Best league in Europe – my arse!

by Martin

Tuesday, July 1st, 2008

Where is the cream of Europe then?

After a previous article, in which I supported wholeheartedly the idea of limiting the number of foreign players in domestic leagues, I was berated by a number of people arguing that it was beneficial for our players in the Premier League specifically to play alongside the cream of Europe. Now, in the aftermath of what has been one of the most enjoyable major tournaments in years, I feel the need to look again at this claim.

You see, what Euro 2008 proved is that the Premier League does not have the cream of Europe at all. With a few very notable exceptions, it has the second string! Of the 4 nations that contested the semi finals and final, a grand total of 3 players from our domestic league started those games – Michael Ballack, Fernando Torres and in the final Cesc Fabregas. The Spanish team was made up almost entirely of players who play in Spain, and the German side likewise those that play in Germany. None of the Russians play here and no Turks either, though the one Englishman at the event acquitted himself well for them.

3 is the magic number ?

Even in the quarters it wasn’t Premier league players impressing – the Dutch stars were Snejder, van Nistlerooy and van Bronckhorst!

So what does that tell us? Well for me it says that we are the richest league in Europe but not the best. Players that really perform over here are very often quick to express a desire to ship out as soon as the demand is there – Ronaldo, van Nistleroy, Beckham etc, while the once great players approaching the twilight of the careers are queueing up to join for that last silly pay day, Deco I am looking at you. How long do people really think Torres will stay at Liverpool if he continues to play as he did last season, a poor Euro 2008 saved by a goal in the final notwithstanding? As soon as Bernabeu, Neu Camp or San Siro come knocking he will be out like flares.

The Premier League is currently acting like a bank, with a pension plan attached. Young European players come here, earn stupid money whilst earning their spurs, and those that develop into fine players bank it before going to La Liga and Serie A for the prestige. Then when the legs start to go its back to Bolton for a bumper pension. Those that don’t come up to top scratch are happy to stay at Middlesbrough or Manchester City and make a tidy living. The fact remains that the truly brilliant are in Spain and Italy, or looking that way clutching their passports.

Its well documented that I am not a fan of what the Premier League has become. When all that 16 teams have to play for from day one is staving off relegation a league becomes pretty redundant. Its what happens when TV and money dictate rather than the game itself. With the Big 4 currently allowing the rest to do their scouting for them, then nicking the greedy bastards once they are proven, it gives me pleasure that there are teams and leagues out there that are more desirable than ours to footballers.

The stars of the Spanish victory were Senna, Marcheno, Sergio Ramos, Iniesta, Xavi, Villa, Silva and yes Fabregas. When the first 7 come to the Premier League we can talk about it being the greatest in Europe. Meanwhile enjoy it by all means, but please treat it as what it is, a giant bank for the footballers who laugh all their way there…

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  • Martin Tibbetts

    By the way, I know Tuncay plays here, but if my memory is correct he did not feature in the semi final…..

  • Matt Quinn

    Ive always said this about the premier league.
    Cech is always called best goalkeeper in the world…. Buffon? Casillas?
    Ronaldo the best player in the world…. Messi? Aguero?
    Fernando Torres comes to the prem and suddenly he is the best striker in the world… he isnt even Spain’s best striker.

    The media are the worst for this. Watching the Euros this summer the commentators only seemed to mention English based players…. ie. In Portugals first game, they got a free-kick 25 yards out. Clive Tydlesley said “Well no prizes for guessing who will take this. The one person in the world who could score from here.” Simao ended up taking it.

    Just saw an article in the times which said spain won because they saw the need for a work ethic and dropped their “dream team midfield” of Xabi Alonso and Fabregas in favour of the “less heralded” Xavi and Iniesta!!!!! What a load of rubbish.

    However, this is not to say that foreigners are bad for the English national team. As ive said before, before the influx of foreigners, we had Steve Bull, Steve Hodge, Carlton Palmer et al in the national team.

  • Matt Quinn

    Also im not sure about the Italian league being the place the stars head to. Not many players from the quarter-finals were based in Italy…. the ones that were, flopped.

  • Darren

    I think the media are definitely to blame, they are an arrogant bunch of know-it-alls who enjoy nothing more than building up our sportsmen only to kick them down.

