After a quiet transfer market, Germany’s top flight will have to work harder than ever to compete for viewers with Europe’s other big leagues
One of the things that annoyed football fans the most about the proposed European Super League (ESL) was the term ‘legacy fans’.
These are traditional supporters of clubs who care about a team’s history, unlike ‘fans of the future’, who follow superstar names and would more likely be the main audience of any Super League.
While the ESL was a disaster of an idea with even worse PR, the idea of ‘fans of the future’ was not too wide of the mark.
In every town and city up and down the United Kingdom and Ireland, you will see younger football fans wearing jerseys of Europe’s elite clubs, just as easily as they might wear one of the team whose stadium they can see from their school playground.
A common sight are kids in ‘Messi 10’ Barcelona shirts, which will no doubt be replaced by this season’s Paris Saint-Germain equivalent as young fans support the greatest player of all time wherever he plays.
That interest is also likely to be shared by many ‘legacy fans’ who will be more likely to watch Ligue 1 this season despite having no vested interest in the competition.
Football fans love their clubs first and foremost, but also want to see entertaining matches and what will be more entertaining than a front three of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Kylian Mbappe?
Messi’s exit is a blow for La Liga, especially for the neutral fan, but Barcelona and Real Madrid will continue to draw viewers to the Spanish top flight, even without the Argentine legend.
La Liga coped with the loss of Cristiano Ronaldo and will cope with Messi’s exit too, while Serie A became more popular thanks to Cristiano Ronaldo.
Even without either of the two best players in the world, the Premier League remains the world’s most popular division.
This summer, it added some more exciting talent, including Jadon Sancho from Borussia Dortmund, but thankfully for the Bundesliga, BVB were able to stop Erling Haaland from leaving for England too.
In a summer of flux, the German top flight needs Haaland now more than ever, especially if it is to add some ‘fans of the future’ of its own.
Robert Lewandowski is the league’s best player and the world’s best striker, but does not have the same X-Factor as Haaland when it comes to exciting younger fans.
The Pole is seen as efficient on the pitch and although his social media presence is charming and entertaining, he turns 33 this month and is seen to be coming towards the end of his career.
Haaland has just turned 21 and already has taken the football world – and Instagram – by storm.
He will continue to get better and next summer’s release clause ensures that every major club will be chasing his signature.
For now, he remains, and Dortmund and will be the Bundesliga’s biggest draw, their most marketable player and the superstar they need to compete for viewership with the Premier League, La Liga, Serie A and now Ligue 1.
Haaland kicked off the 2021-22 season with a hat-trick in Dortmund’s German Cup win over Wehen Wiesbaden to take his scoring tally to 60 goals in 60 games in all competitions.
He finished as the Champions League’s top scorer last season and bagged two goals in the final as Dortmund lifted the German Cup.
Everywhere he has played, he has scored goals, against every level of opponent. That has drawn attention and praise from the best in the game, including Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola.
“To score that number of goals at his age is not easy. He’s 20 years old and the numbers speak for themselves,” Guardiola said earlier this year.
“When that happens it’s because he can score with the right, the left, via counterattacks, in the box. He’s a fantastic striker, everyone knows it.”
He knows it, Dortmund know it and, perhaps most importantly, the Bundesliga knows it.
In a world where every league is competing for viewership and trying to win new fans, the Bundesliga needs Haaland more than ever.