The most important win of the weekend was the new contract for Luis Suarez at Liverpool. No one knows what will happen this summer if Liverpool fall out of the top four, but right now this could be the best news for English football in quite some time vis a vis the superstar competition with La Liga. I firmly believe the Premier League is a better league from top to bottom than any other on the planet, though the Bundesliga has a claim to this distinction as well. However, in recent years, defections to the two super clubs in Spain has diminished the Premier League’s star quality. The buying power of Paris Saint-Germain and Monaco have also now impacted the Premier League’s ability to attract the world’s most expensive and attractive footballers from a marketing perspective. Suarez’s decision, despite the consistent hostility he has received from opposing fans and the British press, is a strong sign that the Premier League can still stop the best players from fleeing to Spain.
Cardiff City Owner Vincent Tan’s outlandish and unprofessional behavior is putting a damper on what should be a triumphant time for the South Wales club. In Tan’s defense, few seem to recall the financial ruin and deceit authored by former chairman Peter Ridsdale, a man whose career seems to be made by ruining football clubs. Tan saved Cardiff from a fate worse than they currently suffer but may have destroyed the soul of the club in the process. Tan’s reign of terror could give critics of foreign ownership in the Premier League just cause to ramp up a campaign to prevent the destruction of historic clubs by foreign predators. I would expect this issue to continue to be at the forefront of many people’s discussions about the sport this holiday season.
In the debate over foreign ownership, I think it is important to distinguish heavyweight owners who have honored the legacy of the clubs they’ve bought and even embraced that history from lightweight ones like Tan. Chelsea’s Roman Abramovich (who reversed years of historical neglect and denial of Chelsea’s past by former chairman Ken Bates) and Manchester City’s Abu Dhabi based ownership have brought legends of the past back to the club and have honored other legends in a way their predecessors did not. On the flip side Vincent Tan and Assem Allam at Hull have dishonored the club legacies and disgraced themselves in the process. In fairness, both inherited teams that had been virtually bankrupted by British owners, so perhaps history would have been irrelevant if both clubs had been insolvent?
Don’t get too excited yet, but slowly but surely Mark Hughes has transformed much of Stoke’s play and the Potters have climbed up the table into the top half. Important for US Men’s National Team fans has to be the emergence of Geoff Cameron, a classic right-back, not the narrow version that Tony Pulis had developed last season. This season under Hughes, Cameron is showing a great ability to get up the pitch and to deliver a killer ball in the area as he did again for Stoke’s winning goal yesterday. Cameron is deceptively pacey, and as was the case in his MLS career when Dom Kinnear could put him anywhere on the pitch and have him do a job, he has developed these same tendencies in the Premier League.