Traditionally in football, clubs who are based in large cities tend to garner the most success. Larger and more prosperous areas, such as London and Madrid, tend to dominate the footballing spectrum due to their vastly disproportionate lure of wealth and attractions in comparison to smaller, more rural areas of their respective countries. Despite this, some clubs located in smaller cities have been able to topple the financial barrier to either compete with, or dominate their wealthier adversaries. In this list, we will examine the 5 best sides from small cities based on current form. Clubs such as Kaiserslauten are prime examples of historically overachieving small cities, however their recent decline to the third divison disqualifies them from this 5.
Whilst Salzburg is the fourth largest city in Austria, boasting around 150,000 inhabitants, the country itself only has a population of around 9 million. In Austria, the capital city Vienna is disproportionately large; home to almost 2 million people. Capital clubs Austria Vienna and Rapid Vienna traditionally dominated Austrian football until around 2005, owing largely to the wealth and allure of hailing from the area. It took a lucrative takeover from energy drinks giant Red Bull to change the landscape of football in the country. Acquiring Salzburg in 2005, Red Bull invested heavily into the club to attract the country’s top talents. This investment has seen the side win 9 of the last 10 league titles and claim the scalps of European giants Marseille and Napoli in recent European ties.
With a population of 120,000 people, Bergamo is the 36th largest city in Italy. The city’s best team, Atalanta, are making head waves in Serie A; currently sitting in 4th place prior to the suspension of the league. Despite having a wage budget that is dwarfed by the riches of Roma, Milan and Juventus; Atalanta have been a consistent mainstay in Serie A since the 1920’s. Whilst being historic overachievers, the side have gone a step further in recent years. Under the tutelage of Gasperini, La Dea have transformed from mid-table mediocrity to regular contenders in Europe and at the top of the division.
Despite having the largest population size on this list, boasting roughly 300,000. Leicester are overachieving in comparison to their divisional counterparts. Roughly the same size as Coventry and Wakefield, the East Midlands outfit are most known for their fairy tail Premier League Title win in 2016. Leicester are currently experiencing one of their finest periods in their history. They became an established Premier League side in the late 2010’s, won the division and are now outperforming their richer counterparts in Arsenal, Spurs and Manchester United to become a regular member of the Top 4. Owned by the riches of the King Power International Group, The Foxes have been able to stay financially competitive with a majority of the Premier League’s top-guns.
Despite being a city of historical significance in Spain, the city of Eibar is miniscule. 27,000 people are recorded to live in the municipality and the city’s team play in a ground that holds just 8,000 supporters. Eibar prove that size does not matter, following an astronomical rise from the third tier in 2012 to La Liga in 2014; Eibar now compete with the likes of Real Madrid and Barcelona on a regular basis. Naturally, the small catchment area and stadium means that Eibar cannot either afford nor attract top level talents, meaning an emphasis on team unity and the tactics of experienced coach José Luis Mendilibar are used to successfully compete with the riches in Madrid and Barcelona.
Monaco is a jack of all trades. Officially a country, principality, a sovereign state and a city; Monaco lead the way at the top of this list. Squeezing into 5 kilometres of French coastline, the principality has a population of just 38,000 people. Despite a small population, around 30% are millionaires. Monaco is one of the world’s most attractive destination for wealthy aristocrats due to no income tax or capital gains tax, which could explain Les Monégasques’ overachievement in French football. Bankrolled by Russian billionaire, Dmitry Rybolovlev, who invested heavily in the side following a shock relegation in 2011 to bounce back to Ligue 1. Monaco have since boasted a wealth of talent such as Mbappe, Bernado Silva and Falcao who propelled the club to a league title win over the might of capital club PSG in 2017, as-well-as reaching the Champions League semi-finals in the same year. Monaco’s free-spending and exceptional youth academy ensures that the side will continue to be a leading force in French football for the foreseeable future.