As this year’s Champions League is getting to the business end, has Manchester United, Liverpool and the other Premier League side’s dominance of this competition ended?
This season has seen something of a change in fortunes for the Premier League sides in the coveted Champions League. Liverpool were knocked out in the group stages which was considered a shock. Upon seeing Liverpool’s group I initially thought they would struggle. Whilst critics of Lyon said they were not the side of three or four years ago after being paired with Liverpool, I would concur. But Liverpool are not the side they were last season. Manchester United has eased through and Rooney’s electric second half performance against AC Milan in the San Siro should put Manchester United and Sir Alex Ferguson in the quarter final draw. Yet if Milan’s strikers hadn’t worn their boots on the wrong feet for 90 minutes the score line could have been very different.
Chelsea’s off the field shenanigans appear to be affecting their form after losing to Inter in Milan and then Manchester City at Stamford Bridge. The return leg will be a tough game and whilst I expect Chelsea to just nick it, I would not at all be shocked if Jose Mourinho has the last laugh at Chelsea. What appears over the horizon is looking even worse for the Premier League sides as next season the phasing of new player quota’s for the Premier League arrives.
Under the new rules being phased in next season every club in the Premier League will have to have a minimum of 8 ‘home-grown’ players named in a 25 man squad. These are players who are either born in England or have played here for 3 years or longer between the ages of 15 and 21. So for example Cesc Fabregas under the new rules would be classed as ‘home-grown’ having been with Arsenal since the age of fifteen. Whilst the majority of squads will cope with this fine, Aston Villa for example has a massive 24 registered ‘home-grown’ players, others will not. Specifically the teams at the top like Liverpool and Chelsea. Chelsea currently has 8 ‘home-grown’ players on their squad list which is just enough. But it is the long term implications and knock on effects this quota system will create that could damage our European credentials.
Liverpool for example has the highest percentage of expatriate players in Europe with 90% of the squad. Manager Rafa Benitez is worried about finding all these ‘home-grown’ players in England. He told the BBC ‘The problem in England is that there is a big gap between the academies and the first team, the reserve league is not filling this gap. If a top side has to find eight players from the academy straight away, it may well be difficult. Academies do not produce too many in England; home-grown players tend to play in the lower divisions because they may not be good enough for the very top.’
I think Rafa has made a very valid point, clearly he doesn’t want to have to overhaul his side but it is such a large debate. Do we sacrifice the level and quality of the Premier League by nurturing younger ‘home-grown’ talent, hence hopefully improving our national game? There is so many pro’s and con’s to each side I find myself swinging one way to the other. What is clear is with Premiership clubs having to stick to having so many ‘home-grown’ players, that foreign players will still arrive but Chelsea’s days of numerous £20 million foreign talents coming in could be over. It would also mean Champions League glory may not be so definite.
The Liverpool manager said in the same interview ‘People talk too much about the age of players and where they are from. They forget about quality. The Premier League is the best league in the world because of the quality, not because of where the players come from.’ Indeed Rafa is right; it is the quality that makes it the best in the world, but now the quality will have to come from more players from England, or by taking the players young enough and coaching them to being top players.
The Premier League’s domination of the Champions League has been born out of money, our clubs have more money and hence can spend more on players, the exception here obviously is Real Madrid but in general that has pushed our dominance. The ability to sign the £25 million pound Italian sensation or the £30 million Brazilian forward without blinking has given the Premier League a few years of bossing Europe. This all looks to be falling apart. The economic crisis and excessive borrowing has caused clubs such as Manchester United and Liverpool to cost cut where necessary and Roman Abramovich at Chelsea is known to be finding any possible cost cut he can. The signings of old may not be so extravagant for the Premier League. The 50% tax increase that arrives soon is going to also have a major effect on the world’s players wanting to arrive in England. What is clear is it is a big issue in football. Our academies need improving, we all know that. This quota initiative is to address the situation and help our national game long term. In the short term the Premier League’s ‘best league in the world’ position and our Champions League hopes may take a significant knock.
Do you think the Premier League’s dominance of the Champions League is coming to an end? Do you think the new Premier League quota system to be introduced next season is good?
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