There’s a common misconception that the Premier League is the best domestic competition in the world simply because it’s by far the most watched. This isn’t the case in the eyes of many football supporters, regardless of the country or even continent in which they reside.
Whatever reason one attends or watches a match, every fan of the beautiful game appreciates it for a different reasons. One of the most appealing characteristics of football is the varying tempo at which the game is played around the world.
The Premier League is widely hailed as the fastest competition with the likes of Theo Walcott, Eden Hazard and Alexis Sanchez burning players at will and most clubs employing a counter-attacking style. At the opposite end of the spectrum, Spanish La Liga spectators are mesmerized by watching Andrés Iniesta, James Rodriguez and Arda Turan stroke the ball around and pick out passes no ordinary person can see.
Of course, fans and crowd atmosphere are also important characteristics of the essence of football. The electric aura of sitting inside Old Trafford, home to one of the most iconic and successful clubs of all-time, is an entirely different experience to watching the Boca Juniors ultras let off flares at La Bombonera.
However, regardless of what goes on in the terraces or the result of a single match, many supporters treasure the notion of competitiveness throughout the league table, from top to bottom. With no hardline salary caps imposed on the biggest competitions in Europe, financial muscle is often a significant determinant of the final standings come the end of the season.
The Premier League is widely considered the leading player for all of these factors, but here the top 10 reasons the English top-flight isn’t the best league in the world.
10 Gulf Between Lower Leagues
Even though competitiveness is widely regarded as one of the most attractive qualities of the Premier League, this doesn’t apply throughout the entire competition, namely around the foot of the table. Largely due to the gulf in wealth and player quality compared to the 17 other clubs, newly promoted teams often struggle to avoid relegation in their first season in the English top-fight. At least one promoted side has suffered the drop to the Championship since the Premier League’s inception in 1992. Although relegated clubs receive £60m over a four-year period, the FA must ensure Premier League minnows have a better chance of staying up to begin with.
9 English Player Price Inflation
Exorbitant transfer fees are part and parcel of the modern game, but the premium clubs pay for an Englishman is utterly staggering. The combined cost of bringing Raheem Sterling, Adam Lallana, Andy Carroll, Luke Shaw to their current teams amounts to more than £115m, and none of them have come close to justifying such enormous fees (except for Sterling, though it's likely he won't be able to match his enormous fee). Homegrown player requirements naturally increase the value of English players, but that’s no excuse for clubs to pay through the teeth in order to sign them. With this in mind, it’s no surprise so few Premier League clubs boast a core of local talent within their ranks.
8 Sub-par Crowd Atmospheres
The iconic Kop signing You’ll Never Walk Alone at Anfield is undeniably one of the most spine-tingling sights in world football, but what else does the Premier League offer in terms of crowd atmosphere? The homely soul Everton fans bring to Goodison Park is special in its own right, although it hardly compares to the Yellow Wall that engulfs the entire south stand of Borussia Dortmund’s Signal Iduna Park or the vibrant surroundings of Galatasaray and AS Roma’s arenas. Flairs and intricate choreography isn't for every football fan, but there’s no question nearly all Premier League grounds lack the fierce intensity of many European counterparts.
7 Foreign Player Overload
Another trend impacting the growth of English talent is the overwhelming presence of foreign players in the Premier League. Premier League squads were made up of just 35% Englishmen during the 2014-15 season, a modest figure in comparison to the 60% German cohort in the Bundesliga and 59% Spanish contingent in La Liga. As local talents compete for minutes with starlets hand-picked from abroad, it’s no wonder English youngsters struggle to cement a place in the first team. However, the FA has taken action by tightening work permit restrictions in a move to encourage clubs to blood homegrown players instead of fielding international recruits.
6 Ludicrous Transfer Decisions
How often does a big-money signing join a Premier League club and hit the ground running? Too many English sides splurge ridiculous amounts of money on players and get very little in return. The 2014-15 season has provided a handful of examples: Liverpool spent £36m all up on Mario Balotelli and Lazar Markovic, Manchester City parted with £28m for Wilfried Bony, while Chelsea forked out £23.3m to land Juan Cuadrado. It seems Premier League clubs are no longer interested in fighting to secure a bargain or simply content with paying above market value to get players they don’t necessarily need.
5 Poor Youth Player Development
The Premier League is rarely considered a hotbed for nurturing players – especially local talent – from the youth ranks to first-team football. The tendency for English sides to purchase rather than produce young stars is alarming compared to other academies, not least because of their vast financial resources they could be using to emulate the likes of Ajax, Barcelona and even Southampton. Having fostered Theo Walcott, Adam Lallana and Nathaniel Clyne, the south coast outfit is the leading developer of homegrown talent and one that other Premier League clubs must work to replicate not just for their own gain but the future of English football at large.
4 No Ballon d’Or Winner In Seven Years
For all the ingenious footballers who earn their wages playing on English soil, no Premier League player has won the FIFA Ballon d’Or since Cristiano Ronaldo scooped the award for his performances wearing a Manchester United shirt in 2008. Even though the prize has since been nigh on a two-horse race between the Portuguese and Lionel Messi, it’s no less telling that Fernando Torres is the only player from the English top-flight to have made the final three-man shortlist in the last seven years (other than Ronaldo). Pipping the two greatest players of a generation is no mean feat, but how can the Premier League be considered the best in the world when its players don’t even come close to winning the most prestigious individual accolade on offer?
3 Players Spend Their Peak Years Elsewhere
In the last decade, a number of players who made their name in England have chosen to swap the Premier League for another European top-flight as they reach the peak of their powers. Think of Luis Suarez, Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale, Luka Modric and Cesc Fabregas, before he returned to London with Chelsea. Premier League teams might lead European football in terms of wealth and exposure, but it seems the lure of the most prestigious and historically successful clubs is still the foremost persuasive quality in many elite players’ eyes. In this regard, many English teams have a long way to go before they can match the likes of Real Madrid, Barcelona, Juventus and Bayern Munich.
2 Declining Champions League Performance
Barcelona, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich certainly have a stronghold on the Champions League at present, but the recent dominance of these superpowers is no excuse for the lack of English appearances in the latter stages of the tournament. Despite the competition affording four places to Premier League clubs each season, only Chelsea has reached the semi-finals since 2012, when it became the first London club to lift the coveted trophy. This is a serious decline compared to the campaigns between 2004-05 and 2010-11 during which an English side contested the final on six out of seven occasions. It doesn’t matter how powerful a team is within its domestic league; the real kudos are earned in European competition.
1 The Elite Play Elsewhere
There’s no denying the Premier League boasts its fair share of world-class talent. However, even with names like Eden Hazard, Sergio Agüero and Alexis Sanchez strutting their stuff in the English top-flight, other European leagues lead the way when it comes to attracting the cream of the crop. Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are the two biggest names that spring to mind, while Arjen Robben, Luis Suarez, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Neymar make up just a few more of the long list of players who ply their trade outside the Premier League. Considering the status these megastars hold within their respective clubs, why would any of them want to risk it all by crossing the English Channel at this stage of their career?