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posted 25 Sept 2011, 17:20 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 27 Sept 2011, 15:44 by Dave Smith ]

Is the English Premier League the best in Europe?

How many of us believe this is true? Most of us who are football fanatics may believe this, but let’s test this hypothesis by comparing it to the Spanish league.

It’s true the English league is the most watched league in the world. Clubs such as Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool are household names the world over. Their players are also hugely popular players such as Rooney, Van Persie, Torres, Gerrard command a huge fan base all over the world. Manchester United in particular is hugely popular in the Asian countries where almost every boy dreams of growing up and playing for the “red devils”.

We have established the popularity of the league now let’s look at the league itself. The four clubs I mentioned earlier have traditionally been “the big four”. They were expected to compete for the title and qualify for the money spinning U.E.F.A. Champions League with the other clubs supposedly just making up numbers, but in recent years this trend has been stopped dead in its tracks. Manchester City, the other half of Manchester has long lived in the shadow of its more illustrious neighbour watching year after year as Man U. kept winning title after title and growing ever more jealous of them.

This all changed when in September 2008 a takeover by the Abu Dhabi United group suddenly made City one of the richest clubs in the world, if not the richest. They demonstrated their financial clout by buying Real Madrid’s Brazilian striker Robinho for a then British transfer record of £32.5m but subsequently failed to bring another Brazilian Kaka for what would have been a world record £100m.

Three years later and with over $1 billion invested in players and a manager who is regarded as one of the finest in Europe, City have transformed themselves into genuine title challengers. They ended their 35 year long wait for a title by winning last season’s FA Cup [their last title was the League Cup in 1976]. Though they were beaten by Manchester United in this year’s season opener 3-2 and dismissed by Man. U’s long serving manager Alex Ferguson as noisy neighbours, he would surely have taken note of their improvement.

Tottenham Hotspurs is another club I would like to mention. Bitter rivals to Arsenal, they have been steadily building a side who can challenge for the trophy and with a manager who many consider as one of the best in Britain they are seen as the dark horse in the race for the trophy. Winning over neutrals with their attractive, flowing football they placed fourth in the premier league in the 2009/10 season narrowly edging out Manchester City to qualify for Champions League football for the first time in the club’s history. Although they placed fifth in the league the following year Tottenham’s brand of football makes them a difficult opponent.

Coupled with these two clubs’ breaking of the stranglehold long held by the big four, revenue from television rights are almost evenly distributed amongst the premier league clubs compared to the Spanish league where the lion’s share belongs to the “big two” Real Madrid and Barcelona. These factors lead to a more competitive league, which obviously the fans prefer. So we have six teams competing for the title in England.

La Liga the league of the “stars”. In this league we have arguably the three best and most expensive players in the world, not to mention two of the most storied and popular teams in the world - Real Madrid and Barcelona, the “eternal rivals”.

Whenever these two teams meet be sure to expect some of the most mouth-watering football on offer, mixed in with some bad blood and flying tackles. This derby is sure to keep fans on the edge of their seats. Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaka, Lionel Messi are just three of the players on show here. There are others such as Xavi, Andres Iniesta (who Wayne Rooney once described as the best player on the planet after their champion’s league loss to Barcelona in the 2009 final), Cesc Fabregas, Sergio Ramos and the list goes on and on. It’s no wonder where the league gets its moniker from, but despite this array of stars the league itself is not so competitive.

After Real Madrid and Barcelona both opened their campaign with resounding victories over their opponents 6-0 and 5-0 respectively, this prompted other managers to say the league was a waste of time. The truth is with the lion’s share of revenue from television rights, these two clubs are able to spend money on new players that other clubs only dream of.

Although Barcelona’s youth academy is rated as the best in Europe they still buy players, for example Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Alexis Sanchez and their drawn out pursuit of returning Fabregas to his boyhood club.

Real Madrid’s acquisition of Ronaldo and Kaka for transfer records of £80 million and £56 million respectively, no wonder other clubs are complaining. Although recent results seem to disprove how dominant these two sides are, how long before it reverts to the status quo is the question. With Barcelona being the dominant side in Europe these days, having won the European cup three times in the last five years beating English opponents each time in the final[Manchester United twice and Arsenal once] and Real Madrid being the record holders with 9 titles it seems as though the English are lagging behind.

The European Cup as it used to be known before it became the Champion’s League has long been used to measure a club and by extension a country’s success in Europe. Spanish clubs have won the title 13 times compared to 11 for the English, with the English having the largest number of different winning teams, with a total of four clubs having won the title reinforcing the point that it is a very competitive league. In its present reincarnation Spanish clubs have won it 6 times compared to 3 for the English.

So let’s look at the facts, on one hand we have an ultra competitive league with six teams competing for the title, whilst on the other hand we have a very skilful league dominated by two teams. If statistics are anything to go by using European Cups as our barometer for success English clubs are certainly behind Spanish clubs. It all boils down to quality versus quantity, in my humble opinion it is quality that matters. 

 September, 2011
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