    The World Cup was a classic example, the papers, the media incuding Talk Sport predicted we would win it, on what grounds was that?

    Andy Murray was sensational yesterday yes, he is young and will win a grand slam soon, erh, so is Nadal, he’s won 4 grand slams already. No doubt he’ll go out against Nadal and the press will enjoy kicking him down a peg or two!

    This doesn’t happen in Germany, perhaps there’s a subtle clue as to why they have reached 13 finals out of 21 and we have reached 1.

    Lets face the facts, we are never going to win anything of importance with the parasites of the media waiting for us to fail. For the record, Rugger doesn’t really count, it’s a rubbish game, the same goes for Cricket.

    As for The Premier League, it’s the most exciting league yes, Bolton were in the bottom 3 when they beat Man United, that doesn’t happen in Serie A or La Liga. Regards to talent, the best players in the world would rather play in Spain or Italy, why? To test themselves against the best, simple as…

  • rob pullinger

    very interesting piece, i like it!!!!

    its not all about football anymore, its a business….money talks….????

  • Darren

    very true Rob, it’s all about the money, I think we need a salary cap, the players have become bigger than the clubs, it’s a catch 22 situation. The TV companies need these players to boost audiences, to make more money, to show the games in more countries so they can make more money.

  • rob pullinger

    At this rate, and depending on what Mr Platini does, football will never be what it was, the game is being taken away from the people that matter the most..

    What’s next,…. super league ? limit on foreigners…..????

    All needs sorting out FIFA/ UEFA???

  • rob pullinger

    Darren, couldnt agree with anymore, all a shambles, the latest ive heard is regarding under 9’s, is a disgrace……

    Football was suppose to be from working class people like you and me, not toff’s or businessmen….at the current rate its a world war…..look at the owners……the yanks, russians, asian’s, etc……they will destroy our beautifull game, and it is ours, so i say sod off to all of them!!!!

    Money doesnt buy you everything????

  • Darren

    taking away league tables and results from kids is the worst idea I’ve ever heard. I used to love getting on the school bus and travelling to other schools for a league match. In fact, one of my finest hours was 4-3 victory away from home, we were 3-0 down at half time. We made the local papers, that gave us a taste of what football was all about, the dreams, aspirations!

    As Martin rightly points out, the Prem League is the richest league in the world. The owners don’t give a toss about grass roots, all they care about is money.

  • dave

    lets be honest,the premier league is entertaining but for skill and desire the spanish league is miles ahead. the premier league need to take stock and invest in english players cos the game in england as a whole will suffer in years to come and when it does Sky with their vast sums of money will do a runner.

    R.I.P. English football

  • Martyn

    Whilst I do agree with 90% of the article and comments on this and whilst I also believe in limiting foreigners and I despise the media as much, if not more than most. Lets not lose sight of that fact that Internationals are different games to club football. The Champions League was contested by 2 premier league teams and Ronaldo was the player of the Champions League by far. You cant judge the Premier League purely on the Internationals. Yes we have some average Carlos Kickaballs, old twilighters and money grubbers but we also have some of the best players in the world. Limiting the number of foreigners is a good a idea, as we will only see these players, not the former rubbish gracing our shores.
    It also goes back to the old argument about pricing systems of the English footballers being way to high.

  • Martyn

    Oh and on the juniors league front. I cant even believe its being considered. Clueless!!!

  • Matt Quinn

    Darren- i dont agree that the premiership is the most exciting as teams in the relegation zone beat the likes of Man Utd. In truth that hardly ever happens. Even teams in the top half of the table hardly ever beat the top 4. In Spain, the quality is more evenly spread and so these kind of results happen far more often.

    In the past few years, Villarael, Deportivo, Valencia, Atletico Madrid, Sevilla have all made the champions league.

    The premier league is dull by comparison and is basically the same as Scotland. Top 4 always the same.

  • Darren

    i’ve watched quite a bit of La Liga, not as much as you I hasten to add, but it’s pretty dull most of the time, the crowd don’t sing, so the atmosphere is crap, the football is much slower, arguably must better yes, but it doesn’t seem to have the same intensity as the Prem League.

