EPL: No match for staying power

EPL: No match for staying power

Spain 2 England 0. Both raids were the same, unsurprising but still unstoppable. First, Gareth Bale and then Luis Suarez.

Twice, the Premier League was subject to lucrative raids from La Liga for the reigning Footballer of the Year. Both left.

It amounts to an embarrassment for the self-styled best league in the world. England cannot keep its prized assets. It highlights the Premier League's strange status.

It is the most-watched and richest division on the planet. Some would say, given the fanfare that accompanies it, that it remains the most glamorous.

Yet, the superstars have converged in Spain. Suarez has joined Lionel Messi and Neymar at Barcelona. Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo will now link up with James Rodriguez for Real.

With the exception of Messi, each cost at least £63 million (S$132 million). Manchester United have the resources to break the world transfer record but have not found one superstar- such players prefer to play in higher-calibre teams.

Fernando Torres, Chelsea's overpriced, underachieving £50 million man, remains the most expensive addition ever in England.

But the Premier League has strength in depth: more of the top 20 clubs on the planet, more of its 200 finest footballers.

It can sweep up the players who will not get into the Real and Barca teams and whom the other Spanish clubs cannot afford.

Some, such as Arsenal's £35 million man Alexis Sanchez and midfielder Cesc Fabregas, are world-class.

Even Atletico Madrid, winners of the Spanish title, cannot compete with the English clubs financially. Diego Costa and Filipe Luis are now Fabregas' Chelsea team-mates.

The cut-price challengers who won La Liga, Atletico changed the dynamic in Spain and helped restore their country to pre-eminence on the continent.

After an all-German Champions League final in 2013, it was a Spanish affair in May. It leaves England third when the very best are assessed: Bayern Munich, without spending in the style of Spain's superpowers, rank some way above Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool and United. The Premier League has only one, utterly illogical triumph - Chelsea's in 2012 - in the last six years of the Champions League.

And it certainly was not a vintage World Cup for its most celebrated performers, and not just because England departed swiftly. Few of its flair players flourished in Brazil.

Robin van Persie captained Holland to third place but Sanchez, then still on Barcelona's books, provided more excitement than any of the other members of the English-based contingent.

It ought to represent another blow to the Premier League.

The reality is that Suarez's departure is more of a setback.

The chances are that England's top flight will power on regardless, impervious to the failings of its clubs or players elsewhere.

It is not the best league as much as the best marketed, the most competitive and the most compelling.

stsports@sph.com.sg

This article was published on Aug 12 in The Straits Times.


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