The Bundesliga starts on Friday night and it seems to be a league that is growing in popularity both inside and outside of Germany – but why?
For me, it starts with the German FA. It is a well organised association that has produced an appealing league that realises who their most important customers are – the fans.
It is not about the TV companies or the people watching from thousands of miles away – it is about the fans that go to the games.
So they have made it affordable, and that attracts people who then create great atmospheres inside the stadiums which makes the product look all the better.
It is almost as if everybody has bought into the concept: Packed, noisy, affordable grounds - this is our product, and we are going to make it work.
Some people will look at this model and think that they are being naïve but I don't buy into that. Every club seems to go out and play to win, hence you end up getting a lot of entertaining games.
Okay, not every side is bursting with great players, the league has plenty of average teams, but nevertheless, they all still attract crowds because of the way they play.
There are also lots of interesting storylines ahead of this season too, none more so than Pep Guardiola's arrival at Bayern Munich the season after they won the treble.
There are a lot of top managers who could have walked into Bayern Munich and have been quite happy just to keep things ticking over as they have been.
However, Pep's character is such that the team have to be playing his style for him to be truly happy.
Last season Bayern had the ability to get from one end of the pitch to the other quicker than anyone else and did it with physical strength and power, but I think they could lose some of that this season.
Guardiola has brought in Thiago Alcantara from Barcelona and while he's pleasing on the eye there has to be some question marks surrounding the signing. If he was as great as the people at Bayern are saying, then I think he would have played more at Barcelona.
However, their other big signing Mario Goetze is a no-brainer. Bayern have always been good at poaching the best talent from other clubs in the Bundesliga, players who are already used to that style of football. But they may never have got anyone quite as good as Goetze.
He hasn't reached his full potential yet but in Germany they are calling him a 'once in a 100-year German talent' and comparing him to Lionel Messi.
He certainly has all the tools to be a player who could be getting regular Ballon d'Or nominations in the future. He may not have the same dribbling ability as Messi but he is quicker and physically stronger. Germany is not renowned for producing players like him - somebody like Thomas Mueller is a more typical German player - but Goetze is something special.
Bayern clearly have the most talented group of players but they won't win the league by 25 points again this season.
Dortmund have already proved in the Super Cup by beating Bayern Munich 4-2 that they are not about to go away. They have spent wisely and they are a massive club.
Marco Reus was arguably the best player in the Bundesliga last season and you often hear fans of English clubs asking why their clubs don't bid for him. But why would he leave? Top German players are often quite content to stay where they are.
Marco Reus (Reuters)
They know that the Bundesliga works and they appreciate the size of the clubs they are at. We should not forget that Dortmund were in the Champions League final last year. They play in front of 80,000 every week and if they could fit 150,000 into the stadium they would still sell-out every week.
Big German players have a tendency to make moves to other German clubs – and I think that is quite right. The league is full of good German players and this of course also benefits the national team, while the Premier League in comparison has absolutely no interest in the England side.
A player like Julian Draxler at Schalke for example could have moved to a big club abroad, but signed a contract extension instead. Many people in England might not appreciate just how big a club Schalke are but they are massive – the working man's club in Germany – and have produced many excellent talents.
We shouldn't forget the likes or Stuttgart and Hamburg either – huge, old traditional clubs - while Leverkusen have an exciting side. I really like their signing of the South Korean player Heung-Min Son, who has moved from Hamburg. He is a foreign player but was happy to stay in Germany after getting a taste of the Bundesliga.
It all makes for a very appealing league. Everybody seems to be working together on the product, whereas the Premier League seems to resemble the wild west where the clubs are only concerned about their own interests.
When you see all the problems we have got with players wanting to move this summer in England, it almost seems like the Premier League has gotten too big.
The Premier League seems to have got out of control and we are getting to the point where some fans won't be able to get anywhere near the games because tickets are so expensive.
If it continues on this path some people might just walk away from the Premier League altogether because they will no longer recognise the game they fell in love with.
- Sports & Recreation
- Bayern Munich
- Premier League