The Premier league has been at the top for a while lets be honest. We are told every match by Sky that this is “the best season yet” in “the greatest league on earth” and do you know what, I really think they’ve convinced nearly everyone that this is a fact without question. It’s the most fast paced, it has the best players, it’s only going to get bigger. Well, as much as it probably is the most fast paced, these other claims floated about are most definitely false, and I’m afraid the bubble might soon burst.
The Premier league was built in 1992 on the reasoning that the clubs of England were giants, and the product they had to sell was worth a huge amount more than what they were getting. For too long Serie A had always been the most attractive league, yet the attendances in England were always humungous. Driven by businessmen like David Dein and Alan Sugar, the league was founded in 1992 and the original Sky agreement of £304 million over five seasons flooded the league with money. Leaving even “smaller”clubs were with money to spend. This saw the quickest influx of talent to a league probably ever seen with players from all over the world suddenly being attracted by the huge wages on offer. It seemed every club was getting their own exotic players from far and wide bringing in ever larger crowds. Just look at Juninho at Middlesborough. This was a match made in heaven and the deals with Sky have been (depending on your perspectives) incredibly beneficial. Getting to the point where now entry to the premier league from the championship is worth £120 million.
This is what has fuelled the BPL’s rise to being ‘the best league in the world’ and to be fair there is a good lot to shout about. England always produces passionate large crowds which come through the gates week in week out. There is also the fact that England has the oldest and largest football tradition possessing 92 professional clubs, more than anywhere else in the world. Conveniently for sky the whole nation lives and breathes football, everyone has a team, half the country watches. There is also the fast paced Gung-ho approach which english players seem so eager to embrace, unlike in Italy where traditionally players learn to defend and be astute tactically. Also, most significantly for the attraction of the Premier league is the players that are bought for astronomical prices. A league that is full of talent is surely the greatest around right.
But i think people are too quick to just gobble it all up, I mean in reality are the best players really in the Premier league? The Ballon D’or shortlists are only ever made up of La Liga and Bundesliga Players in recent years. Ronaldo and Messi, the world’s two best players play in Spain, the likes of Manuel Neuer, Arjen Robben, and Franck Ribery all play for Bayern Munich. These players are rarely touted as coming to the Premier league. Whereas 10 years ago the Premier league was the only place to be, possessing the best talent like Fernando Torres, Thierry Henry and Cristiano Ronaldo, players now leave for bigger clubs when they win an award or two. It has become the common path for Players of the year to take the short flight to Madrid or Barcelona. Just look at the likes of Ronaldo, Henry, Michael Owen, Fabregas and most recently Bale who have all gone to play in the Clasico and have a chance at winning the Champions league every year. The reality is the standard has dropped, the big clubs in England now buy players who are on the fringes at the worlds biggest clubs and sell them off as world beaters, but they don’t go for the very best out there. Neymar was never coming to the Premier league and I doubt Pogba will either. In recent years, Arsenal have bought Sanchez and first team/sub player at Barcelona, and Mesut Ozil a sub form Real Madrid. Even Angel Di Maria at Real Madrid wasn’t always in the Madrid team. These are great players but they aren’t the very very best, and I think this is the biggest sign that things are changing. In 2005 Patrick Viera rejected the chance to leave for Real Madrid as he didn’t believe they were necessarily a ‘step up’. However, fast forward to now and everyone wants to be playing at the Nou Camp and Bernabeu. This is why I worry, and wonder how long can the BPL honestly claim to be the best.
There is also the fact that the big English clubs never do well in Europe anymore. Between 2005 and 2012 English clubs were involved in 7 of the 8 champions league finals, now most don’t even reach the quarters. Man City are perennial failures, Arsenal are going to soon lose their pot 1 place having not passed the last 16 in 5 years, and Manchester United and Liverpool have fallen away altogether. Only Chelsea remain a potential winner and they only reached the Quarters.
This is the sad truth that nothing lasts forever, and everything is replaceable. People may think the league will only get bigger but they thought that of Serie A in the 90’s and looked how thats turned out. Many easily forget that the Serie A was the worlds best league just 20 years ago, sucking in all the talent. Yet now their major clubs such as AC and Inter are crumbling under weak club infrastructure, and the leagues best teams are having to sell off their assets like Thiago Silva and Ibrahimovic a few years ago. Now it is slowly becoming a once sided league dominated by Juventus and I fear the BPL collapsing in the same way, it’s happened before, and those who think no one could replace it are naive. If La Liga’s legal case to equalise the TV rights works, the league will change dramatically and once more teams like Valencia can weigh in at the big time. They will close the wage gap with the BPL, and the likes of Getafe and Sociedad will be no longer out gunned for money by the likes of their English equivalents Aston Villa and Southampton. This could see a drastic shift and thats just in the short term. The long term could see something even more fatal for the Premier league and that is the MLS. Often seen as the retirement place of BPL veterans the league is growing at a rate no one anticipated. With the signings of Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard and Andrea Pirlo possibly following them to join David Villa and Kaka this league is no longer just for those who used to play in big leagues. This year sees the incredible statistic found by the daily mail that more US schoolchildren are now playing Soccer than American football and with 24 million viewing the US strong showing in the 2014 world cup it is only growing. Even club attendances are growing and the Seattle Sounders now bring in more fans than Chelsea on match days. America has money, it has more than the BPL, and if the MLS really gets going it may start using it. This could be catastrophic for the Premier League and if that selling point of offering the most money is taken away, I don’t think the worlds best players aren’t going to stay for the history and atmosphere. Some do, as Italy shows, but not the very best. It’s true the Champions league is the big draw but with the world only getting smaller I could see the MLS joining in some capacity, and they already have enough players coming through themselves with their sporting infrastructure.
I’m not saying this will happen straight away and it won’t. Serie A didn’t die overnight, but those who think the BPL is any different are kidding themselves.
The BPL may not be forever guys, and I think it’s changing already.