In the last week we have seen Premiership champions Manchester City crash out of European competition; Arsenal relinquish a lead to end up second in a mediocre group and Chelsea becoming the first team to win the Champions League and not qualify from the group stage the following season. Surely the question must be asked; is the Premiership still the best, most exciting league in the world?
Heralded as such for many years and probably rightly so, the Premiership offered some of the world’s finest talents, most enigmatic characters and some of the most prolific teams to grace world football. It was synonymous with attracting big name stars; Ronaldo, Henry, Zola to name but a few; coupled with a distinct ‘golden age’ of home-grown talents made it an enthralling, encapsulating league to watch and to be a part of whether player or fan. It now seems though, whether it’s a transitional period remains to be seen, it is on the wane. Players are considering moves to England for the ludicrous wages they can expect from the powerhouses at the top of the pile, more than the fast paced, robust nature in which games used to be played.
It is only fair to mention that since the 2004-05 season there has been an English representative in each of the European cup finals, bar one, and three of those finals have had winners from the Premiership, albeit 07-08 was an all English final, but it seems for the last couple of seasons there has been a usurping of the Premiership’s apparent dominance of European and World football. We know the mercurial talents residing in Spain, namely Barcelona and Real Madrid, who have stood toe-to-toe, some may say shoulders above, the English giants of the past few seasons. You only need to look at the achievements this year of Messi who seems destined to break Gerd Muller’s forty year record of scoring 85 goals in a calendar year; and the phenomenal ratio of goals per games Ronaldo has at Real, 167 goals in 166 appearances, to know that they are formidable opposition for any of the English clubs.
However, it the resurgence of other leagues that should be of greater concern; in particular Germany and Italy who are quietly going about their business, re-affirming their status among Europe’s elite. Borussia Dortmund, Schalke 04, Bayern Munich and Juventus all topped their respective Champions League groups overcoming the likes of Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester City. Spanish sides have always proved a difficult conquest, but now there is food for thought emanating from other sections of Europe. Domestically too, there seems to be a greater buzz about these leagues; the Premiership this year already seems destined to stay in Manchester, however Juventus’ dominance is no longer so unquestionable, Atletico Madrid are going round for round with Barcelona and their Madrid counterparts and in the Bundesliga there are three or four teams who are all capable of beating each other.
There was once an aura surrounding the Premiership, and the teams that represented it in Europe; however it seems that this is dissipating. Foreign sides are becoming comfortable with the style and attacking approach of their English counterparts, it wasn’t long ago that Arsenal were winning at the Bernabeu and San Siro and Manchester United put 7 past Roma. Gone, I fear are these days, and the almost pre-emptive dominance of English teams and the Premiership as a whole. There is work too be done, players who owe it to fans to reignite the passion that once oozed throughout the league. There is no doubt that the Premiership was once the most breathless league in World football, but claiming this mantra is no longer a right; there is a reputation to uphold and a mantel to reclaim before the Premiership can once again be considered the best league in the world.