Two weeks ago, the Premier League suffered humiliation. Two of its teams were knocked out of the Europa League and two of its teams lost at home in the Champions League.
Everton’s victory over Young Boys was a hollow one for the world’s richest league after its clubs were beaten by Barcelona, Monaco, Besiktas and Fiorentina. Celtic also suffered a defeat to an Italian side, being beaten by Inter Milan.
Hull City failed to even make the Europa League group stages, Liverpool failed to make the last 16 of either European competitions, Tottenham were knocked out in the last 32 of the Europa League whilst Manchester City and Arsenal look as if the quarter-finals of the Champions League is beyond them.
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This week Chelsea were knocked out of the Champions League by 10-man Paris Saint-Germain. How the mighty have fallen. It is a far cry from the Premier Leagues’s so-called success period between 2007 and 2009. But can we really define this as successful?
Firstly, the pool of competition was badly hit. Serie A never had its best sides in the competition between 2006 and 2008 due to the ramifications of the Calciopoli scandal. Juventus weren’t in Europe for two seasons having been demoted to Serie B whilst Fiorentina missed out on the Champions League twice due to point deductions as part of the Calciopoli punishments.
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Spanish giants Valencia were badly affected from the European economic crisis, whilst Sevilla’s best players and manager where lured away after back-to-back UEFA Cup wins. Bayern Munich missed out on the 2007-08 Champions League (the Bundesliga only had three Champions League places back then) as the then-formidable AC Milan side had done for the 2008-09 edition of the competition.
Clubs such as Basel, Benfica, Napoli (three clubs with formidable home records against English clubs) Shakhtar Donetsk, PSG, Monaco, Zenit St. Petersburg, Fiorentina, Besiktas, Juventus, Roma, Atletico Madrid, Valencia, Borussia Dortmund, Schalke, Bayer Leverkusen, Lazio, Athletic Bilbao, Olympiakos and Wolfsburg (to name just a few) were nowhere near as wealthy or as talented or tactically smart as they have been in the past five years.
The competition pool is stronger than what it was in those halcyon days for English clubs, during which it was at its weakest in both European competitions.
Since the 2009-10 season, only Chelsea have been consistent performers in Europe, winning the Champions League and Europa League. The rest have been mere pretenders.
The Premier League’s Champions League success was built on having the same four clubs – Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal - qualifying year-in and year-out without any serious challenge for the top four places.
They had the luxurious platform of guaranteed a place in the top tier of European competition. Those four clubs could therefore attract the game's elite players, thus strengthening their prospects of continental glory.
The so-called domination of European football was grossly over-exaggerated. In that three year period, the Premier League only managed to win one Champions League crown – the same number as Serie A (AC Milan in 2007) and La Liga (Barcelona in 2009).
England’s national team failed to qualify for the European Championships in 2008 whilst failed to make an impact in the World Cup in 2006 (won by Italy) or 2010 (won by Spain). Clubs such as Everton, Aston Villa, Bolton, Blackburn, Tottenham and Portsmouth all failed to come anywhere near close to winning the UEFA Cup. Winning one Champions League and a Club World Cup – both won by Manchester United – is hardly a “domination” of European football.
Between 2006 and 2010 Italy won a World Cup, two Champions Leagues, two Club World Cups and a UEFA Super Cup. Between 2006 and 2012 Spain won a World Cup, two European Championships, two u-21 European Championships, three Champions Leagues, four Europa Leagues, four UEFA Super Cups and two Club World Cups. That is domination. Having teams in the quarter and semi-finals of tournaments counts for nothing unless they come home with the silverware.
A so-called domination when there was no competition. A so-called domination in a period where Spanish and Italian football won more. A so-called domination when failures in other competitions were brushed under the carpet have all come home to roost.
The cracks have been uncovered, the truth has been exposed. England’s so-called domination of European football, which led to the Premier League being called the “best league in the world”, was nothing more than a farce.
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