Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 23 May 2015

DebateNI home of Northern Ireland politics

It's clear that the English Premier League will not be the destination for the top stars of the World Cup

Lionel Messi of Argentina
Lionel Messi of Argentina

Whether it is the most exciting league in the world is up for debate, but it is clear that the English Premier League will not be the destination for the top stars of the World Cup.

I was struck by a blog I read online of how there were so few Premier League players making a big impact on the World Cup. Top stars such as Messi, Robben, Rodriguez, Muller and Neymar all apply their trade in Europe, but none of them in England.

There are of course counters to this such as Van Persie for Holland and dare I say it, Suarez for Uruguay – both players made a big impact on the World Cup albeit in different ways. 

However it is when you look at the summer transfers that the true status of the Premier league becomes clear.

James Rodriguez, arguably the tournament’s top player, seems destined for Real Madrid with German star Toni Kroos also being linked with a move to the Bernabeu. Messi and Neymar are already with Barcelona who have just signed Suarez from Liverpool.  Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich have a host of World Cup stars in their squad including Robben and Muller and a total of seven from the squad of the now world champions.

So which World Cup stars will be featuring in the EPL next season?

Diego Costa has signed for Chelsea from Atletico Madrid for £32m. A brief internet search of ‘most disappointing players of the world cup’ will see his name feature heavily.

Premier League Champions Man City’s first big summer signing is likely to be defender Mangala, who warmed the substitute benches for France.

Man United have signed Herrera, a creative Spanish midfielder who was not deemed good enough to make the Spanish squad.

Arsenal have signed Chile striker Alexis Sanchez for £30m who did star for his team at the World Cup but could be characterised as a Barcelona cast off.

Liverpool have of course sold Luis Suarez and signed Rickie Lambert.

However it is two other Liverpool signings that give us a clue as to the place of the Premier League in European club football.  Emre Can and Lazar Markovic are young players with considerable potential.  Whereas in the past it the Premier League used to be the place great players went to retire; Klinsmann, Zola, Vialli, Ravanelli and now it appears to be the place for young players to make a name for themselves.

Ronaldo, Henry, Robben and Suarez, all made their name in England before moves to the continent.  You can also add Gareth Bale to that list.  As soon as each was established as a Premier League star they were targeted by bigger clubs in Spain. 

The Premier League is a bit like a selling club, the Southampton of the European leagues.  It is the shop front for young players looking to catch the eye of the continental giants. 

So we say goodbye to Luis Suarez and possibly Yaya Toure.  We remember fondly Bale, Ronaldo and Robben.  We look forward to what’s to come from Herrera, Markovic and Can.

Welcome to the Premier League; just think, you too could someday play for a big team like Real Madrid.

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