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[TEN BEST]

by Alex Ashe

TEN BEST EUROPEAN FOOTBALL CLUBS WORTH SUPPORTING

RANDOMLY COMPILED

LIVERPOOL FC

Since Liverpool is my team, I’m full of bias, but there are way too many reasons to support the Reds. Like England’s national team, they’re captained by the incredible central midfielder Steven Gerrard, a one-club man who’s been in the Liverpool system for 26 of his 33 years on Earth. The fans are some of the most passionate in the world, indulging in traditions like singing the haunting “You’ll Never Walk Alone” to bookend matches. After struggling for the past four seasons, Liverpool now has a talented, young squad and a brilliant, young manager. It’s time for them to reclaim their place atop English football.

BORUSSIA DORTMUND

I see absolutely no enjoyment in supporting powerhouses that are expected to win all the time like reigning European champions Bayern Munich. Its German Bundesliga rivals Borussia Dortmund, who Munich beat in this year’s Champions League final, may sound like a powerhouse, but in Germany, no one’s in Bayern Munich’s ballpark in terms of talent, bankroll and history. To reinforce that, Bayern bought Dortmund’s two best players this offseason. Like Liverpool, Dortmund has one of Europe’s most passionate home grandstands.

ATLETICO MADRID

As with Bayern Munich, I can’t imagine the fun in supporting dominant Spanish sides Barcelona and Real Madrid, both perennially unsatisfied with finishing Second Place in the league. Real Madrid’s cross-town rival, Atletico, has a nice blend of star power and inadequacy. Although La Liga may be one the world’s best leagues, it’s practically a yearly race for third for teams not named Real or Barca.

AS ROMA

Though rooting for the clubs that form the Italian Serie A’s power triumvirate of Juventus, AC Milan and Inter Milan is less egregious than supporting other European juggernauts, Roma is worth following because it’s home to the USA’s best player. Not Clint Dempsey, not Landon Donovan, but Michael Bradley, its hard-working, bald central midfielder, who is entering his second season with the prestigious Roma.

AS MONACO FC

As much as excessive spending irks me, Monaco, in just one offseason, has assembled somewhat of a dream team by buying the versatile Portuguese central midfielder João Moutinho and the Colombian duo of dynamic young winger James Rodriguez and Radamel Falcao, possibly the most lethal striker in the world. Monaco returns to France’s Ligue 1 this year after finishing first in the second-tier Ligue 2 to earn promotion. Support them this year, and then jump off that bandwagon like it’s carrying smallpox on the Oregon Trail.

TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR

I’m convinced anyone who, at this point, chooses to support big-bankrolling powerhouses like Manchester United, Manchester City or Chelsea has no soul. While it pains me to endorse an English Premier League team not named Liverpool, Tottenham are an exciting club with a relatively modest bankroll. They may not own superstar Welsh winger Gareth Bale by the time the transfer window closes at the end of August, but they’ll at least have beloved American Clint Dempsey as he enters his twilight years.

ARSENAL FC

As much as I consider them the enemy, it’s difficult not to respect Arsenal, who manage to play fruitful, beautiful football each season despite selling their best player seemingly every year. They’re a beacon of consistency, clinching a Champions League spot by finishing in the English Premier League’s Top 4 for a staggering 16 consecutive seasons. The catch: Their management seems to care much more about maximizing profits than winning trophies.

AJAX AMSTERDAM

Ajax may be a feeder team, but one just can’t deny the impressive list of modern stars who have come through the club, including Clarence Seedorf, Edwin van der Sar, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Luis Suarez. Though they win the Dutch Eredivisie each year without much drama, Ajax is one of the most reliable breeding grounds for the stars of tomorrow.

SL BENFICA

Unlike its league rivals FC Porto and Sporting Lisbon, the Portuguese Benfica actually tries to hold onto its star players. Though they are never among Europe’s best, they play some excellent, fluid football that’s always a pleasure to watch.

SWANSEA CITY

Though a Welsh team, Swansea City plays in the English Premier League, and does so convincingly. They became the first non- English side to be a part of the league when they were promoted in 2011, and have exceeded expectations in both seasons since, finishing 11 th and 9 th , respectively. This year, their Welsh rivals Cardiff City join the league, which should make for some entertaining, emotionally charged matchups.

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