Former Liverpool midfielder Dietmar Hamann has blamed the culture of rewarding mediocre players with excessive money in the Premier League for the lack of quality shown in the Champions League.
The likes of Manchester City, Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal have lost at least one game thus far in the Champions League, bringing to the fore the inability of English clubs to perform on the European stage.
And slowly but surely, more and more questions are being asked of English club's adeptness and whether the success of the late noughties in Europe will ever return.
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Arsenal succumbed to a 3-2 loss against Greek Champions Olympiacos on Tuesday night at the Emirates, whilst the already-beleaguered Chelsea lost 2-1 to Portuguese giants FC Porto.
In an interview with talkSPORT, Hamann said: "The problem is that in England in the last five or six years there has been a culture created where you can earn vast amounts of money by being average. This is the core problem of the Premier League.
“You see mid-table Premier League players, average players, picking up cheques every week which mean in four or five years they will have earned enough money [to keep them] for the rest of their lives.
“The [top] money should be earned by the likes of Rooney, Gerrard, Silva, Aguero – I’ve not got a problem with whatever they pick up if they are successful, if they score goals, if they win titles.
“But I think there has been a culture created that you can earn ridiculous amounts of money by being average.
This is not a new issue, of course. There has been a long-standing debate over the money pumped into English football, with the general consensus being that players are not worth their ludicrous wages and that money is ultimately decaying the standard and attitudes of professional footballers.
“It doesn’t matter whether you win or not because you pick up the money anyway, and I think that can take the edge off players. Some of the players come here for the wrong reasons," Hamann continued.
"The way they are paid in England – there is no appearance money, there are hardly any bonuses, which is the case in Germany. In Germany you have to play and play well and win to earn top dollar. In England, you don’t.
“In England you sign a contract, and you give a 20-year-old kid a five-year contract on 60 or 80 grand a week, which is worth £20 million whether he plays or not, or plays well or not. It doesn’t matter, the kid still picks up £20 million.
"That is irresponsible. It’s the wrong approach. The pay structure needs to change in this country."
Manchester City starlet Raheem Sterling epitomises Hamann's view. Reports suggested that the 20-year-old was offered a £180,000-per-week contract to join the Citizens from Hamann's Liverpool - a staggering amount of money for a player with a single decent season in the Premier League under his belt.
“Yes, it’s worth a lot of money to stay in the Premier League but the prices are inflated. Arsenal are struggling to get out of a group made up of Dinamo Zagreb, Olympiacos and Bayern Munich. Liverpool last year didn’t get out of a group including Ludogorets and Basel.
“I wonder whether the time will come when clubs ask themselves: ‘Why do we pay these players 100-120 grand a week if they can’t even get through against these [teams]?’
“And I wonder when or if there is a time when the likes of Sky and BT say: ‘Hang on, what are we paying all this money for?’ because if you look at the international standard in the Champions League, the English teams are miles off.”
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