Bundesliga

Eintracht Frankfurt and why the Bundesliga is great

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Eintracht Frankfurt advanced to the final of this year’s UEFA Europa League, where they will face fellow surprise finalists Glasgow Rangers on May 18 in Sevilla.
This is the first time “the Eagles”, have reached a European title match since winning the UEFA Cup, the forerunner to this competition in 1980.
Though the German Bundesliga is easily within the top four leagues on the continent, its teams have struggled in UEFA’S second-largest competition since Schalke 04 won it in 1997. Since then, only Borussia Dortmund (2002) and Werder Bremen (2009) even made the final, both losing by one goal each.
The recent highlights of German football certainly came elsewhere, as Bayern Munich defeated Dortmund in a memorable Champions League final in 2013. The national team then went on to win the World Cup the following summer. And this year’s German Cup Final is sure to be interesting, with absolutely unusual candidates RB Leipzig and SC Freiburg being the tournament finalists.
Yet the Europa League has a special meaning. Doing well in it shows that a league’s depth is intact and that not only the sides at or near the top of the league in question can compete with their counterparts in Europe. It means that teams near the league’s mid-table can also do well against their level of opposition internationally.
People who say that the Bundesliga is not competitive, because Bayern has won the last ten league titles (and nine of those quite comfortably) only may have a point in terms of that top spot. Beyond that, the league is very interesting. Anyone can beat just about anyone else on any given weekend. The matches are played at a high level and the teams are supported by some of the most passionate fans in the game.
Frankfurt has helped to underscore that reality with their recent successes in the Europa League. They still remain unbeaten in that tournament this term. Three seasons ago, they reached the UEC semifinals with an arguably much better squad than today and only lost to eventual title holders Chelsea on penalty kicks.
But they have had to sell their best players and rebuild their team year after year. That is the issue for many midsized German clubs. With the 50%+1 ownership rule in place, prohibiting wealthy oligarchs from controlling clubs in the country and pumping endless sums of money into them, selling top performers, is all these clubs can do in the long-term.
As of this writing, SC Freiburg, Union Berlin and 1. FC Koln has secured participation in Europe against all odds. For next season. It will be interesting to see how they do in that environment. This year’s Europa League final between Eintracht and Rangers will also be quite a fascinating watch.

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Denis Knezovic is a longtime football/soccer writer, as well as a published author.
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Twitter: @KnezovicDenis