Two decades ago, Italy's Serie A would have been a near-automatic choice as the world's strongest and most star-studded league. However, the halcyon days of Diego Maradona's Napoli squaring up to an AC Milan side boasting Gullit, Baresi, Van Basten et al are clearly but a glorious memory for FIFA.com users, with England's Premier League and Spain's Primera Liga now capturing the imagination of fans the world over.
The rest, Italy, France and Germany included, were left trailing miles behind as the English and Spanish top flights dominated the week's first 'Have Your Say' debate on football's most exciting domestic league. Everyone had their own favourite, of course, but in the end it proved impossible to separate La Liga, with its flair-filled encounters, from the passionate Premiership and its ever-expanding galaxy of stars.
US user akere09 stated the case for the former, writing: "It (La Liga) is so unpredictable. It can be Real Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, Sevilla, Espanyol, or Athletico Madrid. In England, it's always one of the teams in the top four - Man U, Arsenal, Chealsea, and maybe Liverpool."
There were plenty, however, willing to championing the Premier League's cause, with Hong Kong-based gunnerfan showing his enthusiasm: "The most exciting league would have to be the Premier League," he wrote. "The title race is almost over for most of the other leagues. But the PL is still an awesome battleground between Gunners, Red Devils and Chelsea. It's not over yet, whereas the gap between the leaders and the other teams in Serie A, La Liga and Portuguese Liga is over 3 points."
For all that the Spanish and English top flights dominated
proceedings, the debate wasn't without originality, with
another of our American users stating the case for the Greek Super
League coming into consideration. As
FOOTBALLNYC wrote: "In this league you have 3 monster
teams (Olympiakos, Panathinaikos, AEK), you have 3 big teams (PAOK,
Aris, Panionios) and then you have popular teams which bring in
some star power (Larissa, Xanthis, etc). On top of the budget and
star power, the league seems to bring excitement between all those
levels I established above. It is a very tight race as always and
with the advent of new, better players, it is becoming the most
competitive I have seen of all leagues."
Suggestions weren't confined to Europe, either, with Chinese user bianco putting forward a league that has proved to be a prolific conveyer belt of talent over the years: "In my mind, the most exciting one is Brasileiro - the world champions' cradle, which is so close and fierce and full of young talent. The superstars like Pele, Garrincha, Zico, Kaká and Robinho etc. are all produced out of it."
Aussie rules in Asia
Our second 'Have Your Say' of the week focused on the FIFA World Cup™ qualifying section that captured an entire continent's imagination when the South Africa 2010 Preliminary Draw took place in November. At the time, top-seeded Australia could hardly believe that they had been drawn alongside Asian champions Iraq, China - a nation with immense latent potential - and an underdog, in Qatar, more than capable of biting any of the big guns.
However, even before Pim Verbeek's Socceroos swept past the Qataris 3-0 in their opening fixture while China and 10-man Iraq shared the spoils in Dubai, the FIFA.com users were in no doubt that the Aussies, so impressive at Germany 2006, would be back on the game's biggest stage in 2010.
One of our Australian users, FIGJAMS, offered a reasoned view of the section that was difficult to question: "Australia should finish the top of group with the talent available to them, assuming they get constant access to their best squad each time. Unfortunately I think they underestimated the Asian teams in their first journey into the Asian Cup and were unprepared in the first two games they played. With a new coach now in place and the desire to return to the World Cup in 2010, they should be to strong for the rest. Iraq played well at the Asian Cup but faced an unprepared Australia in the group stage, but should finish second to Australia with China being the major threat to them."
Other Aussies were less measured, with one particularly confident user insisting that it's only a matter of time before the Socceroos conquer the world. "Australia will win because you haven't even seen us begin to play football yet," wrote zzlgrant. "Until November 2005 the sport could barely pull a 5000 strong crowd for a home game. Now stadiums are packed out. The sleeping giant has awoken. Australia are the best in the world at just about any sport we put our minds to and anything else isn't worth playing. Look out world, we are here!!"
While the likes of Italy, Argentina and Brazil might not be quaking in their boots quite yet, it was certainly near-impossible to find anyone who didn't fancy the Aussies to top Group 1. China certainly had precious few supporters, although there were a clutch of users willing to stick their necks out for Iraq pulling off another remarkable triumph.
Norwegian user Zinedine kicked off the debate by tipping the Asian champions to qualify for South Africa 2010, while Kuwait's Falcon.q8 was even more forthright in backing his neighbours to coast through. "Iraq will top this group with ease and that will not be a hard job," wrote the Kuwaiti. "Qatar will battle for second spot."
A big thank you to everyone who contributed to these debates and, as always, apologies for not being able to recognise every comment we receive. Next up for discussion is the CAF Africa Cup of Nations, with your task to tell us who you feel has been the star of this thrilling and unpredictable tournament.