sticking it to the bottom tier of the EPL. How dominate Barca has been in all its encounters, save for Inter, only furthers their argument.

    Yes Chelsea has played more games but their schedule has been about as much fluff as you can get to open the season.
    Like i said before Chelsea has a good side and may end up being the best overall, but i just don’t see how you can put them at #1.

    sidenote:i personally don’t care for Barca. They play fun, attractive football but i’ve always preferred real madrid or valencia.

  24. I think Barcelona and Chelsea will stay locked at 1 and 2 on this list until they meet in the Champions League final next May in what will be the most epic of finals.

    Everybody seems to think that the Barca – Madrid final would top the epic charts, and as passionate and historical that match up is, I think the rematch from last season would still be better. Barca’s offense is too potent for Real’s defense. They would tear them apart. The game would probably end 5-2 like the Barca – Atletico game.

    In general, I haven’t seen much steel in any of the La Liga defenses yet this season. Even Barca look pretty weak defensively at times. When they come up against foreign teams with a stronger defensive backbone and the ability to quickly counter, it is definitely going to give them trouble this year (early indications from the Inter match support this).

  25. @Tony — and for that matter @ SBI — I wasn’t criticizing the rankings, so much as I wasn’t pointing out that they were far more subjective than was being implied. Not that they’re subjective in the sense that a person has defined the otherwise objective ranking factors, but subjective in the sense that they aren’t explicable by those ranking factors alone. If they hewed to a strict formula, the rankings would be different — so, I was pointing out that it’s disingenuous to say that this factor or that one worked for or against a team. Rather, the rankings must be the product of Ives’ informed personal impression — which is fine, but needed to be pointed out. Ives may offer a reason why he believes he is ranking one team above or below another, but shouldn’t suggest it’s being done mechanically.

  26. I know this will get shredded and taken the wrong way, but as a long-time reader, I have to say it… I prefer your commentary on MLS and US Soccer. The world is huge. Leagues are many. I think you have great insight into the goings on of MLS and the USMNT. European-league stuff? It just seems like a less detailed version of stuff that can be found elsewhere (while your domestic coverage is unparalleled).

    It’s just my opinion that SBI would be better if focused solely on issues related to US Soccer; instead of trying to expand outward, it might be better to increase your coverage and analysis of your bread-and-butter.

    Again, I know this will be taken the wrong way. I’m not saying you don’t have the right to publish any opinion you want about any topic you want. I just think the blog would be more interesting–and this is the opinion of a fan, not a critic–if it were a little more focused/a little less sprawling.

    (SBI-Appreciate the feedback Steve, and I know what you’re saying, but I’d say far more readers appreciate the all-encompassing coverage to an MLS/USA-specific coverage. We’re trying to make it a one-stop shop Steve, a place where some folks can come to for a little bit of everything. I feel I know the European game well enough to provide some of that along with the American stuff. It’s about informing as well as educating, because I feel a good fan is a well-rounded fan. It’s all well and good to support MLS and USA, but having some knowledge of the rest of the world doesn’t hurt. We try to provide some of that as well.)

  27. Kobao- Fine, lets not talk about last year. (But I will never accept it, worst officiating I have ever seen).

    This year! Barca has won four games in La Liga. Tell me, which one of their opponents is supposed to be better than any of the teams CHELSEA has beaten? Remember, CHELSEA beat Man U in the Community Shield and won the first silverware of the season. Both teams played their starters.

    What win can Barca claim to move themselves ahead of that?

  28. It doesn’t really matter if Barca got through to the final on away goals. They still dominated a great United team and won, you need accept this. Its over.

    All those PRESEASON wins are great but only the 6 EPL games and the one lackluster win vs Porto count for anything. Its great you support your team and they may very well end up being the best team in Europe (which kills me to say as a Liverpool supporter), but right now your case in my opinion just isn’t there.

  29. Kobao- I agree, their schedule in the EPL has been a breeze so far. But…

    Everyone- Don’t forget that Barca only made it to the final on away goals. Both legs ended in a draw.

    Since July, CHELSEA has beaten Inter, AC Milan, Club America, Manchester United, Porto, and 6 EPL clubs. THEY HAVE WON EVERY GAME THEY HAVE PLAYED.

    Barca is a great team, but when comparing records CHELSEA is dominating so far.

  30. Good point Kobao. I’ve been thinking the same thing myself. Chelsea looks HOT, but they haven’t been tested yet. They looked hot at the beginning of last season too (though admittedly, not this hot).

  31. Nate i gotta disagree man. I hope they get to play each other again this year but to be honest i thought Chelsea were ranked too high. The only team that isn’t a bottom feeder they’ve played domestically is Tottenham and mayyyyybe fulham, who admittedly they handled quite well. Let’s see what they do against the other top clubs before Ives puts them at #1.

  32. Overall a good ranking, with the exception of 1 and 2.

    CHELSEA have a perfect record with Ancelotti. They have won 11 in a row in the EPL. They got eliminated from the Champions League in the most ridiculous of circumstances.

    Barca are number 2, and I mean that.

  33. I don’t think Barca should even be on this list. I’m not sure what game they are playing, but it isn’t the same thing the rest of the teams are playing.

  34. Messi with beautiful second goal replaced by Iniesta. Marquez on pitch as sub. For myself Keita is the weak link, but only because everyone else is so damn good.

  35. Can you also list the clubs’ RPI next week? 😉 Maybe we can call Europa League-Bracket Busters?

    Any non college basketball fans can disregard this post

  36. i agree for the most part with these rankings and your sentiment about the french league not getting enough respect.

    Ives how much do you think Lyon’s reign of terror this decade has played into this? Do you think people are assuming the league is sub-par because of Lyon’s dominance?

    its fun that you are doing this and i look forward to seeing how the rankings change as the year goes on.


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