In the coming days there will be much wailing and gnashing of teeth about the fact that the Premier League, for the first time in seven years, has no teams in the semi-final of the Champions League. Boo Hoo. Does anyone outside of the media really care?
There’s a staggering degree of hubris amongst the English media about the Premier League, frequently calling it the best in the world and the place where all the top players want to play.
It’s patently totally nonsense as evidenced by the fantastic array of talent on display in the last couple of weeks, not all of which has any desire to play in England. This attitude owes much to the little England mentality that still, even in this globalized world, exists. This has become so deluded in some quarters that this state of affairs shows a decline in the quality of English football. ‘England has no team in the semi-final’ was declared last night by radio and TV commentators as though it was a death in the family.
This is to totally ignore the fact that the clubs are largely owned by foreign nationals and staffed with foreign nationals – so are in almost no sense apart from geographical, English. They do not represent English football in anyway. They’re just located here. That’s where we are in 2010. These are not ‘our’ players by and large.
The whole best league in the world argument, like the best player in the world debate, is at best contentious and at worst meaningless. The Champions League, let it not be forgot, is cup football. It’s not a ‘league’ at all. The best sides do not always win cup games. It is more of a lottery than league football which rewards consistency.
So the fact that none of Manchester United, Arsenal or Chelsea won does not tell us any more about the qualities of those sides in relation to the rest of Europe than it did when they were filling three semi-final places. Cup football is a mercurial beast and you can win or lose on one slice of luck or misjudgment.
I don’t know why some want to clutch the Premier League to their chests and claim it proudly as the best. What do we the fans get out of that? Clearly, broadcasters etc get raised revenues if they can convince everyone that this is the primo product. But you know, I could care less if it’s the best or not and how could you measure such a claim anyway? It’s utterly specious.
It’s been a fantastic set of quarter-final matches and the lack of English success doesn’t diminish that in any way. There’s no need for navel gazing or wringing of English hands. Good sides get beaten by other good sides all the time in cup football. This year wasn’t the English clubs year, next year it might be different. One thing is clear, they were all, for most of each tie, outplayed by the teams from supposedly inferior leagues and that exposes the Premier League’s loudest cheerleaders as more than a little fraudulent.