Whilst the troublesome two-some of Wayne Rooney and Luis Suarez occupy the back pages of the press in the UK, Manchester City have been quietly (for a change) going about their business, bringing in no less than four signings, that could potentially be any other clubs “star signing” – yet there has been little attention for this in the press, as they see the actions and quotes (or non-actions and a lack of quotes from Rooney) of the troubled two, as the topic that will sell the papers.
City have brought in Negredo, Jesus Navas, Stefan Jovetic and Fernandinho for a total of around £95m and seem to be the ones in the league spending the money. The likes of Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool have yet to get going – even Spurs have been more active, and perhaps most surprisingly, that hasn’t been due to Bale heading for the exit.
Manchester City have definitely stolen a march on the rest of the Premier League when it comes to star/big signings, but the more interesting question is: have the rest of Europe stolen a march on the English clubs?
From the look of things, the answer has to be yes. PSG have swept Edinson Cavani from under the noses of United, City and Chelsea; Neymar has snubbed Chelsea for Barcelona; the Germans seem to prefer Munich to Manchester; and other players such as Higuain and Villa can’t commit to joining the English clubs.
Looking back 5-10 years ago, England where the big spenders in the transfer market, splashing the cash to bring the likes of Robinho, Crespo, Drogba, Tevez, Aguero, Jo (remember him!), Torres et al – now only City look content to splash the cash away from the mainland. Back on the continent, Europe has caught up. English clubs are no longer given the luxury of paying the top dollar and being guaranteed to get their man. Now people are challenging them, and it is making the Champions League look a whole lot more exciting – and the Premier League potentially less explosive.
The forward lines across Europe could look something like: Messi/Neymar at Barcelona, Ronaldo/Benzema at Real Madrid, Ibrahimovic/Cavani at PSG, Mandzukic/Muller at Bayern, and Balotelli/El Sharaawy. Whereas here in England the following front lines don’t look as terrifying as they once did: Van Persie/Hernandez, Torres/Ba, Giroud/Podolski, Suarez/Sturridge (come season opener, neither may be starting!), and Negredo/Jovetic. Out of the list, I’d say only United and City look comparable to some of those across Europe.
What does this mean for the Premier League? It has levelled the playing field. The days of seeing 3 of the 4 clubs in the Champions League heralding from England are long gone, and the teams across Europe have the potential and power to prevent it happening for some years. The money is more evenly distributed across Europe now – no longer is England the only place for a rich owner, each country now has their own, some even two, cash rich clubs – France has PSG, Germany has Bayern, Spain has Barcelona and Real Madrid – and with the money that has been spent, a lot of the clubs who arguably play second fiddle, now find themselves with money to play with. This combined with the fact that the top of the Premier League will be battled out by three managers new to their club (including Mourinho in his second stint), only adds to the potential European disappointment. The one club in England who should be seeing this season as an opportunity for success are Arsenal – same manager, money to spend, a decent mix of youth and experience, but yet again Mr Wenger seems unwilling to splash the cash and go for it. It says a lot that the likes of Higuain have been linked with them, yet there has still to be any movement.
It could also be a good thing though. If players aren’t jumping at the chance to swim the channel to Britain, teams will be, to an extent, forced to look at their youngsters and then players further down the leagues. It may mean some time away from the big domestic European cup competitions, but it could also herald a bright era for the national team – a national team who has had a dismal summer on every front. Look at the players who are being sold for the big money this summer, for a lot of them, this is their first big money move. They must have developed somewhere to legitimise that price tag. Maybe now England can follow in the footsteps and put the emphasis back on development instead of on buying talent from somewhere else. After all, that is where the Giggs’, Rooney’s, Gerrard’s, Terry’s and the Lampard’s developed, on the British Isles.