I have been overjoyed since the IHFFHS (International Federation of Football History and Statistics) named the Bluagranas the best club side in the past 18 years.
The inference was based on a strong scoring system using the annual world rankings since 1991. But deep inside, Haradona isn’t sure whether the legacy of Romario, Hagi, Stoichkov, Koeman, Guardiola, Ronaldo, Rivaldo, Figo, Ronaldinho and Messi have done enough to deserve this title…..
I will not go into the never ending debate of which domestic league is superior as it is a highly subjective domain. History remembers winners and only winners. That is my initial filtering criteria.
I am considering teams that have garnered at least two UEFA Champions League or equivalent continental titles (UEFA Champions league, Copa Libertadores and the like) and at least five domestic league titles (for leagues like Argentina, it would require 10 titles since their Apertura and Clausura are played as two separate halves of the same season).
The above criteria eliminate teams like FC Porto of Portugal, Glasgow Rangers of Scotland, Bayern Munich of Germany, Sao Paulo of Brazil and several others ‘one-competition giant’. This also evens out the argument whether all leagues are at par.
Only four teams make it pass the filter – AC Milan, Barcelona, Manchester United and Real Madrid (in alphabetical order).
I am trying to devise a point system to differentiate these four giants by granting:
a) Three points for a domestic league trophy
b) Three points for a Champions League trophy
c) Two points for a runner up in domestic league, if the margin of loss is within three points of the winners. The argument to this is: a domestic league race is stretched over 36+ games. If a team loses the race by such a small margin, it means the team had a real shot at the title race at least till the penultimate match day of the ten month long season. This is a check for consistency.
d) Two points for a finalist in the Champion League, for the fact that the team was competing in the elite continent trophy till the last day of the football season
e) Two points for the winner of knockout competitions, played throughout the season (Copa Del Rey, Coppa Italia, FA Cup et all)
f) One point for the finalist in knockout competitions, played throughout the year, since this club stays winning till the last month of the season and tests its resources (bench strength)
g) One point for winning one-off match trophies or small tournaments which span for a week to ten days (Inter Continental Cup, Community shield, World Club cup et all). No points for shared trophies.
(Yes, its ridiculous to assume three Community shields equals to a domestic league cup, buts lets acknowledge that these silverware are fought only amongst the previous season’s winners and deserves respect)
So what we have left out are: –
a) Win loss records (to keep things less complicated)
b) Individual awards like FIFA footballer of the year, Ballon d’Or (some of these honours also factor performances by players for their respective countries while some of them are only specific to European based players)
c) Double, Treble or successful defense of crowns (to keep things simple)
At the end of it all this is how our four teams rank (in brackets are data of domestic league wins – runners up in domestic league within three points of leaders – Champions league wins – Champions league runners up – titles won in annual knockout tournaments – finalists in annual knockout tournaments – wins on one-off match/small scale competitions)
Manchester United = 69 points (10-2-2-0-7-6-9)
Barcelona = 54 points (8-2-2-1-3-2-10)
AC Milan = 44 points (6-0-3-3-1-1-8)
Real Madrid = 44 points (6-2-3-0-1-3-8)
Well, the 15 point gap, in this methodology, between Manchester United and Barcelona is significant and wide. Too wide, to even question the English league’s competitive levels (during the 1990s) or for that matter, any other argument. I even tried changing the weightages, the points allocation, the filter criteria, started counting for successful defense of crowns, doubles, trebles… but Manchester United still score higher than Barcelona in all combinations, for the mentioned period.
So Haradona’s feels, with a heavy heart, that Manchester United is the best team the past 18 years.
The top four teams would rank as:
1. Manchester United
3. Real Madrid
4. AC Milan
**all data above has been considered only for the concerned period – past 18 years
**Source of information goal.com, wikipedia.com, and individual club websites