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Retired Germany striker says Bundesliga is now best in Europe…but is it really?

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Former German international Oliver Bierhoff has told Kicker that he believes the Champions League final is a piece of proof that the German Bundesliga may be taking over as the best league in Europe.

Bierhoff said, “Of course, Bayern and Dortmund stand out particularly. However, if one compares all of the leagues, the Bundesliga is also in position one in terms of the quality of games. Investments that were made by the DFB 10 years ago, in infrastructure, in training the coach and the players, bear fruit on a wide scaleDespite the euphoria, I’m cautious, but it might be a spark, and perhaps the beginning of a changing of the guard.”

He also made reference to the consistency of Bayern in the European competition as a boasting point.  “The fact that Bayern Munich in the last four years have reached the final three times is no coincidence. Football [in Germany] has evolved continuously and on the international level. This must now be confirmed in the coming months and years, but I’m quite optimistic.”

Obviously Bierhoff is a touch biased, but is he right? It’s not an easily answered question, and often depends on whether you value top clubs or depth more.

The most sought-after club rankings, those done by the International Federation of Football History & Statistics (IFFHS), come out every February, so they’re not entirely up to date.  But those have 3 Spanish clubs (Barcelona, Real Madrid, and Atletico Madrid) in the top 7.  You have to go down to #12 to find the next country with three clubs on the list, and that’s Brazil.  If depth is your calling card, the top 50 is quite well-distributed.  Spain has 6 clubs, England owns 5, Germany with 4, Italy with 4, and France has 3.

Some believe those rankings don’t take into consideration Europe’s dominance – at least in terms of worldwide exposure – so looking specifically at Europe, UEFA’s rankings offer another outlet, but it’s still a question of top-level vs. depth.  Plus, they use the last 5 seasons of coefficients to create the rank order.  Barcelona and Real Madrid are 1 and 3 in UEFA’s rankings, and England own the 4-6 spots with Chelsea, Manchester United, and Arsenal.  Germany will be strutting Borussia Dortmund’s recent success as proof of their possible climb to the top, but due to the distance UEFA’s rankings date back to, Dortmund is a lowly 31st, 3rd in their country’s rankings behind Bayern at 2 and Schalke at 15.  UEFA’s top 50 are also quite evenly spread out: Spain and England have 7, while Germany, Italy, and France all place 5 clubs on the list.

And we all know rankings aren’t the only thing – watching the matches can help as well.  With the ever-changing environment of club soccer, it’s a question whose answer ebbs and flows with the tides of recent and past success, and time will tell what Dortmund and Bayern have to offer in terms of staying power. In the short term, Bierhoff can take solace in the fact that his idea of a “changing of the guard” is certainly one that we will see on display at Wembley in Europe’s most sought-after match.

Southampton: Van Dijk won’t leave, selling days likely done

SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - MARCH 29:  Ralph Krueger the Southampton Chairman looks on during the Barclays Premier League match between Southampton and Newcastle United at St Mary's Stadium on March 29, 2014 in Southampton, England.  (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images
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Ralph Krueger doesn’t plan on selling any more big Southampton stars, and there’s none brighter than Virgil Van Dijk.

The Dutchman is perhaps the best center back in the Premier League, regularly linked with transfers to anywhere from Manchester City to Liverpool.

[ MORE: Liverpool hires new CEO ]

But Krueger says Saints have had enough of selling big assets. Southampton has sold Adam Lallana, Dejan Lovren, Sadio Mane, and Nathaniel Clyne in the past three seasons, and those are just the names to go to Liverpool. Morgan Schneiderlin and Victor Wanyama have also moved on from St. Mary’s.

From Sky Sports:

“We would like to move away from that and we feel confident this summer will be a lot quieter in Southampton and we can keep the core of this team moving forward for a few years.

“That is going to be important when you see how excellent the group is right now and how exciting the football is. The game we are playing is a pleasure to watch and a pleasure to be part of.”

Saints were the more effective side in a 3-2 EFL Cup Final loss to Manchester United this weekend, but are well off the pace in the race to make back-to-back trips into Europe.

It will be hard to hold onto Van Dijk and even new bright light Manolo Gabbiadini without Europe, but Krueger is a strong leader with the ability to convince almost anyone to buy into a plan.

Real Salt Lake signs Plata to multi-year DP deal

Real Salt Lake forward Joao Plata (8) gestures while walking during an MLS soccer game against New York City FC Saturday, May 23, 2015, in Sandy, Utah. (Leah Hogsten/The Salt Lake Tribune via AP) DESERET NEWS OUT; LOCAL TELEVISION OUT; MAGS OUT
Leah Hogsten/The Salt Lake Tribune via AP
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SANDY, Utah (AP) Real Salt Lake has re-signed forward Joao Plata to a multi-year contract and he will continue to hold a designated-player spot.

The 24-year-old was acquired from Toronto FC before the 2013 season and he has 30 goals and 30 assists in regular-season play with RSL.

[ MORE: Liverpool flops vs LCFC ]

Plata ranks No. 3 on the team’s all-time assists list and No. 5 in goals. He has 33 goals and 35 assists during his MLS career.

Real Salt Lake begins the season Saturday when it hosts Toronto FC.

Gotze out indefinitely with metabolism disorder

ROTTERDAM, NETHERLANDS - NOVEMBER 06:  Mario Goetze (R) and Ann-Kathrin Broemmel attend the MTV Europe Music Awards 2016 on November 6, 2016 in Rotterdam, Netherlands.  (Photo by Andreas Rentz/Getty Images for MTV)
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Mario Gotze’s last few seasons have not fulfilled the expectations thrust about the World Cup-winning attacker.

Gotze, 24, scored the 113th minute goal that lifted Germany past Argentina in the 2014 World Cup, but has endured successive disappointing seasons between Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund.

[ MORE: Liverpool hires new CEO ]

With just two goals this season, Gotze has played just 24 minutes since BVB came back from winter break. On Monday, the club revealed why: a metabolism disorder that will keep him out for an indefinite period of time. From Sky Sports:

“We are glad to know the reasons for Mario’s complaints and we are convinced that after recovering he will give us extra quality with his exceptional abilities,” said Dortmund’s director of sport Michael Zorc.

“Mario gets the full backing and maximum support from all of us at Borussia Dortmund on his way back.”

It’s been a while since we’ve seen Gotze at his best, and here’s hoping this problem is both curable and the reason for his struggles.

Liverpool hires EA Sports executive as new CEO

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Liverpool has named Peter Moore as the successor to chief executive office Ian Ayre.

Ayre, 53, is off to 1860 Munich this summer, and has stepped down early to allow Moore to take over.

[ MORE: Liverpool flops vs LCFC ]

A Liverpool-born executive, Moore was the chief operating officer at EA Sports and has also worked with Microsoft and SEGA.

The move “completes a transitional phase” which saw several new names join the fray. From The Liverpool Echo:

The appointment completes a transition plan by FSG which included appointing Michael Edwards as sporting director while Billy Hogan was promoted to the role of managing director and chief commercial officer.