Football is a game of movement. When the move is negative – a sale – especially of a mercurial talent, it leaves a sour taste. Even though humanity makes a for acceptance, these moments leave us wanting more.
On a cold evening, Merseyside, England stood still. Even if you’re a neutral or a rival, you understood quality when you see one and you felt this loss, either in celebration or pain, as both are endorsements of ability, Phil Coutinho had his dream move to Barcelona. For many, it wasn’t a surprise because his desire for Barcelona dates back to signing for Liverpool 5 years ago and his explicit declarations last summer, even though Liverpool fought through gritted teeth to keep him and reportedly tried “every possible thing” to keep him.
Sadly, it continued a seriously-worrying trend of the English Premier League been a nurturing ground for – Latino especially – talents who then jump ship at first opportunity to Barcelona and Madrid. It has lost Ronaldo, Modric, Bale, Fabregas and Suarez to Barcelona and Real Madrid respectively. It’s created a subtle, but fast blossoming rivalry between both leagues which will inevitably lead to friction. This deal represents a pivotal loss to a league that prides itself on TV deals and being the best in the world.
Subtly, the premier league keeps playing catch up to La Liga for quality, even though it remains the viewership and revenue generation hub – mid-table clubs in England get far more revenue than Top teams in other teams even in Europe’s top 5 leagues. Asides the Premier league taking a backseat in quality, it arouses a fear of when the TV Companies will realize the English League isn’t home to quality footballers as Spain and pump as much revenue into them, probably slashing the money pumped into the Premier League. At one point, the Serie A enjoyed the status the Premier League currently enjoys. Look at them now. Quality is as much needs for a league as it is for clubs. They need those players kept in their league and a drastic measure might be needed to ensure England stays on top.
It’s time English Premier League clubs understand that one of the reasons why these players move to the two Spanish giants is they feel the biggest two Spanish Clubs match their ambitions of winning trophies. After all, before the two Spanish giants were appealing destinations for these players, the Italian Serie A was at its peak in the 1990s and early 2000 and they weren’t using the Premier League as hunting grounds like Spanish clubs are now. Even in 2004, Premier League Clubs, Liverpool and Newcastle snatched Barcelona’s stars Luis Garcia and Patrick Kluivert respectively. A lot has changed since then, and it seems La Liga knows this.
The Premier League needs to stop the run of losing its best players to these two Spanish monsters. Asides some drastic measures like probably including anti Madrid/Barcelona clauses into deals for Latino players, taking the rivalry to the next level, as the FA uses its clubs to play politics, they need to start achieving consistent success in European competitions, having the era of dominance they almost achieved in the late 2000s, of 3 English clubs regularly making Champion’s League semi-finals and Middlesbrough reaching the UEFA Cup finals. A period when they lost only one player, Cristiano Ronaldo to Madrid – a move which accidentally signalled a power shift, as Barcelona won the Champion’s League for the second time in 6 years.
Since then, they have lost Gareth Bale, Luka Modric and Luis Suarez to the two Spanish clubs and for the draw of trophies, asides any sentimental draw. Bale and Modric, for instance, have won three Champions League titles since they left Spurs, while Suarez won the Champions League in his first season with Barcelona.
It’s high time Premier League clubs evaluate why they lose players to the Spanish giants and Bayern don’t? This is because clubs like Bayern have possessed the capacity to offer success to players all the time so its players don’t perceive any motivation to take off. Asides that, after Bayern went through a patchy phase in the mid 2000s with attracting and retaining quality players, with top players like Santa Cruz, Ballack and Hargreaves moving to Blackburn, Chelsea and Manchester United respectively, they’ve not lost star players since, not even to Madrid, that serious advances for Ribery in 2009. Two things have changed at Bayern; they’ve started good runs in the Champions League finals, with one win since then, and they’ve been using their heavy stress of income to maintain a stranglehold on German football, while also growing sole grit in resisting any advances for their stars.
The Premier League can’t claim to be the best in the World when only two of its players were included in top 10 of last year Ballon d’Or rankings while Spanish La Liga had five representatives. The worst part, it might reduce this year while the French Ligue 1 had two players represented. This is on the grounds that these clubs have been able to match their player’s individual splendour with team accomplishment on a regular basis. The Premier League clubs should have a ‘Bayern moment’ and follow the plan that followed that realization and start matching their players’ individual splendour with team achievement. This will help reduce the rate of exits to the two Spanish giants. Asides that Premier League clubs learn the habit of tough negotiations, resisting any form of bullying through media onslaughts and charm offensive From La Liga players. They should also learn to blatantly refuse certain deals at certain times. I’d go on a limb and say La Liga clubs keep doing this to intentionally weaken the Premier League and try wrestle financial might off the Premier League clubs.
If those don’t work, Premier League clubs need design an anti-Madrid/Barcelona clauses into Latino Players’ contracts especially. After all, Liverpool included an anti-Arsenal clause into Firmino’s contract. It seems far-fetched and drastic, but it might be necessary. Every Latino player dreams of playing for one of these two clubs because their idols played for both or either of these clubs and probably how Spanish culture isn’t different from the one in their respective countries.
Cristiano Ronaldo’s case has shown that while consistent success may constrain the possibility, it doesn’t eradicate every of it. Ronaldo won everything at Manchester United including individual honours but still left for Madrid because it was his dream to play for the Spanish giants. Some will argue that the English sides also need to start matching the wages these clubs spend on the players but that’s not true because it has never been about money. The Premier League is the richest league in the World and Five of its club is in the top 10 of World’s richest club. Premier League clubs can definitely match or pay more than what the Spanish giants pay to these players. The English Premier League clubs just need to act now by making sure that in future deals, players – especially those from Latin backgrounds don’t use the Premier League as stepping stone to Spain, inflating the importance of. Spain further, and harming the English stock.
It’s time to act.