Bloggers and tabloid journalists are enjoying the seeming fall of Manchester United this summer. A number of international stars have appeared to turned their nose up on a move to the Premier League and the jewel in the crown, Cristiano “Tango” Ronaldo, has finally got the move to La Liga that he spent the last few years angling for.
Subjective opinion as it is, the Premier League has long been proclaimed the best league in the world – usually by jingoistic old men like Andy Gray and Ray Wilkins (who, incidentally, don’t have to pay the outrageous ticket prices). Et sequitur, usually the best league in the world has the best players.
But a cursory glance at the FIFA World Player of the Year awards since 1991 reveal just two players whom have played in the Premier League: George Weah (four years later when he was 33) and Cristiano Ronaldo. Apart from them only David Beckham and Thierry Henry (two second place finishes each) are placed in the top ten of all time.
While the award is not scientific, it is voted for by international managers and captains so it carries a certain credibility. But yet Ronaldo (the fat one), Zidane, Figo, Ronaldino, Cannavaro – arguably five of the best players of this generation – have not been lured to a league who have just come off five five years of European Cup domination – two wins and four beaten finalists.
Goofy as it might seem to suggest it but part of the reason must be attributed to the lifestyle and culture in Britain. How many footballers can you recall raising objections to the boozy culture, the awful weather, ugly women and, recently, high taxation?
Reportedly Kaka, Karim Benzema and Franck Ribery have turned down the chance to come to the Premier League and Liverpool are struggling to keep midfielders Xabi Alonso and Javier Mascherano out of the clutches of Real Madrid and Barcelona.
Compare what’s happening in Spain to the top of the Premier League. Chelsea’s signing of decent but untested youngster Daniel Sturridge and Manchester United’s gamble on Michael Owen are significantly underwhelming by comparison. There’s a long way to go but with Barcelona not looking any weaker for next season and Madrid assembling an incredible array of striking talent, it seems that the balance of power might temporarily be making it’s way back to Spain.
On the subject of Manchester United, I have read a number of United fans temper the disappointment in losing Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez with the knowledge that they have two up and coming young strikers in reserve who can do a job for them. Frazier Campbell (who looked out of his depth in his irregular outings for Tottenham last season) is on his way to Hull for a ludicrous £6m. So, in the event United don’t make another big signing up front, it’ll be Danny Welbeck and Federico Macheda hoping to make an impact from the bench.
Macheda showed glimpses in his cameo appearances last season that he has an eye for goal but Welbeck doesn’t look up to it. He might have a good scoring record for the youths and reserves but he doesn’t look to have Premier League presence. I expect him to make a meaningful contribution to a Championship side in the second half of the season.
Can United challenge in Europe with Rooney, Sideshow Berbatov and the flaky Owen?