  • Darren

    plus, if you look around Europe, you will see the same teams winning their respective league.

    La Liga has only been won by 4 teams in the last 10 years. Barca 4, Real 4, Deportivo & Valencia once each.

    Serie A is pretty much the same with only Lazio & Roma breaking the big 3’s domination.

    When was the last time you can say a little club won the their league? Notts Forest? Derby? Blackburn?

    The whole of Europe is the same, money now rules our game.

  • Danny Brothers

    It does seem that Torres and Ronaldo look terrific in the Premier League yet average in the big competitions and on the big stage. Could it be that the poor sides in our top flight are significantly poorer than the ones in Spain? Of course Torres will score for fun when faced with the likes of Titus Bramble every week!

    Give me the Premier League over La Liga any day though…every game has a hell of a lot more passion than games in Spain.

  • Martin Tibbetts

    I would argue that for passion and commitment, and overall excitement, the Premier League isn’t even the best league in England. With 14 clubs going into the last game of the season with something to play for, and an increasingly high standard of teams in it, the Championship (or the 2nd Division!) gives far more value for money to the die hard fans. It may lack the international superstars of its richer cousins, but ite where the real football gets played in this country…gutted my lot won’t be in it this year!

  • dave

    id rather watch technical players each week,i just tire of english league football because of the hold that sky have over clubs. you talk about passion? how come is that most grounds are silent and when you do stand up to sing your told to sit down? the emirates,old trafford,riverside,goodison and many more are like librarys on match days. eat your prawn sarnie,buy your over priced merchandise and shutup!!! that is the premier league motto.

    RIP the true football fans!!!! and long live the real rulers of english football……SKYSPORTS

  • Darren

    i would have to disagree Martin, the quality of the championship is appalling, it was only West Brom and Cardiff who actually play decent football, the rest just hoof and hope. I watched a few games last and thought it’s just like watching Sunday league but with more fans. I’m not saying it’s exciting, I’m just saying the quality is poor compared to the Prem. With the exception of Bolton, Boro of course.

    The gap in quality is evident for everyone to see. The FA cup was a one off, I guarantee that won’t happen again for 10 years.

    How many players have left a championship club and been successful in recent years? A classic example would be James Beatie, rubbish at Everton but amazing at Sheffield United. Jason Kumas is another, brilliant in the championship, wins player of the season every year, yet looks a little lost in the Premiership. Has his moments but no where near as effective as in the championship.

    Whether you like or not, the Premier League is by far the best league in the UK. The championship is exciting yes, but but for shear entertainment and skill the Prem wins hands down every time.

    Sky have taken the game away from the real fans but at the same time introduced it to a wider audience, ie: when was the last time you saw a riot at a game, of fighting on the terraces. The reason for this is a different class of person goes to watch the games, woman, families and suits. It reflects society and equal rights for all, football is no longer just a game for laddy men, it’s a game for everyone.

    Personally though, I’d rather watch Sunday league.

  • Martin Tibbetts

    I think you missed my point Darren. I was saying the Championship has the passion and commitment the Premier League lacks, thus making it a better, more competitive league. Of course the skill and ability is far superior in the latter. But the vibe is better in the stands in the Championship and the players and fans have more belief because they are all actually playing for something, rather than the majority of Premier League players who turn up, take the pay check, sit in mid table and bugger off when something better comes along. Championship teams tend to have genuine local support, so they are more community based, and supporters are therefore more passionate, they support a team due to locality rather than win ratio. Of course clubs like this exist in the premier league as well, but its a universal trait in the Championship….

  • Jackie Emu

    It’s funny, although money and Skysports has brought us superstar footballers to our own back yard… I still hanker back to the what people call the ‘dark days’ and 80’s football I loved it back then. teams had local players with fire in their belly…now as said above mercenaries are here picking up big wages, they don’t care if they’re relegated or not they can just move clubs. Ours may be the best league in europe but it’s so sanatised it’s lost some charm.
    I”ll no doubt be in the minority in my opinions but at least football was for your average punter now it’s expensive and lacking atmosphere…I still go to games and love it but I loved standing on a terrace watching a muddy pitch and one sub…perhaps I’m looking through rose tinted spectacles but give me Bernie Slaven and Archie Stephens rather than Afonso Alves and Jeremy Aliadiere anyday…

  • Darren

    point taken Martin, yes sorry, I did actually miss your point. I get what you are saying regarding passion and community.

