With a World Cup in the middle of the 2022-23 football season, the top domestic leagues are returning early. This weekend the Premier League, Ligue 1 and Bundesliga all return, with La Liga and Serie A coming back one week later.
This season we wanted to do something a little bit different. So we got in touch with our offices from Spain, France, Germany and Italy and put together what we're calling 'European Storylines'. We asked every office to nominate two storylines they are excited to keep an eye on during the season.
These are what we came up with.
World Cup
Van Gaal has plan to stop 'dangerous' Messi when Netherlands meet Argentina

Premier League

Can Erik ten Hag save Manchester United?
This is the big one. Manchester United are the biggest club in England but since Sir Alex Ferguson's retirement they've looked nothing like that. David Moyes, Louis van Gaal, Jose Mourinho and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer have all tried and failed to take United back to where they should be, struggling to control a dressing room full of egos and to deal with a board that doesn't seem to know what they're doing. Now there is a new football hierarchy and, perhaps more importantly, a new manager in Erik ten Hag. The Dutchman won rave reviews for the way his Ajax side played but this will be his toughest task yet. Can he get United's players to buy into the way he wants his teams to play? Can he deal with the shadow of Cristiano Ronaldo which, at the time of writing, is still lingering over the club.
The inherent problem with the style of football Ten Hag wants is that it can easily fall apart without true buy-in - that's something Solskjaer found to his detriment. If Ten Hag can get United clicking then the talent is there to get back in the top four (which would be a great first season) and then try and push on to getting back to challenging for the title. If it goes wrong? Well you can expect another press release in two years' time about this new manager is going to "change the club in new and exciting ways." For now we wait and watch.

Erik Ten Hag takes part in a press conference after the exhibition friendly match between Liverpool and Manchester United at Rajamangala National Stadium in Bangkok, Thailand, 12 July 2022.

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Is the Premier League now a duopoly?
For years the Premier League has boasted that it is the most competitive league in the world. And whilst it is certainly the biggest, there was an argument to be made that their claim was correct because the sheer number of big clubs meant that, on paper at least, the title battle should be the most exciting. However that hasn't been the case. Last season the gap between second and third was 18 points. In the 2019-20 season the gap was 15 and in 2018-19 the gap was a whopping 25. In the 2020-21 season and 2017-18 season the gap was five points which suggests more competition but in reality this was because in both seasons Manchester City were dominant champions, winning by 12 and 19 points respectively.
So is the so-called "greatest league in the world" at risk of becoming a duopoly? You know the same kind as in Spain that English fans love to mock? Well we don't know yet. While Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester United and Chelsea have all done some nice business, it's hard to see that what they have done is going to be good enough. City and Liverpool added Erling Haaland and Darwin Nunez respectively, two of the best young strikers in the world. Can the other four close the gap? Or are we looking at the new hierarchy of the Premier League?
Pete Sharland - Eurosport UK

Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola are predicted to have contrasting seasons...

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Are Bayern Munich good enough for the top of Europe without Lewandowski?
It was of course THE big topic in Germany in the past few weeks: Robert Lewandowski leaving Bayern Munich after a total of eight years and joining FC Barcelona. With Sadio Mané, Bayern have brought in a top star for the attack as a replacement, but he is not a classic centre-forward like Lewandowski. Bayern supremo Oliver Kahn recently emphasized that there will probably be no one-to-one replacement for Lewandowski in this summer. There's no question that Bayern's squad is very good across the board - especially in the attack - but Lewandowski has scored at least 48 goals (!) in all competitions in each of the past three seasons - that must be compensated for first. The Bundesliga is a kind of compulsory program for Bayern – the Champions League is the crowning achievement. After being knocked out surprisingly in the quarterfinals by Villarreal last year, they have now responded with big transfer window. The big goal is the next Champions League title, but are they strong enough for that without Lewandowski?

Sadio Mané

Image credit: Getty Images

Dortmund, Leipzig, Leverkusen - who can pose a threat to Bayern?
The second big question is something of a classic in Germany. Last season Bayern Munich became German champions for the 10th time in a row (!). Except for Bayern fans, almost everyone in Germany now wants a new champion. The only question is: Who can pose a threat to the all-powerful FC Bayern?
On the one hand there is of course Borussia Dortmund, who have strengthened well with Niklas Sule, Nico Schlotterbeck, Salih Ozcan and KarimAdeyemi (and Sebastien Haller, who is unfortunately out due to cancer). However, they have a new coach in Edin Terzic and they need to figure out what kind of team they're going to be.
RB Leipzig with newly crowned footballer of the year in Germany, Christopher Nkunku, are a contender - but are they consistent enough? The well-organised team from Bayer Leverkusen with their promising talents (Florian Wirtz and Adam Hlozek for example) could also have an outside chance, but they suffered a real setback at the weekend in the first round of the cup against third division club SV 07 Elversberg.
The hope of a new champion in Germany is very, very low - which also has to do with the prominent newcomers from Bayern (Sadio Mané, Matthijs de Ligt, Ryan Gravenberch, Noussair Mazraoui) - but who knows, maybe the dominance will end this season.
Robert Bauer - Eurosport Germany

Borussia Dortmund

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La Liga

The economic doubts over Barça after their signings
Barcelona are the team that has spent the most money this summer in La Liga despite their €1 billion debt. Pablo Torre, Andreas Christensen and Franck Kessie have all arrived for free and Ousmane Dembele has re-signed, but others like Raphinha, Jules Koundé or Robert Lewandowski have cost a total of €150 million (in addition to their salaries). To be able to sign and register them, Joan Laporta has decided to sell various parts of the club (such as 25% of television rights for the next 25 years and 49.9% of Barca's licensing & merchandising). A risk that could be very bad for Barcelona in the future if they don’t achieve their short-term goals which are: Sell players like Frenkie de Jong who have a high salary, win the league and go far in the Champions League.

