Bayern Munich legend Ottmar Hitzfeld defended German football in the wake of criticism from within its ranks, expressing his belief that the Bundesliga "is still first class".
Hitzfeld countered former Bayern sporting director Matthias Sammer's calls for the league to be shaken up in order to improve its quality, instead praising the achievement of three out of the four German clubs in the Champions League in reaching the competition's last 16 this season.
Bayern, Dortmund and Schalke went out of Europe's top competition at the hands of English clubs, but Hitzfeld pointed to the high spending power of the Premier League rather than a lack of German quality as the driving factor behind that pattern.
"Second-class is a team that plays in the second division," Hitzfeld told t-online.de . "I believe that Germany is still first class.
"To be honest, I am not so dissatisfied with the development of German football because I always see the reality.
"I know that there is a great achievement behind moving into the round of 16 in the Champions League - and three out of four clubs have done so, that is all German participants except Hoffenheim.
"Afterwards you had the bad luck that Bayern, Dortmund and Schalke had all three English opponents."
Bayern looks set to wrap up a seventh consecutive Bundesliga title after second-placed Borussia Dortmund was held to a 2-2 draw by Werder Bremen on Saturday, and some point to its dominance as a sign of weakness across the rest of the division.
But Hitzfeld, who guided Bayern to five league titles and a Champions League in two stints as manager between 1998 and 2008, highlighted Eintracht Frankfurt's progress to the semi-finals of the Europa League as a positive sign.
"It was almost logical that Bayern went out [of the Champions League] against Liverpool, because Liverpool has invested 400, 500 million euros in top stars," said Hitzfeld.
"Dortmund was unlucky enough to face Tottenham and that's a top team with outstanding players and a lot of experience. And Schalke against Manchester City – it was clear that they would go out.
"You also have to compliment Frankfurt that they are still traveling in Europe. This is a new experience and a great achievement in representing German football."
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