You’ve got to wonder what it will take for foreign football leagues to pick up a little more recognition in this country. And I’m not really just talking about Serie A or La Liga, although it would be a good start. But what about Brazil’s Serie A and other South American leagues? Portugal? France? America? It’s still football. It’s like saying you love music but spend your whole life listening to one band.
What will it take for the interest levels to noticeably rise? What about taking a big British name from the Premier League and sticking him in one of the leagues on the continent? Gareth Bale may get a move to Real Madrid in the future, and that would be an interesting situation to watch.
Bale is considered to be one of the best players in England, he would take the left-wing position in many fans’ team of the year or fantasy XI, and at one time was suggested to be the best left-sided player in the world after his performance at the San Siro; a claim that was even less true then than it is now.
So would we all start taking La Liga a little more seriously if he moved to Madrid? What about Italy if one of the bigger teams in Serie A swooped in unexpectedly and stole a march on the Spanish champions? I’m not really convinced.
If the levels of interest didn’t increase after Antonio Conte guided Juventus to a season unbeaten in Serie A, then what will? Not enough was made about Arsenal’s accomplishment in 2004 and even less was made of the Italian champions.
Everyone adored Andrea Pirlo’s performances at last year’s European Championship, but would most care to take in a Juventus game, even if they were playing a team of equal reputation? I couldn’t imagine a football fan in England who wouldn’t go weak at the knees if Edinson Cavani were to arrive at their club from Napoli, but does anyone even know why they really want him in their team?
It’s ok to like one thing, even to go as far as to say you treasure it. But when does it get boring? Isn’t there enough excitement in Germany, for example, to draw you in for a weekend?
The problem isn’t the audience, or at least not solely. People get comfortable with what they’re given and assume it to be the best thing available. Why does Justin Bieber sell so many albums? The same question can be put forward about One Direction and whatever else is popular these days. It’s partly laziness, where an audience is happy to digest something just because it’s sitting there on the table, maybe even wrapped in a nice bow.
The wider problem is the media and their lack of willingness to promote the game in other countries. I get that Sky Sports need to talk up the Premier League as the best in the world, even if it has become mind-numbing. But what is the foundation of English football built on today? Who is the best player in England at the moment? Arguably a Dutch striker. Who does every supporter want as their next manager? A Spaniard, and now that he’s unavailable, his Portuguese nemesis will do nicely as well.
It’s an English game, but one which has been given an added dimension to make it what it is today through the help of foreign imports and the ideas of other nations. Why hasn’t David Moyes been picked up by a bigger club in England, with no harm intended towards Everton? Ok, he’s Scottish, but it’s also partly because he’s not as glamorous. There’s glamour in bringing in these flash names from abroad, however media outlets only really want to know about them when they’re linked to Premier League clubs or arrive on English soil.
Why can’t I buy a newspaper on the weekend and find a big feature on one of the Spanish clubs, or Porto, or Shakhtar? They’re all good teams, they play good football, they all have players whose names fill the gossip columns almost weekly.
If you were to suggest that the Premier League is best because it has the largest audience, I’d then once again point you in the direction of Justin Bieber; not that I’m comparing the quality of football in England to the Canadian’s music. But just because something sells a lot doesn’t make it the best.
Having players like Bale or even Rooney move over to one of the leagues on the continent won’t do much to raise interest, unless of course their club comes to England for a European tie. But it shouldn’t have to be like that. FIFA’s world XI featured players from the Spanish league alone, and even if you disagree with the inclusion of some of the names, you can’t deny that it’s a team of unquestionable quality.
So why don’t we want to watch Lionel Messi and Andres Iniesta every week? What about Radamel Falcao? Why don’t more people want to look to the makeup of Spanish football and why they play the way they do. I’m not suggesting you go and read a book on it, but at least by watching it more people will understand that different doesn’t always mean bad or worse.
Companies like Sky obviously feel the need to bring in former players who once wore the shirts of some of the giants of European football, so they clearly see some value in what goes on outside of England. There are columnists who write exclusively on foreign leagues for some of the biggest newspapers in the country, but unfortunately they only feature on the websites, whereas a little more exposure would do a lot of good. It all starts with the media, not with the players who go abroad.