The Big Fives and the Sleeping Giants
We all know the score here - each country has its so called big clubs and its sleeping giants. The big teams that splash the cash, all the others get a full house for and always raise their game by a notch or two, and the sleeping giants - the clubs who've been there before at some point and who could potentially get there again.
We're using the term big five because growing up in the 80's it was used a lot for the English league - Liverpool, Man Utd, Arsenal, Everton and Spurs - the big clubs attracting the big crowds, the big names, and most of the big trophies.
But if ever a football subject was wide open to debate its this one - its really quite tricky to categorise the modern day "big five's" for each country - England is a classic example. In the 1980's Chelsea wouldn't have even have been classed as a sleeping giant in the same way as a Newcastle or a Manchester City would, but following the incredible amounts of Rubles that have been pumped into their club, they've pushed Everton and Spurs out of England's traditional big five and into the dreaded ranks of the sleeping giants. And in the process England has become a land of the big four.
So here's our take on it. For the big clubs we've gone for those in each league with consistent recent league/cup performances over the last decade or so (not just last season), top support and some muscle in the transfer/accounts department. We've classified the sleeping giants based on various factors - they might be a big city team with potentially massive support, they might have a larger than average stadium or they might have a history of winning trophies. And remember, the term 'sleeping giant' is relative to the country - we know you cant really compare Beveren from Belgium with Wolves from England, but what the hell, we thought we'd try. And what if your club's not listed ? It probably just means we don't like them. We'll be trying to eventually cover all the European leagues and some of the South American ones as well. And we'll try to keep them up to date as the big clubs obviously change from time to time.Germany class=midsection The Big Fives Bayern Munich A no-brainer really. Don't think we really need to justify our inclusion of Bayern as a big club. 4 European Cups and 20 titles says it all and no other German team can touch them when it comes to trophies won and being able to attract the big stars. Borussia Dortmund One of Europe's strongest teams in the 90's, they won back-to-back Bundesliga's and also the Champions League in 1997 However, having become the first German team to float on the stock market, they quickly became heavily in debt and even had to sell their famous stadium, the Westfalenstadion, to try and stave off bankruptcy. Whilst recent seasons has seen them fall just short of the European places, any club who can average around 70,000 when they're out of the top 5 is not going to be out of it for long. Hamburg SV 'The Dinosaur' (as they're known in Germany) may have been struggling at the foot of the Bundesliga in 2006-07 as we wrote this piece, but as the only club to have continuously played top flight football since World War I, we doubt if they're about to let that slip. With a fantastic support base and the ability to sign top players, they're still one of the Bundesliga's top clubs. Schalke 04 Their massive support from the coal-mining city of Gelsenkirchen demands success, and since their decline in the 80's they've gradually risen to the top again. Following their 2006 sponsorship deal, major amounts of cash are expected to be pumped in (ahem!) from the huge Russian gas company Gazprom, following their 2006 sponsorship deal. This, along with sell-out 61000 crowds baying for blood in the intimidating Veltins-Arena, could make them the number one force in the Bundesliga for years to come. Werder Bremen Without doubt the smallest of the big German clubs, if that makes sense. Werder have been a major force in the German game since the 80's. A reputation as the most attractive footballing side in Germany, along with plenty of recent silverware, an extremely healthy financial situation and well over half a million potential supporters in the city, should see them remain at the top for the foreseeable future. Good beer too. Sleeping Giants Bayer Leverkusen Despite being handicapped by a small stadium, and mocked by other fans for their lack of history, the Lions (or Factory Squad as they're also known) still get on our list because of their consistency on the pitch since the late 90's. Massive sponsors and a healthy bank balance also give them an edge over many of the others. Bayern Munich they will never be, but they could still maintain an annual challenge for the title. Borussia Monchengladbach The Foals were big news back in the 70's. League winners 5 times and UEFA Cup winners twice, they were the name on everyone's lips in the school playground when they played Liverpool in the 1977 European Cup final ("what's a Monchengladbach ?" we said, if we could have actually said "Monchengladbach"). The club is renowned for its stylish, attacking play, which has always given it a much wider appeal, and larger support than you would expect for a city of its size. Cologne Another huge club who have recently hit hard times. The Billy Goats were last crowned league champions in 1978, but came close throughout the 80's and early 90's. The archetypal sleeping giant, they have the support, stadium and history to make it back to the top of the Bundesliga. Eintracht Frankfurt Eintracht Frankfurt itself is actually the city's massive sports club, with the football part being the most famous. They're probably best known outside of Germany for being thumped 7-3 by Real Madrid at Hampden Park in 1960. With a state of the art 50,000 plus arena and a fan base to fill it, they could breakthrough again in the future. Fortuna Dusseldorf They may be in the lower bowels of the German football leagues and their trophy cabinet's always been a bit on the sparse side, but hey, they're based in one of Germany's largest, wealthiest cities and have the fantastic, brand-spanking new 51,500 LTU arena all ready and waiting to be filled with a top class team. Their high point ? Meeting Barcelona in the Cup Winners Final in 1979. And their lowest ? Slipping into the 4th division in 2002. Their fans need to up the ante a notch or two though - as they're often mocked by other clubs for being more bothered about their financial portfolio's than their football. Hertha Berlin The only major club in a city the size of Berlin is always going to have potential. Having invested heavily in their youth academy and seen their Olympiastadion ground renovated in 2004 to a capacity of just under 75000, the club have been on a massive high since returning to the Bundesliga in 1997 and have hardly been out of the top five since. Hannover 96 Another massive stadium, with a potentially huge support base. Hannover have done nothing since winning the cup in the early 90's but the potential is always there. 1.FC Kaiserslautern A football club totally out of proportion with the small city it belongs to. With a population of under 100000, their Fritz Walter Stadion holds an incredible 48,500. Imagine Chesterfield, Cheltenham or Crewe regularly coming out to 40,000+ crowds and occasionally winning the league or cup. Well that's Kaiserlautern. With one of the country's most passionate set of fans making the "Betzenberg" (the stadium's nickname) one of the most feared away trips in German football, if the Red Devils can get back into the top half of the Bundesliga then they can challenge again. 1.FC Nurnberg "Der Club" was Germany's most successful club for over sixty years, before being over taken by their fierce Bavarian rivals Bayern Munich. They struggled after the glory years and have been living off reputation since they last won the league in 1968. The mid 90's even saw them drop to the 3rd tier after they had points dropped because of their financial plight. However, recent years have seen them rise back to the Bundesliga and the fantastically named Frankenstadion has a whiff of optimism about it once again. VfB Stuttgart Hardly ever outside the top 5 since the turn of the century, one could argue that VfB should make our Big Five list. Bundesliga champions twice since the 80's, they've also come close to European glory. Whilst some of the more working class clubs in the industrial north will claim the people of Stuttgart are more passionate about their city's cultural lifestyle than their football, VfB's fans still regularly fill the near 56,000 capacity Gottlieb-Daimler-Stadion.