    As Jackie Emu has pointed out, there are way to many mercenaries who turn up, say thanks and put in a half arsed performance for 30,000 a week, that’s why I keep saying but a salary cap will at least stop this.

    There’s no denying the game has changed, there’s to much football on TV for a start. Making our stadia all seater killed the atmosphere, I remember going to the old Den for a Division 1 league game, the atmosphere was intense as it always was there. I prayed it would end 0-0 as I didn’t want to get my kicked in, as it was we won 2-1 with Nail Quinn scoring the winner. We were frogged marched out of the ground for our safety, deep down we were smiling and happy, but we dare not show it. My point being it was all about community and togetherness, we survived the Den, came away with out being beaten up and with 3 points. As it turned out we only won 3 away games all season so that was highlight. There was something about standing, the crowd going mental when you scored, the inevitable crush. But now people clap as if you are at the opera or the ballet.

  • dave

    better class of people? the real fans have been priced out of the game and as for being the best league in the world? i must admit that i take more pleasure watching lower league sides play now because there is still that raw passion and immense pride in wearing that shirt. im tired of the over paid,primadonna’s with their alice bands and perma-tans. we need proper players like terry butcher and graeme souness.

  • Darren

    When I say a better class of people I basically mean the game is no longer just a mans game, before Sky came along it was our game, we went to the games with groups of mates, we had a beer before and afterwards, in true working class style.

    Sky came along and changed everything, the lad factor has almost gone. Now you’ll find more ladies and kids, which isn’t a bad thing it’s just not the same is it. I mean they’ve even got woman commenting on Match on the Day, we all know this is a total joke but we are more equal after all. It’s a reflection of society. I blame the Spice Girls, they did introduce girl power after all!

  • dave

    i blame the spice girls for everything!!!!

  • Darren

    it was good before they came along, men were men, we didn’t wear make up and creams. The Spice Girls changed the world with their intelligent lyrics and knowledge of politics, in fact, it was they who helped Labour get into power, plus they did help Nelson Mandela, they were also responsible for the break up of Yugoslavia, that’s how amazing they were.

  • dave

    ive been enlightened,i heard they have invented their own religion…… spice girltology!!!!

  • Darren

    season 2 starts tomorrow, 20 new stunners, and then we will think about the Champions League!!

    Didn’t the Spice Girls create the planets in a previous life?

  • dave

    ha ha!!!! they probably think they did

  • Tim

    I’ve only read the main article, so i apologise if i have duplicated what anyone has said

    The problem isn’t the number of foreigners involved, i blame Steve Mclaren.

    We must have a fairly decent league, look how many teams contested the final 4 of the Champions League, and that reflects on our league.

    Prior to the tournament, would you of judged Spains national team on their performing clubs, or their inability to make it at National Tournaments.

    Of the 4 teams in the Semi Finals of Euro 2008, who would gamble on a Turk, they’ve not the best history in England!! Of the Germans we have argubly their best player already in England and the others aren’t that great. Spain i agee are a very good team and play well together.

    I just think the article is judging our league by Euro 2008. Quite a blinkered view. I for one prefer watching English on TV over Italians and the Spanish

    Just a personal view!

    England though, argubly has a number of world class players, still plying their trade in our national league. Had Mclaren got us through a weak qualifying group and made it to Euro 2008 we’d not be having this discussion!

  • Stevie

    I totally disagree mate, we have 1 world class player, Rio Ferdinand. The rest are good, Rooney, & Gerrard, but they are not world class, I don’t see Real Madrid trying to sign any English players.

    If we would have qualified we would of offered absolutely nothing to the competition, except boredom. It’s a catch 22 situation, we would of went out on pens as usual after a dull 0-0 draw . So we would be having this conversation, sack the manager, why do we always fail etc… The same old arguments we have after every tournament.

    McClaren was very bad yes but Capello hasn’t changed the way we play much either, in fact we have to go back to Hoddle & Venables for an attractive England side.

