Will it be another Spanish summer? Or is there hope for England yet?
No, I’m not talking about winning the World Cup; instead I’m talking about the glamorization of La Liga more and more at the expense of the Premier League.
With the three biggest summer signings wrapped up or to be soon (David Villa and Cesc Fabregas to Barcelona, Jose Mourinho to Real Madrid), the likelihood of an electrifying superstar coming across the Channel looks increasingly remote. Instead, it looks all the more likely that Cesc won’t be the only departure.
Granted, Chelsea and Manchester United will probably not lose any crucial players, meaning the EPL’s best teams will not get worse. But it is not clear that they will buy the classiest of reinforcements, especially as the Chelsea management has indicated a greater role for youth players next season. Manchester United will surely look to strengthen the thin front line that arguably cost them the title this season, but again, it is not certain whether this means simply a back-up striker who scores more consistently than Berbatov, or a genuine hitman to partner Rooney up top.
The other probable bright spot in England’s summer is Manchester City, who can splurge on world-class and create a truly competitive squad. If they can successfully exploit Liverpool’s financial weakness and the precariousness of Tottenham’s Champions League place, they will surely compete in the 2011-12 edition of Europe’s most prestigious club competition.
But who will they acquire? Liverpool might have to offload some of the Mascherano-Gerrard-Torres spine, but the Reds will be hesitant to sell world-class players to teams who are directly competing with them for a Champions League spot.
Reports suggest Mourinho wants Gerrard at his new project in Madrid, and should the legendary skipper bail on Anfield, Florentino Perez certainly has the cash to bring him to the Bernabeau. Besides, everyone else in Europe wants Torres and Mascherano. Further, the Argentine has been suggesting he wants to leave since last summer. Unless Manchester City or another club really overpay for them, these stars, if sold, probably will not end up in the EPL.
Robinho probably will not end up in England because the Citizens can afford to offload him at a cut price to a continental team that will not threaten their league ambitions. Unless, of course, Robinho has a superb World Cup and can convince Mancini to let him stay on to complete the Man City revolution that he started nearly two years ago.
Realistically however, the biggest stars who might end up in England are a few of Spain’s stars and some of the Italian Serie A’s best young players. Who are these would-be EPL protagonists?
Atletico Madrid’s Sergio Aguero is the only legitimate superstar who has a good chance of going to England. Chelsea have been linked with him, Man City would surely buy him (because, why not?), and as mentioned above, Man United would love two world-beating forwards with which to terrorize both Europe and England. His price might put off everybody but the Citizens, however.
Valencia have a duo in Ever Banega and David Silva who would be welcome in any team, but it remains to be seen how willing the leadership at the Mestalla is to sell after losing their offensive pillar in David Villa. Plus, as good as the two are, they are not world-class just yet. A big move to truly competitive teams might see them hit that level and affirm their potential though.
The Serie A has a host of young stars in players like Pato, Hamsik and Kjaer – arguably the future of their respective positions – and it is possible that some will be sold this summer. Hamsik has a prohibitive price of 40 million euros on his head, Kjaer claims he wants to stay in Palermo but will most likely end up elsewhere in Italy, which leaves Pato.
“The Duck” might fancy a reunion with Carlo Ancelotti at Chelsea, but as Milan rightfully view him as their future, I am not so convince they’ll ditch him for a price Abromovich is willing to pay. As usual, City can splash out enough to pry any of these players away, but it remains to be seen if they leadership really feels the need for another Mardid-lite summer spree.
Ibrahimovic might also leave Barcelona (as a swap for Cesc, perhaps), but given the huge amount the Catalans paid for him, I believe he will stick around to earn his price tag for at least another season. Plus, crucial goals against Arsenal and Real Madrid to name two showed he is not a complete flop, just not worth the ludicrous amount Barcelona invested.
And so that leaves the Blancos’ rejects, possibly including Kaka, Benzema, van der Vaart, and maybe their superstar Gonzalo Higuain (who, in a warranted complaint, wants a new contract of greater value). Further, Mourinho recently praised both the Frenchman and the Brazilian, suggesting he wants to try bringing out the class that made Madrid pay big bucks for the duo last summer. Unless Real Madrid again decide to ridiculously unload world class talent, in 2010-11 we might be witnessing the same class of EPL stars as last season, if not a class-act or two fewer.
While the EPL is still one of the strongest leagues in the world, the distance between it and the top (La Liga) will probably grow this summer, not to mention the cause for greater concern: that the distance between it and the “lower” Italian and German leagues may actually shrink.
And so, even those who dismiss Arsenal’s, Chelsea’s and Manchester United’s premature exits to Barcelona, Inter and Bayern Munich respectively as flukes, this summer might go some way to making it more than just a blue moon affair.