Robert Lewandowski

Image credit: Getty Images

Can Real Madrid go another season relying on Benzema's goals?
The non-signing of Kylian Mbappe has changed the plans of Real Madrid for the 2022/2023 season. Florentino Pérez will not pursue other marquee signings - it would only have been Mbappe or Erling Haaland - as he feels that no player on the market is better than the key players in the Madrid squad right now.
His idea is still to sign players whose contracts are expiring - Toni Rudiger - and young stars - Aurélien Tchouameni. But the truth is that Real Madrid need a back-up for Benzema because Norja Mayoral and Luka Jovic have left and Mariano Díaz is not rated by Carlo Ancelotti. The options are to reconvert Rodrygo or Eden Hazard into a false nine or go to the market. Raúl de Tomás, Timo Werner, Edinson Cavani or Edin Dzeko are all options to improve the European champions.
Edgar Saiz - Eurosport Spain

Karim Benzema of Real Madrid celebrates after scoring his team's first goal during a preseason friendly against Juventus at Rose Bowl on July 30, 2022 in Pasadena, California.

Image credit: Getty Images

Serie A

Are Juventus back?
This is one of the big topics in Italy, and probably for all the people all over the world that were ‘used’ to Juve, and now they’re asking themselves 'ok, what happened to Juve?' Nine Scudettos in a row, then two fourth places in a row. In both cases, a very big under-achievement. In the last two years, Juventus made a lot of poor moves; pad signings on the market and, probably more important, no clear idea of where they want to go as a club.
After they won nine Serie A titles they switched to Maurizio Sarri and wanted to try and play a more attractive brand of football, but after just one year they changed their mind. Sarri out, Andrea Pirlo in. Then Pirlo failed, so they’re back to Massimiliano Allegri, the same manager who was sacked two years previously because he was winning but wasn't attractive enough in terms of his style of play.
This season is the season of the comeback: Paul Pogba in (even if he’s injured, and he will probably miss a lot of matches), Angel di Maria in, Paulo Dybala out. Also, Federico Chiesa will come back after a long injury. These are the new core pieces, and Allegri’s job now is putting all these pieces in the right position for success.
This season is the one of no more excuses. Juventus have to get back to being known as a 'top-level club'. This is the goal. If they make it then we'll have a very interesting story on our hands.

Paul Pogba (Juventus)

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AC Milan again? Or are Inter Milan with Romelu Lukaku or Jose Mourinho’s Roma a real threat?
Who’s going to win the league? Because in the end that is always what we talk about most in Italy. AC Milan didn’t spend that much money on transfers, but when they do spend, they seem to have very clear ideas on how to spend their money. Paolo Maldini built a young but competitive team with practically no money. They won the league with the youngest average age since 2000: 25 years and 344 days.
In the 'Top 5' leagues, nobody did better in that regard: Bayern Munich (27 years, 135 days), Manchester City (27 years, 160 days), PSG (28 years, 36 days), Real Madrid (28 years, 97 days). That’s the reason why they went for Charles De Ketelaere, because it’s the kind of profile AC Milan wants. As I said: they have very clear ideas, which is not that common for a top Italian club, as Juventus proved.
What they will have to fear is a rejuvenated Inter Milan where Romelu Lukaku has returned, it’s something that can change the title battle, as he proved 2 years ago with the same club. And plus there’s this unpredictable variable which is José Mourinho’s Roma.
They won their first European title last season, they signed a world-class talent like Dybala and for the first time in 20 years they are really starting to think again about the Scudetto. It’s going to be interesting in any way possible: this Serie A season looks more open than ever.
Simone Eterno - Eurosport Italy


Image credit: Getty Images

Ligue 1

Will Ligue 1 see the 'real' Messi?
Leo Messi's first season in Ligue 1 was a disappointment. He was a long way away from his level at Barcelona, scoring only five goals, and never showing the kind of dominance that a player who won seven Ballon d'Or should show despite finishing behind only Kylian Mbappé in the race for the most assists in the league (14). He was not supposed to leave Barcelona, he arrived in Paris only in mid-August, it was the first time he moved to another club, he had to adapt to a new league, he had Covid… so there were many things to explain why he had such a difficult start at PSG. With a year to adapt and a complete preseason, he might now be ready to give the best of his talent and show Ligue 1 he's still Messi.

Lionel Messi and Neymar

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Are PSG guaranteed the title?
PSG claimed the title quite easily last year despite playing their worst football since QSI took control of the club. Mbappé was the main reason they won it. The biggest fear in Paris was to lose their talisman at the end of his contract this summer, but he finally decided to stay at PSG. So it's all go for them this season: they can only play better than last year; Neymar and Messi can only play better, Mbappé is still there to lift them up, the first weeks under new coach Christophe Galtier went very well and even Sergio Ramos seems to be healthy.
Some teams could be a threat, though. Monaco, perhaps, but they lost Tchouaméni and face a tough start to the season. Or Lyon, as they have new ownership and can focus on the league with no European competition to play. But clearly, PSG look set to break the national record with the 11th title in their history.

TOKYO, JAPAN - JULY 18: (L-R) Lionel Messi and Neymar Jr and Paris Saint-Germain manager Christophe Galtier and Kylian Mbappe attend the Paris Saint-Germain Japan Tour Kids Clinic at Prince Chichibu Memorial Rugby Ground on July 18, 2022 in Tokyo, Japan.

Image credit: Getty Images

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