  • Tim

    but how can you argue that our league is rubbish because we failed at Euro 2008, when 3 of the 4 Champions League semi final teams are from our league????

    we may well of been discussing why does our national team always fail, but less likely criticising the talent in our leagues, other than better foreign players get in ahead of cr*p English

    playing for Man Utd Rooney is world class and Gerrard the same for Liverpool, just because our national coaches cannot find the right blend of formula makes our players look average in the national team

    i agree that the rest of our squad ranges from good to mediocre, Hargreaves maybe an exception

  • Martin Tibbetts

    I have to pick up on your comment about the German side Tim. You think that apart from Ballack the rest aren’t very good. So you don’t think Schweinsteiger, one of the players of the tournament, would be better than most of the european players who come here for loads of money then. Or Torsten Friings? Or Philip Lahm. Or Miroslav Klose who has scored more world cup goals than most and would probably do better than Maccarone for example, or Giorgos Samaras, or Pizarro or the new Dutchman who Middlesbrough have just paid too much for. You don’t think Podolski would be better than all the euro wingers Benitez has wasted money on? My point was and is that we aren’t even getting the first choice internationals over here, not for any of the european clubs. We get the wannabes, who bugger off as soon as they make their names, and the has beens seeking a pay day. I don’t see how England performing well at the tournament would change that, I wasn’t discussing English player.

  • Stevie

    i think the author is mealy stating that the Premier is over rated, it’s the money factor that only brings top players to our league.

    it’s true that Gerrard & Rooney shine in Europe, but once they put on an England shirt they become completely different players, it’s a total mystery. It can work the other way, Darius Varsell for example, crap in the Prem league was pretty decent when he played for England.

    Going back to Rooney & Gerrard, these players look world class because they are surrounded by world class players. Put them in a team full of Englishmen and they are good but not world class. Fat Frank is another. I would love to see how he gets on at Inter, I hope he proves me wrong. But at the end of the day, Rio is the only world class player we have.

  • Darren

    Martin does have a good point, most of these average players come to the Premier on the back fantastic reputations in their own respective leagues, unfortunately the Dutch, French, Turkish & Greek leagues are not up to the standard required.

    When we do get the top players their best days are behind them, Schevchenko is a classic example. Most of the others were either gambles or players the big clubs in Europe had not heard much about, Drogba, Henry, Ronaldo etc…

    I can only think of Torres who came to the Premier League in peak form, even then you could argue that the Premier League has in fact made him a better player, he was not a goal scorer in La Liga but was often compared to Henry for his finishing. The reason why he did come to Premier League was because Liverpool could afford to pay his wages.

    So if the Premier League was the best and we are talking quality wise, then Messi, Cannavaro, Kaka, Ramous etc.. would all be here now.

    But saying that, it’s still the most exciting league!

  • Tim

    If you look at the German side, i think Ballack is their best player, thats all. Schweinsteiger had a decent tournament, although wasn’t included in the starting line up for the opening two games

    Ok, so not all of the best European players are playin in the Premier League, granted. But we do still have a reasonable number. Also, does anyone think the Weather may have a baring on players decisions? Spain or England…….

    To start comparing individuals is insane, im sure every country has their flops. How do you look at someone like Bhoularuz (Dutch RB), not a great hit in England was he!

    We don’t have any difficulty attracting good quality Africans.

  • Darren

    the weather may well have something to do with yes, but I also think that the Premier League is a tough league, we are well known for having hard players who take no sh** and take great pleasure in kicking and hacking down these expensive imports.

    Many players have come to the Prem and failed, Ablert Luque was sensational at Deportivo, a sweet left foot, he looked like the new Matt Le Tissier, yet he totally flopped at Newcastle, maybe it’s the weather, the culture shock of going for a night out on the Tyne? Who knows.

    I like the Premier League but to say it’s the best full stop would be taking things a bit to far.

  • Tim

    Its fair to say that some players may be happier playing in Deportivo than Tyneside, thats for sure!!!!

  • dexylongshot

    I don’t know, I’ve had some of my finest conquests at The Pig and Whistle on Bigg Market!
    Although it was painful walking up the steps to the Geordie away end the next afternoon, nuff burn on the legs.
    Mike Ashley better tell the yanks that some lifts are needed if they take-over.

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