Laurent Blanc–Bordeaux’s #1 Guy (not like Jack Napier in the 1989 “Batman”…that was just creepy)–thinks that France is “closing the gap” between itself and the top leagues in Europe. Namely the EPL, Serie A, and La Liga. Now, I’d tend to agree with that assessment, but we first have to look at what’s going on and why we think it got this way in the first place.
If you look at leagues like France’s you’ll notice that they are very consistent and though there may be one “power” team there isn’t usually a scrum at the top with two teams who are far-and-away better than everybody else. If you look at leagues like England and Spain you see exactly that. Real Madrid and Barcelona are miles ahead of Valencia while Chelsea, United, and Arsenal are light years in front of Liverpool.
Does this mean the level of competition is lower in France? Yes, it does. In France, you just need to hang out near the top and you’ll be fine. If you aren’t in the “peleton” pretty early in the season you’ll never catch up in a place like Italy, Spain, or England.
Yes, having two teams from France–Lyon and Bordeaux–advance to the Quarterfinals of the Champion’s League is great, but that only means they succeeded in the Champion’s League. Real Madrid and Chelsea are out and they could both EASILY win their leagues against strong teams like United and Barca.
So, is the gap closing? Maybe. Is it obvious? No. Why? Because France still doesn’t have as much parity as the other leagues. Teams have a better chance at taking a day off in France than they do anywhere else. It makes more sense for French teams to be better rested for international tournaments since they have to do less at home.