The theory that the Premier League has lost its pulling power has been gaining momentum in recent weeks.
Impatient fans (and pundits), expecting immediate transfer window fireworks, have been tearing their hair out at the perceived failure of England’s biggest clubs to make big-name signings early in the summer break.
Mario Goetze has gone to Bayern Munich, with Robert Lewandowski reportedly standing firm in the face of English interest so he can join his former Borussia Dortmund team-mate. Liverpool target Henrikh Mkhitaryan plumped to be Goetze’s replacement at Dortmund, while Mario Gomez – also reportedly on Liverpool’s radar – has joined Fiorentina.
Radamel Falcao was on everyone’s wishlist, but he opted for the petro-euros of Monaco, and Edinson Cavani is set to follow suit in rejecting England for France, with Paris Saint-Germain in pole position for the Uruguayan. Falcao, meanwhile, has been replaced at Atletico Madrid by David Villa, who turned down a bigger financial offer from Tottenham.
Meanwhile Thiago Alcantra has reportedly dragged his feet over a move to Manchester United, allowing European Champions Bayern Munich to prepare a bid for the Barcelona and Spain midfielder, as Cesc Fabregas insists he will not return to the Premier League just yet.
All this has led to panic from fans, and hand-wringing from journalists.
Never mind that, with the exception of Spurs and David Villa, no English club actually made a formal offer for these players; any interest was purported and, while guilty as any media outlet of peddling transfer gossip, at least this site has the decency to market it as tittle-tattle spawned by the motherboard of a deeply misanthropic cyborg.
Reports of the Premier League’s death are greatly exaggerated.
Granted, the pan-European market has become strangely competitive once more, despite the wider economic woes facing the region.
Germany has always been a model of sustainability, and its top clubs are reaping the rewards of that sensible national culture as Bayern cherry-pick the stars and Dortmund sweep up the young prospects; the return to greatness of Juventus after years in the Calciopoli wilderness makes them a draw once more, while Napoli will have the Cavani cash to spend; someone else’s money means that France’s problems have no impact on PSG and Monaco, whose Qatari and Russian owners realised that it is impossible to draw peak players to those nations until their society and football catch up.
In a way, the Premier League has actually gained in competitiveness – the doubling of TV rights money means, collectively, English football easily holds the power in the global market. Promoted Crystal Palace have spent around £8m on Dwight Gale, Cardiff have a similar bid sitting in Blackpool’s office, and the third new club Hull have secured two of last season’s loanees and will spend significantly in the coming weeks.
Southampton have snapped up arguably one of the brightest midfield prospects in European football, with Victor Wanyama previously linked with Arsenal and Manchester United. Given how the Kenyan bullied Barcelona over two legs in the Champions League, you could hardly say he is a second-tier signing. Sunderland, who are not very good and have an 'eccentric' manager, look set to bring Italy midfielder Emanuele Giaccherini to Wearside. And Norwich managed to sign Ricky van Wolfswinkel for Holt’s sake.
Moving up the predicted league table and Everton have been rather busy, with Roberto Martinez predictably raiding his former club for several players, not to mention taking one of Spain’s highly-rated youngsters on loan.
And Manchester City have been typically forthright in their dealings, splashing a total of £45m on Jesus Navas and Fernandinho, two excellent midfielders who could have chosen any number of top European clubs.
What fans of English clubs will have to accept is that players seeking a big-money move are no longer just limited to the Premier League plus El Clasico. Indeed, Spain as a whole is continuing to struggle (Malaga have been joined by Rayo Vallecano in being banned from European competition for financial troubles), with most of its professional sides in administration and only Barca, Real and Atletico realistically able to compete in the transfer market.
Suddenly, a highly-rated player at a secondary league or club now has more than just the Prem-plus-Clasico option, allowing a choice of destinations to suit their personal and professional needs.
Greater separation between individuals is no bad thing.
So you’re a money-grabbing mercenary? Fine, no need to irritate Manchester City fans then – Monaco will keep you in speedboats and helicopters, and you won’t even have to pay any tax on that (TBC).
So you’re a flash-dressing playboy with a love of the high life? Great, you don’t have to join (insert name of London club here) – PSG will keep you in designer man-bags and tacky tarts, and you won’t even have to dodge the paparazzi, as your private life is off-limits by French law (unless she’s underage). Ooh la la!
