Premier League Will Never Rival La Liga Talent
So, farewell then Luis. It’s been emotional.
Suarez’s exit for Barcelona was inevitable, the latest in a long line of top Premier League players who’ve regarded a move to La Liga as a step up from English football.
Recent seasons have seen an exodus of world-class talent from England to Spain with the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Luka Modric and Gareth Bale unable to resist the advances of the game’s most star-studded league.
Only three winners of the PFA Player of the Year in the past eight years – Ryan Giggs, Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie – have resisted the allure of Spain while just Sergio Aguero and Santi Cazorla have moved in the opposite direction having won individual awards in Spain.
FIFA announced their nominees today for the World Cup’s Golden Ball, Best Young Player and Golden Glove awards and there’s not one Premier League star amongst them.
Meanwhile, La Liga accounts for almost half the candidates.
Similarly, elite players seem to recognize that a move to Spain is essential should they wish to collect the top individual honours. The Ballon d’Or award has been dominated by Spanish-based players for the past five years with Ronaldo the last Premier League-based winner in 2008.
While Suarez was packing his bags for Catalonia, Alexis Sanchez was making the reverse journey, moving to Arsenal having been compelled to leave the Nou Camp to make way for the Uruguayan.
Sanchez’s transfer is typical of players who move from La Liga to the Premier League, tending to be either top footballers who no longer serve a purpose for Spain’s top two or unheralded players from smaller clubs who English clubs are taking a punt on.
Sanchez follows the likes of Mesut Ozil and Yaya Toure in the former category while players such as Michu and Gary Medel have proven there’s value in the latter market.
However, Liverpool, for example, spent around £14 million (or about a fifth of a Suarez) last summer on the relatively unknown Luis Alberto and Iago Aspas from Sevilla and Celta Vigo respectively, neither of whom had an impact at Anfield.
Sure, Chelsea have made a big-name signing in Diego Costa but that was from a team with a wage bill lower than QPR’s and because neither of Spain’s big two wanted or needed him. Jose Mourinho’s pursuit of several other of Atletico Madrid’s stars is due in part to the fact that Barcelona and Real Madrid’s top players are beyond him and, indeed, any other English club.
Cesc Fabregas has only returned to England when he was no longer wanted or needed in Barcelona but could you realistically visualize any of Lionel Messi, Ronaldo, Bale or Neymar landing up at even Manchester City this summer?
Possibly in a few years when they’re no longer at their peak, to be replaced in Spain by the latest Premier League stars.