In my opinion, England's Premier League is in crisis. The top flight division has lost its status as the best league in the world. It has fallen behind Spain and could soon drop below Germany’s Bundesliga as well.
Recently, at the FIFA Ballon D’Or gala, the FIFPro World XI was announced. This dream team was picked by close to 50 thousand professional players. It featured eight players from the Spain's La Liga and three from Italy’s Serie A. Not a single footballer plied his trade in England.
So was it just a bad year for English football? You could say that, but I believe it would be closer to the truth to see it as a chink in the once formidable armor of the league that has called itself the best in the world. An empire could be crumbling.
The fact is that the Premier League has seen its top players lose form and status. Quite simply, some of them are getting old, some aren’t that good anymore while others are just overrated. This competition is still living off the reputation gained in the past and is also benefiting from having a fantastic PR machine behind it, but its gravy-train days could soon be over.
Let me get specific. When you think of the Premier League, what names come to mind? Wayne Rooney, Didier Drogba, Cesc Fabregas, Fernando Torres and Carlos Tevez, perhaps? OK, well how many of them are world-class stars right now?
I would say out of that group, Tevez is probably the best player at the moment. Wayne Rooney has scored one goal from open play for Manchester United since March, Torres has looked like a shadow of his former self for the last year, Fabregas hasn’t ever guided Arsenal to any kind of real silverware and continues to struggle with injuries and Drogba’s career seems to be in decline after a few amazing seasons.
A harsh assessment? Perhaps. More worryingly though, who is waiting in their wings? Who will be the next generation of Premier League stars? I don’t see many exciting players coming through and with the exception of Manchester City, which clubs will have the money to out-muscle the Real Madrid, Bayern and Inter Milans of this world in the transfer market?
Before I start talking about other leagues, specifically Spain, I will demystify a stereotype that has been around for a long time. The one that states the best and most exciting attacking football is played in England. This is false. Maybe in the 90s and the early part of the last decade you still saw more goals in the Premier League than anywhere else. However, over the last few seasons that trend has changed and right now England ranks third behind Germany and Spain for the average of goals scored per game.
Goals per game:
GERMANY – 2.79
SPAIN – 2.78
ENGLAND – 2.67
ITALY – 2.36
So, onto Spain. First of all, the league boasts the best team on the planet – Barcelona. I don’t think too many people would disagree with me on that point. They also have the second best team in the world – Real Madrid. These two sides have exceptional talent and are both superbly coached.
As far as star power is concerned, no other league can say they have anyone close to the stature of Messi and Ronaldo. But there are more stars, many of them unheralded. I am not going to sit here and tell you about all of the magnificent players at Barcelona and Real Madrid, but there are so many others in La Liga. Players like Diego Forlan, Sergio Aguero, Juan Mata, Ever Banega, Nilmar, Fernando Llorente and many more.
Many of you could be suspicious of the last few players I named and there is one simple reason for that. Marketing. Spain hasn’t marketed its league as well as England have and hasn’t “sold” the image of its teams and players (with the exception of Real and Barca) like the Premier League has. But I issue a challenge. Try to watch more Spanish League games, and not just featuring the top teams.
I guarantee that a match between mid-table teams in Spain will be much better than one in England. It may not be as fast and furious, but it will be of a higher quality and will feature a greater level of skill. Compare an Espanol v Sevilla game to a Sunderland v Everton game. Do it and then tell me what you think. I admit that I would also prefer watching an Atletico v Valencia contest than a Manchester City v Tottenham any day of the week. If one forgets about the hype and focuses on the football, it is no contest.
One final word about the Bundesliga because it could be the most underrated league in Europe. Every time I watch a game from Germany’s top flight I am impressed. Most of the teams are extremely well organized, they play positive football and have some of the most exciting players around at the moment. The nation’s World Cup campaign was a testimony to that. Furthermore, they have had five different champions in the last decade. So it would be fair to say that it is a more competitive tournament than England, Spain or any other top league for that matter.
So here is a word of warning for the Premier League. Watch your back, because your days on the throne could be numbered.