So you dig history, passionate support, a high-octane league and a realistic chance of silverware? Germany is no longer about Bayern, as Dortmund have money to spend and a project to believe in. Your manager will hug you and take you camping too. Einfach klasse!
So you enjoy silky passing football, over-enthusiastic referees and the chance to party on a beach that isn’t threatened by heavy showers for nine months of the year? Perfecto, bienvenido a Espana!
ED could go on. Mercifully, it won’t. Players will still come to the Premier League – big, famous ones, who you can emblazon on your replica shirt without feelings of post-coital guilt. Given the pattern of spending thus far, it seems many clubs will plump for those with existing experience of British football, or relatively decent value for their reputations. Which is sensible enough, and rather German in its outlook.
Certainly there is no need to be held to ransom, or taken to town on what were previously known as ‘Chelsea prices’ (subsequently City) – PSG and Monaco can enjoy being taken to the cleaners by unscrupulous chairmen and agents, that time has passed.
Manchester United and Arsenal fans concerned at ‘missing out’ on supposed big-name signings should beware that none of the pundits circulating rumours have all that much more of an idea than you do – those ‘Sky Sources’ their news presenters harp on about are often a rumour lifted off a website such as this or, even worse, a user-curated blog-site with as much credibility as an ousted Middle Eastern theocrat.
Long-term transfer targets can take weeks or months to secure, for a variety of reasons – contractual wrangles, ownership disputes, payment structures, tax affairs or even a simple summer holiday.
Players and families need convincing – Thiago, for example, just may not fancy the northern English climate and more physical style of football, and could well sit tight until it becomes apparent that he has no future at Barca, or prospect of linking up with Pep Guardiola again. United may not actually have him atop their priority list – if rumours are to believed, then why not believe that Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Cesc Fabregas won’t rock up at Old Trafford this summer?
Just as some players would come to or stay in England rather than chance their arm in Germany, Spain, Italy or France – Navas, Fernandinho and Chelsea’s £18m German Andre Schurrle had their choice of clubs, while going down the reputation ladder Fulham’s Holland keeper Maarten Stekelenburg was dead set on the Premier League, as was new Swansea striker Wilfried Bony.
United and Arsenal will spend big; Chelsea and City already have; Spurs and Liverpool will have to be creative due to a lack of Champions League football. There have not yet been moves for Gonzalo Higuain, Alvaro Negredo or Stevan Jovetic, all of whom favour England; both Edinson Cavani and (whisper it) Ronaldo could yet come to the Premier League, which realistically would be the biggest deals this summer. And all that without mentioning the likes of Bale or Marouane Fellaini, who would likely stay in England if they did move.
Whatever way you look at it though, big names will continue to arrive (or stay) on these shores. The only difference is they have greater options to suit their personal circumstances, which is no bad thing. It’s far too early to panic.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
"I asked only one thing of the Barca president (Sandro Rosell). I was 6,000km away and wanted to be left in peace. They didn't keep their word. Using the Tito's (Vilanova) disease to damage me is something I will never forget It was in very bad taste. I didn't expect it" - Bayern Munich boss Pep Guardiola insists that, contrary to claims otherwise, he did meet up with Vilanova as his successor at Barcelona underwent cancer treatment in New York.
Rayo Vallecano have reportedly had their latest attempt to be granted a UEFA licence rejected by the courts in Madrid. The Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) refused to grant the capital club a licence for UEFA competition for 2013-14 on the grounds of their current financial situation, seeing them with debt and in administration. Having finished the Liga season in eighth place, a position otherwise able to qualify the club for the Europa League, they took their case against the RFEF to the courts in Madrid.
The Eurobot continues to discuss the latest transfer gossip, while England's women try to usurp their male counterparts in a European Championship clash with Spain at 7:30pm - a parallel universe in which the English are favourites to win. Jim White will also give his view on the topic of the day, while the latest instalment of Ballon d'Eurosport takes us into the top six. Who will win it we wonder?
- Sports & Recreation
- Premier League
- Bayern Munich
- Manchester United
- Borussia Dortmund
- Edinson Cavani