Paul Scholes’ recent comments regarding the elite competition in England – that being the Premier League – and his suggestion that not only would he rather watch Salford City than say the Manchester derby, but furthermore that contrary to popular sporting opinion the Premier League in quality is below both the Spanish and German top divisions and also that in Italy, has become a major talking point.
For a man who did his talking on the pitch – rarely even offering a knowing glance to baying reporters – he’s certainly made up for it in his retirement. Paul Scholes was an elite performer and one who many pundits felt during his peak years that he was the one player in this country with the technical and tactical acumen to make him comparable with the greats across Europe. For that reason alone his opinion carries weight and deserves consideration. It got The MALESTROM thinking – how would the top teams in Europe fair if they were engaged in a weekly season long battle for the Premier League title?
If you watch an advert on Sky Sports or indeed BT promoting the latest Super Sunday offering, or further Special Saturday Lunch, Seismic Saturday Night and now even the Fantastic Friday Evenings, you’d be forgiven for thinking you were about to witness the moon landing or the resurrection of Jesus Christ, possibly taking place at The Emirates!
The hype, embellishment and magnification surrounding some of these match ups is disproportionate to the standard and quality of the competition on offer. That’s not for one second to say that the product these televisual giants offer is not what it is – the best sports broadcasting on the planet, the quality of the coverage, analysis and attention to detail is second to absolutely none – but it’s impossible at times to not feel like they’re flogging a dead horse.
In Germany much criticism from these shores is often thrown at the fact that there are only two teams that can realistically compete – Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund. Fine, but what a pair of teams they are! Borussia consistently relieved of their best players on a yearly basis, notably to their great rivals, but also the Bundesliga’s top performer in 2015-16 Henrikh Mkhitaryan to Man Utd this summer – it hasn’t affected their performances.
Bayern Munich are truly one of Europe’s elite clubs, semi-finalists in the last three Champions League campaigns, they’ve been finalists three times since 2010 winning in 2013 against? Who else but Borussia Dortmund. A team featuring Neuer, Hummels, Boateng, Muller, Sanches, Robben, Lewandowski to name but a few, would challenge for any title.
Over to Spain – where also it is so often about two teams. In Barcelona and Real Madrid there lies two clubs not only head and shoulders above their Spanish rivals but also the rest of world club football. They would surely be the top teams in England at the end of a Premier League campaign and by quite some margin. How would they cope with a wet and windy wednesday night in Stoke? Quite comfortably – probably making sure the three points were all wrapped up by half-time. And given that Stoke have become a holiday home for Barcelona rejects, that famous analogy probably no longer holds the credence it once did in the Pulis/Delap days.
Athletico Madrid would fair well in Premier League competition also, with a shrewd manager – who thus far has managed to resist the riches on offer here – building a counter attacking team with an uncompromising defensive unit, tactically adept, Simeone and his troops would prosper in the hustle and bustle of England’s top division. Sevilla are another side of note, winning the Europa League three years on the trot is no mean feat, in fact they’ve won it five times in the last ten!
Further inspection shows a Spanish team has held that trophy aloft eight times in the last thirteen years, during which time only Chelsea have been successful, with regards to English clubs. In the Champions league a Spanish team has triumphed six times out of the last ten. Of course in Spain the distribution of TV money is highly unfavourable if you’re not an elite club – but that does not takeaway from the tactical and technical proficiency of the majority of teams in the Primera Division.
In Italy the big four has become the big one, Juventus now stand alone in a league that has suffered immeasurably over the last decade and a half – corruption and scandal coupled with depleting crowds bely a league that was once the envy of Europe and the go to destination for the world’s top players. Paul Scholes’ assertion that Juventus would beat any team in the Premier league holds up however. A rock solid defence that conceded a mere twenty goals in last season’s victorious campaign – would be too streetwise and savvy for even the sharpest Premier League shooters.
Indeed if you added the top two teams from each of those three leagues in Barcelona, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, Juventus and Napoli as it stands, it’s hard to see an English team making the top four and that’s without throwing an Athletico Madrid, Roma or even Sevilla into the mix. We may build the best new stadiums, have the best managers, fans and TV coverage – but sadly we no longer build the best teams.