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How good is Ligue 1?

Eva Lopez | Gianna-Carina Grün
July 17, 2018

France may have won the World Cup, which reflects well on the French league. However, statistics compiled by DW show that a different league was far more successful at this World Cup.

WM Finale Frankreich Pogba  Pokal
Image: Getty Images/AFP/F. Fife

Read this article in German.

England may have been knocked out of the World Cup by Croatia in the semifinals. However, in Russia, the English Premier League finished first in DW's scoring system for players from Europe's top leagues. This should come as no surprise, as the Premier League, along with Spain's La Liga, has long been regarded as the cream of the crop — and with good reason.

French players in foreign leagues

DW's scoring system demonstrates how successful players from each individual league were at the World Cup. In other words, the success of each national team is converted through its individual players to success values for the leagues in which they play their club football.

Read more: The methodology of the DW-Score system

Under this system, Ligue 1 came in fifth behind the English Premier League, La Liga, Germany's Bundesliga, and the Italian Serie A. The French national team that won the World Cup on Sunday had just two players, Kylian Mbappe and Nabil Fekir, from Ligue 1. That's exactly the same number as there were from the Bundesliga (Benjamin Pavard and Corentin Tolisso).

Data visualization football leagues comparison

What is also notable about the French national team is that it had players from more different clubs than either of the previous two World Cup champions. The Spanish team that won the 2010 World Cup did so with the explosive football played by Barcelona and Real Madrid. In 2014, Bayern Munich were at the top of the footballing world and seven of their players were involved in the final played at the Maracana in Brazil. France, on the other hand, used players from 12 different clubs in the final in Moscow.

Bundesliga and Serie A players at the World Cup

Members of the German national team were able to put up their feet from the knockout stage onward, but this doesn't apply to players from the Bundesliga. The rise of Ante Rebic (Croatia) and Benjamin Pavard (France) isn't just good for their clubs in terms of their market value, but also reflects well on the league in which they play. These are both examples of Bundesliga players who did very well with their national teams. So it can't be just the Bundesliga's fault that the German national team had such a terrible World Cup.

The Italian national team didn't even qualify for the World Cup, but Serie A did much better in DW's scoring system than Ligue 1. This was due to the play of newly crowned World Cup champion Blaise Matuidi, finalists Ivan Perisic and Mario Mandzukic, as well as Dries Mertens of Belgium.

Battle of the continents

Of the top 10 leagues under DW's scoring system, only one, Mexico's Liga MX, is not from Europe. World Cups can be viewed not only as battles between individual nations, but also between continents — in which the Europeans (UEFA) come out on top, much to the chagrin of the South Americans.

Football confederations comparison

The biggest stars for quarterfinalists Uruguay and Brazil don't play in their domestic leagues, but rather in Europe — at Paris St. Germain, Manchester City and Barcelona. At this World Cup, Liga MX (of North America's confederation CONCACAF) was represented on the Japanese, Colombian, Uruguayan, Argentine and the Mexican national teams, all of which advanced beyond the group stage.

The millions invested by China's Super League are also reflected in DW's scoring system, something that also reflects well on the Asian governing body, the AFC. The most prominent examples are Brazil's Renato Augusto and Javier Mascherano of Argentina. The AFC was also helped by the fact that many national teams in Asia primarily feature players from their domestic leagues. African (CAF) and South American (CONMEBOL) national teams feature mostly players from European clubs.

So the 2018 World Cup demonstrated that not only do European national teams set the gold standard in football at the moment, but so do their leagues, including the Bundesliga.

Ranking football leagues DW Score
Gianna-Carina Grün Data journalist and editor@giannagruen
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