The emergence of the Premier League in 1992 brought a new chapter to English football. An exciting new impetus and commercial appeal was brought to the game in this country, largely as a result of a lucrative television deal with Rupert Murdoch’s BSkyB Corporation. The television deal with BSkyB is currently still in place and as a result the Premier League has emerged over the years as the most watched and arguably, the best league in world football. The exposure to world audiences has attracted a wide range of nationalities to the Premiership over the years and some great names have turned out for English clubs. Having said this, it seems to me that for one reason or another some of the biggest and best foreign names in football have overlooked the Premier League in favour of Serie A or La Liga, why is this?
I can hear you say – but we have had plenty of world class players in the Premiership, look at Ronaldo, Henry, Bergkamp, Cantona and Torres. I am fully in agreement these are, or have been, world class players, but my argument would be that Ronaldo, Cantona and Henry were players who developed into the world class category as a consequence of their time in the Premier League. I’m talking about players who were already at their pinnacle, names like Zidane, Ronaldo (the Brazilian), Figo, Rivaldo and Ronaldinho, why did these players never grace our shores? Furthermore, if we take the FIFA World Player of the Year award into consideration, with the exception of Cristiano Ronaldo in 2008, there hasn’t been a winner of this accolade from a Premier League player!
Surely a League like the Premiership must have carried a lure to these amazing talents? The weather could be a contributing factor as to why some of these greats of the modern era shunned the Premier League in favour of the sunnier climes of Spain and Italy. The prospect of a cold and wet winter’s night away at Wigan is enough to deflate even the toughest of British player’s thirst for action. While something so trivial could well have been influential, I would have hoped the quality of the Premier League would have outweighed this aspect. Then there is the large tax footballers have to pay in this country compared to Italy and Spain. Even though footballers of this stature would command huge wages, I doubt any of them would want to forgo a penny of their earnings.
Alternatively, I wonder if the world’s elite players view clubs such as Real Madrid, Barcelona, Inter Milan and AC Milan as more appealing clubs to play for than the Premiership’s big four? Rivaldo, Ronaldinho and Luis Figo are examples of players who in the Autumn of their careers left Spain to play in Italy with the Milan clubs. Luis Figo was strongly linked with Liverpool before embarking on his spell with Inter, and it begs the question whether the Premier League’s high tempo, tough tackling and furious pace was a deterrent? These players have all missed out on the opportunity of performing week after week in front of some of the most passionate and committed supporters in the world. However, I then think to myself maybe it was a good thing these great players we hold in such high esteem didn’t come to the Premier League. They may have disappointed and their excellent reputations would have been tarnished. We only have to look at Andriy Shevchenko and how he fared when he made his big money move from the relatively slow pace of Serie A to the frenetic pace of the Premiership.
While I would have loved to see Zinedine Zidane spraying the ball around at Old Trafford in the red of Manchester United, or to hear the Kop singing the name of Luis Figo, I can’t complain about what I’ve been treated to in the Premier League down the years. Our very own English stars and the brilliant foreign imports have cemented the Premier League’s status as the best league in the world, and the likes of Shearer, Giggs, Bergkamp, Zola, Henry and Gerrard have provided plenty of goals and class, so for this I am grateful.
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