With the Premier League seemingly losing its fan-given title of 'the best league in the world', mainly due to La Liga’s continuing dominance and the emergence of the Bundesliga as a footballing superpower once more.
Many fans believe that something major has to change in this summer’s off-season – or else the English game might be in danger of falling even further behind its European counterparts.
The strength of the English top flight has undoubtedly diminished in recent years, as proven by the changing fortunes of the league’s representatives in the glamorous and prestigious Champions League. Where once we quite rightly expected to have at least one, if not two, of our teams in the semi-finals, we’re now often left hoping that they simply manage to get through their respective groups.
In 2008 the competition saw an all-English final, something which served to highlight just how dominant English football was on the continent at the time. This season, however, all English participants had fallen at or before the Round of 16 (with the reigning domestic champions, Manchester City, failing to progress from the group stage for the second season running) – a feat which merely confirmed a slide which many football fans feared already.
So what can be done to arrest this decline? The obvious answer is to increase the quality of the performers – i.e. the players on show. More big names mean more global interest, as well as stronger teams. When Eden Hazard chose a move to the Premier League ahead of La Liga last summer, it was somewhat surprising to say the least. He was, at the time, the hottest property in world football. All of Europe’s giants were chasing his signature, yet he opted to come to England.
This is not wholly unusual, or at least wasn’t in years gone by, but it seems to have become less common in recent years for one reason or another. If anything, the world-class players that were once plying their trade in the Premier League have, one-by-one, packed up their bags and left for other countries. The list of names is makes for painful reading: Drogba, Modric, Balotelli, Fabregas, Ronaldo... These are the types of player that need to start coming back to England very soon, before the appeal of the Premier League falls to an unrecoverable level, and it’s no longer possible to attract the cream of the crop. So – who are the players that would help the Premier League return to its former glory? Here are a few realistic suggestions:
The 26-year-old Uruguayan is somebody who has been talked about for a long time now. Constant transfer speculation has become the norm in Naples thesedays, with newspapers suggesting a different destination almost every day. His goal record more than backs-up the widely accepted view that he is one of the world’s leading attackers – 98 goals in just 134 appearances for Napoli since joining in 2010. Reports suggest that his club’s president Aurelio De Laurentiis is only willing to listen to offers that meet Cavani’s buyout clause of £54.5m, which could make it difficult for all but football’s “money clubs” to consider him as a target, however with the Premier League having two of these such clubs, it is more than likely that Cavani could be on the move to England this summer. Many news companies have been reporting that Roberto Mancini is in pole position to add Cavani to his squad for the start of next season, however Chelsea and many of Europe’s other top clubs do remain in the race.
(Possible Premier League destination(s): Manchester City, Chelsea)
Every modern football fan will, without doubt, have heard of this man in recent seasons. Atlético Madrid’s replacement for Sergio Agüero back in 2011 has quickly been transformed from a forward with great potential at Porto into a leading star not just in La Liga, but also the footballing world as a whole. Similarly to Cavani, his reputation is based upon a prolific goalscoring record.
His 85 games for Atlético have brought a remarkable 67 goals, with fans almost expecting him to find the net every time he takes to the field. Whether the Spaniards would be willing to sell him, however, is unknown but seems rather unlikely.
They fought fiercely to keep “El Kun” two years ago, only to eventually lose out to Manchester City, and you can’t help but feel they would act in a similar manner should a club test the waters for their new talisman this summer. A figure in the region of £48m (€57m) is likely to be needed to secure his services, again only realistically making him available to the considerably richer clubs.
Chelsea are reportedly leading the race for the Colombian, aged 27, and that couldn’t be better for English football.
(Possible Premier League destination(s): Chelsea, Manchester City)
This is a player who has kept himself relatively under-the-radar until this season, although not to fans of Borussia Dortmund. He has been quietly doing his job for the reigning German champions since joining from Lech Poznan in 2010, scoring goals very regularly (74 in 132) and putting in the performances to match. Despite this, he still wasn’t often talked about as a truly elite footballer. That has changed this season.
His recent performance against Real Madrid in the Champions League semi-final first leg catapulted him to the front of football fans’ minds everywhere, with the pick of his four goals being suggested as a contender for goal of the competition.
He almost instantly became the name on everyone’s lips, and that has got clubs everywhere interested. Dortmund’s strict financial model means that a move away from Signal Iduna Park is very possible, with other clubs able and willing to offer higher wages than his current employers.
Among the long list of potential suitors are Manchester United, who could be looking to replace Wayne Rooney in the transfer window – however stiff competition from Bayern Munich could prove a problem as the Pole has himself indication a preference to stay in Germany. That said, Sir Alex Ferguson is a known admirer which means that a move to the newly crowned English champions wouldn’t be a surprise at all.
(Possible Premier League destination(s): Manchester United)
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