Ever since the infamous Calciopoli (fixing scandal) in 2006, Serie-A has been dying a slow, painful death. The years succeeding the scandal have led to a mass exodus of talent from the league, which has impacted Italian Football massively. The fallen giants are finding it hard to get back to their feet, yet they are not alone in their misery.
English football appears to be heading down the same downward spiral despite the absence of the problems like financial trepidations, truncated attendances and low viewership that had crippled the Serie-A. Slipping down to second in the UEFA rankings behind the LIGA-BBVA in 2012-13 might have seemed like a minor aberration then, but some of the results in this year’s Champions’s League have rubber-stamped the dwindling might of the English game.
Arsenal throwing away a 3-0 lead to a humble Anderlecht; Chelsea huffing and puffing its way to the finish line with only a tame draw; and the English champions losing their head in the most crucial of junctures before the brilliance of Sergio Aguero rescued them.
These are all an indictment to the falling standards of the league.
The worst defacement of the English pride was to be witnessed at the Santiago Bernabeu. Brendan Rodger’s Liverpool fielded a second-string side against quite possibly the best team in the world, only to focus more on the weekend Premier League tie against Chelsea. This acted as an insult not only to the English game but the Champions League in general. What followed was Real Madrid mounting attack-after-attack against a Reds team bereft of flair, only to be resisted by a spirited defence. The disparity in the quality between the sides was there for all to see.
The reasons for the downfall of the EPL are many. Yet, the most ridiculous one that gets thrown around in the media is that the “competitive” nature of the domestic league adversely affects the European performances. This logic, however, fails to answer why the English teams often get troubled by the same mediocre sides who get thrashed by the likes of Real, Bayern and Barca in the wee periods of the season. The real reason for the abysmal European performances by the EPL teams are-
- Dearth of world-class home-grown talent. The fact that Liverpool look towards Henderson to succeed Steven Gerrard is evidence enough to support this view. The traditionally successful youth set-ups at Everton, Arsenal and Manchester United have in the recent years produced little talent worth of note. Rooney remains perhaps the only world-class player in the country, and even he flatters to deceive at the biggest stages. The likes of Sterling and Barkley have miles to go before they could be clubbed under the umbrella of world-class talents.
- The teams looking at Moolah to be the perennial messiah to all ills. The league is the most watched in the world, as a result of which huge sponsorships and gargantuan foreign money has poured in. This has unnecessarily pushed up the value of even the most average of players. Manchester United, in their endeavour to replace Evra, ended up splashing out nearly 30 million pounds for a 19 year-old left-back. No amount of talent or potential warrants such a fees. The Red Devils, however, aren’t the only ones guilty. The imbalanced spending has inadvertently affected the league. Dortmund of a couple of seasons ago should prove to be the perfect example to follow. Their journey to the Champions League final was built upon a wage-budget equivalent to that of Stoke. The fans wait with baited breath on the fate of Southampton and West Ham. Their fairy-tale runs have been a delightful change in a place obsessed with riches.
- Prioritizing the domestic competitions more than the European ones. This boils down to the fact that vast expanse of riches are at stake within the league, and bad performances here seem to be of greater concern and maybe the teams have the UCL only as their secondary focus.
These are but a few of the reasons why the Premier League might be taking the Serie-A route. One may never foresee the feature, but if a betting-man were told to spend his dollar on an English team winning the Champions League, then the man would rather spend his dollar on an ice-cream.
Yet, hope remains in the hearts of the numerous fans who have been brought-up on a staple diet of English football.
If the trend which has been set remains, the English Premier League would have to cast nervous glances towards the ever-rampaging Bundesliga, rather than looking ahead to taking their place back on the pedestal as the best league in the world. The English game needs a shot in the arm, and it better be quick, or else the league faces the peril of getting lost in the abyss of failure and nothingness.
God Save the Queen, God save the league.