Emanuele Giaccherini said it best when he moved from back-to-back Serie A winners Juventus to Sunderland, that the Premier League’s allure allowed him to make the easy decision to swap Turin for the north of England. And let’s not assume that the Italian was a disposable member of Antonio Conte’s side, because he wasn’t. Where star names and match winners are a necessity for any title-winning side, those in the engine room are just as vital. Giaccherini was a jack of all trades, willing to play anywhere his manager placed him and with absolutely no fuss.
Though that doesn’t mean the Premier League holds something within its boundaries that can’t be found elsewhere on the continent. Both Chelsea are Arsenal have or are in the brink of losing out on transfer targets this summer, with Radamel Falcao joining up with the rising project at Monaco, and Gonzalo Higuain possibly walking into a very smartly built Napoli side, though I wouldn’t place 100 per cent value in what Aurelio De Laurentiis says during the summer months; the Napoli president likes all the fanfare.
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The thing about the Premier League is that it very rarely buys the biggest names in world football. For those from Europe and South America, Real Madrid and to an extent Barcelona are seen as the pinnacle of European football, though the former much more so. If you’re a youngster or even an established international in Germany, it’s more than likely you’re going to end up Bayern Munich, despite Borussia Dortmund getting one over on the Bavarians in the race for Marco Reus.
Clubs like PSG are rapidly changing the face of European football, allowing “lesser” leagues like the French Ligue 1 to quickly gain a reputation as one of the leading destinations in Europe. No longer is France surrendering the Zidanes, Makeleles and Thurams to Italy or Spain, but rather it’s using its new-found financial muscle to establish French football as a force in European competition once again.
It’s not that English football is losing its allure, but we have to question how much of other nations’ appeal we’ve been allowed to witness. Even now, Serie A is on an upward trajectory, the Bundesliga’s two Champions League finalists have proved that Germany is as exciting as anything, while even La Liga has its benefits away from the top two.
In England, we’re often led and encouraged to believe that only our league matters, as if it’s an unbelievable backhand that a player opts for somewhere else. Something about “why would he want to go there?” is one of the most likely exclamations, only to be better by, “we never really wanted him in the first place,” all the while completely inconsolable that one of the top names has chosen to go elsewhere.
It’s also about familiarity and history for players. For example, if Higuain were to choose Napoli over Arsenal, it’s not really because the Premier League club couldn’t offer him a lot (and probably everything), but that the tradition of the Naples club has been taken into account. Its history with Argentinians in the past; the fact that Edinson Cavani went close to equalling Diego Maradona, both in scoring and in landing the club a league title, as well as the unconditional love he was offered by supporters. Higuain was never really loved at Real Madrid; he was never made to feel like he was their star striker. At Napoli, he would get all of that and more.
Mario Gomez too, a touted option for Chelsea in the past. He has it all now: Bundesliga titles with two different clubs, domestic cups, the Champions League. He has a reputation as one of the best forwards in Europe. Why Fiorentina then? Why not Chelsea and the Premier League, where he will undoubtedly have the opportunity to enhance his trophy cabinet, possibly with another European Cup?
Well Fiorentina are a different prospect altogether. No one in Serie A played better football than them last season. The turnaround from relegation candidates to the top four in Italy within a year was astounding. The owner has cash to burn, too. It’s not as if to say Gomez has signed for a club with little hope for the future.
For those who took a quick glance at Florence and the rest of the Italian league, there is every chance Fiorentina could win the Serie A title within a few short years, even without Stevan Jovetic. Gomez would be the star propelling them to such heights. He’s won the lot so he can afford to have a year out of the Champions League. It’s a new project but one with a little more respect and dignity attached to it over the relentless spenders elsewhere in Europe.
If Arsenal and Chelsea, and the rest of the Premier League, continue to miss out on targets it’s because everywhere else has something to offer just as much as English football. The Premier League isn’t the be all and end all, as much as we’d like to think.
Is the Premier League losing its appeal?
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