By Franz Beckenbauer
As the Bundesliga is the only strong European league with a winter break and the second half of the season just begins this weekend, I have been increasingly looking at the Premier League in recent weeks. In England they still play football over Christmas - almost every day, so it seemed to me.
Alex Ferguson, who spent almost three decades as Manchester United manager, has had to watch from the stands as his players have lost touch at the top of the table under Louis van Gaal. This is despite having a Wayne Rooney, despite having a Bastian Schweinsteiger, even though he does not seem to be having the best time at the minute. He missed out of the recent 1-0 win over Liverpool.
Jose Mourinho, this highly regarded, world class coach, slipped so far down the table with Chelsea that he had to leave again.
Meanwhile Juergen Klopp, whose work I much admire, is trying in his own way to get Liverpool back within touching distance of
the top clubs. His approach comes over well with the English as they appreciate clear words.
I could also watch how much effort it has taken billionaire-club Manchester City to keep up with surprise packages Leicester and Arsenal, who have become strong again this season. Mesut Özil seems to have rediscovered his old form, which distinguished him at Schalke and Werder Bremen, with the Londoners.
Many are curious as to how the transfer market will proceed in England after an eruption sparked by the enormous amount of TV money received by Premier League clubs. In this regard it could be a lively January, especially as Spanish teams Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid will not be able to sign players for a year from summer due to previous violations in signing youth players from abroad. If this pair want to strengthen, they have to do so by 1 February. Robert Lewandowski has been talked of as a potential candidate for Real but Thomas Mueller has made a clear commitment to stay at Bayern. And for that the fans love him even more.
The biggest names in the game still play in Spain, for Barcelona or Real. I mention only three; Lionel Messi, FIFA world player of the year for the fifth time, his eternal rival, Cristiano Ronaldo, three times world player of the year and of course Neymar - at 23 he is the youngest of the trio but is already scoring the most technically spectacular goals.
Speaking of the world player of the year, of course I would have liked to see a player from Bayern lift this trophy. With goalkeeper Manuel Neuer and strikers Thomas Mueller and Robert Lewandowski, there were good candidates. Douglas Costa may also be considered in the future, as could Arjen Robben, if he is properly fit again and can play a full season. But currently no one seems capable of surpassing Messi.
Finally, a look at Germany and the Bundesliga. Here Bayern are leading the table by eight points but Dortmund are not beaten yet. Should Bayern struggle after the winter break, which has happened in the past, it might be close once again. But Pep Guardiola surely intends to depart Munich by winning the title before heading off to the Premier League. It seems that he will be drawn to Manchester City and it just remains to wish him good luck and to avoid the turmoil experienced there by some of his coaching colleagues.
First Published On : Jan 22, 2016 13:44 IST