The Premier League has never been an entity that’s tended to fail to believe within its own hype.
From referring to itself as a ‘product,’ to drilling its broadcasting partners to incessantly remind its audiences of the quality of that ‘product’ if nothing else, English football’s top-tier certainly believes in the worth of its own entertainment.
Quite how you rank the Premier League in terms of technical quality and upon a purely sporting basis, however, remains something that the wider footballing public take with a pinch of salt upon hearing the league’s own rattling cries of greatness.
Today, the punch line tends to be that the Premier League is peerless in its ‘entertainment’ as opposed to the pure quality of the football on show; the latter is something more commonly acknowledged to find its zenith in La Liga and perhaps even the Bundesliga, in today’s footballing world.
But for a league that prides itself on box-office entertainment and footballing narratives you could find anywhere else on the continent, why does it feel like the Premier League has lost its stardust this season?
Because regardless of the sincerity of the column inches that the touted returns of both Jose Mourinho and Cristiano Ronaldo to these shores have attained, does our world-famous ‘product’ need something along the lines of the Portuguese duo to regain its gleam alongside the brighter-burning stars of the Spanish and German top-tiers?
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There is a danger of course of drastically misprioritising our attentions when we talk of improving the English top-flight. The clue within much of the regression of our national team has tended to lie in that focus upon entertainment, as opposed to quality. Certainly, the fate of the Three Lions is enough living evidence in itself to suggest that the heart of our top-tier perhaps hasn’t been in the right place for some time now.
Although regardless of whether such an approach is the correct one, the general trade-off for having a chronically underperforming national team is that English football has been lucky enough to lay claim to the most exciting domestic football competition in the world.
Rightly or wrongly, for as much as England have tended to struggle at major tournaments, the inevitable hangover is usually short lived as the Premier League hype machine awakes us from our lulls at the beginning of August. We’ve never had it so good in recent times – or so we’re told anyway.
Because as we head into the final straight of the Premier League season, if the feather in the cap of the division is the enthralling excitement and unrelenting quality that they like to preach so much about to us, then that feather is beginning to look incredibly bare indeed.
Let’s not starting getting too disillusioned here – this season we have been treated to some brilliant games of football and witnessed some of the best players in the world ply their trade. If you’re looking for footballing stimulation, then there aren’t many players on the continent who can offer the unprecedented box-office the likes of Robin van Persie, Luis Suarez and Gareth Bale can.
Yet does the Premier League really have enough to back up the unrelenting levels of hype and self-promotion that it likes to heap upon supporters?
We’re frequently reminded that the best players in the world ply their trade on these shores, which is true, but only half-correct. Because regardless of where you stand on Fifa’s controversial world XI, if you wish to see three of the best players in the world, you certainly wouldn’t find them plying their trade in this country.
Likewise, we’re continuously told about the unpredictability of this division – one of the founding principles of the league’s unnerving levels of predictability. But was last season’s breathtaking finale more of an exception to the rule, rather than the level of excitement of which we should measure it by?
Because as it stands Manchester United are currently 12 points clear at the top of the table and set to lift their fifth title in seven seasons. Hardly quite the benchmark of unpredictability, is it?
Observers will point to the 20-point gap that Bayern Munich possesses over Borussia Dortmund in the league or the recent dominance of Barcelona within Spanish football. Unpredictability isn’t a staple requirement for an entertaining league, but if you subtract that from the Premier League, is the English top-flight lacking a lot more than just perceived technical quality in comparison to La Liga and the Bundesliga?
Within the two aforementioned leagues, you find not only the four outstanding teams in European football today in the Champions League semi-finalists of Barcelona, Madrid, Dortmund and Munich, but also a dashing of the elite stardust that has perhaps been absent from the Premier League in recent years.
From the Cristiano Ronaldos to the Lionel Messis of this world to the Jurgen Kloops and Jose Mourinhos of the managerial domain, if the Premier League is the most entertaining league in the world, then why are the most entertaining components of European football not prevalent within it?
How you define the quality of a football league is a matter of subjectivity. But perhaps in its relentless self-promotion, the Premier League is only serving to expose the dearth of magic that it’s currently experiencing.
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