There’s a tendency – it could hardly be termed a tradition – among the farming fraternity to compare and contrast among each other. You know how it goes “X got 30 bales off six acres”, then someone else pipes up “Y got 50 off seven”. These figures are of course fictional, but they illustrate the point well.
That might seem a curious start point for a piece commenting on Sky advertising, but bare with me. They have in recent weeks hyped up the conclusion of the Premiership soccer season as only they can. Good and all as the packaging undoubtedly is, one wonders is it – partly at least – loyalty at odds with reality.
Now, there’s no doubting that this has been the most exciting and thus entertaining season in England for a long time. Perhaps, however, that has more to do with the varying inefficiencies of the main contenders than anything else. So, implying – in as many words – that the Premiership is the best league in the world seems a little fanciful.
Gary Neville was an effective if unspectacular fullback who has turned out to be a surprisingly insightful pundit. Reference was made at the outset of the campaign as to how refreshing and entertaining Neville and his former adversary Jamie Carragher proved to be when combined. Hearing the former deliver the implication alluded to earlier smacked of sticking to the employer’s line a little too much.
The bit of farming chatter above was only invoked by yours truly because agricultural affairs are the ones outside of sport to which one can best relate. In any walk of life, mind, it’s only natural for anyone to think they or theirs are the best at what they do. If the barometer for the best domestic soccer league is the quality of players operating therein, surely there’s a few ahead of the Premiership.
Cristiano Ronaldo was recently declared the world’s greatest. Given another ballot, the verdict could easily have swung for Lionel Messi. Both ply their trade in Spain. Even there, could justifiably be contended against as the pinnacle of national leagues. Barcelona are discernibly weaker compared to a few years back, Real Madrid probably still face quite the task against Bayern Munich and Chelsea will, with foundation, fancy their chances against Athletico Madrid.
Mention of the latter could be seen to offer credence to Neville’s claim. Such thinking would, in fairness, fail to acknowledge Jose Mourinho’s nous at achieving goals in the biggest competition. Whatever about the asinine nature of much of what he verbally dispenses to the media, few can quibble with his European record.
Nor can there be much knocking done of Brendan Rodgers and his side. If they go on to take the title and so guarantee the Champions League football they so crave, it should be enough to hold onto Luis Suarez. His departure for another European league wouldn’t Leitrim’s conquest of Connacht in in 1994 for shock status all the same.
You see, it would appear – to top players at least – English football is not the big attraction it once was. How else to explain the departures of Gareth Bale and Cesc Fabregas, among others? Granted, Suarez bucks the trend, but he’s arguably alone in doing so. Reason being that it’s difficult to feel that many who joined the influx to Manchester City were tempted by factors other than football ones.
This theory gets weight when the deficiencies of those formerly housed at Maine Road in European fare are taken into account. What it wouldn’t do is explain Mourinho’s inability to attract the striker(s) he so desperately wants. Or for that matter, Manchester United’s failure to do better than the sporadic Juan Mata and the utterly ill-fitting Marouane Fellaini.
Where other leagues also differ is in the ruthless and often needless manner is which managers are defenestrated. Too numerous are the examples of the pitiful manner in which this has transpired across the pond. Manchester United status, you feel, should’ve prevented them from entering such ranks, though unquestionably the aura isn’t what it once was.
Terminating the tutelage of David Moyes will do nothing to remedy the shortcomings that for a long time have been as obvious as the dearth of talent that existed with which to repair them. Most obviously emanating from the mess that has been Old Trafford this year has been a magnifying of Alex Ferguson’s ability to obtain extraordinary results from decidedly mundane employees.
A devaluation of the lure of Old Trafford top the best in the game may be – to a certain set – incomprehensible. But, given that – as champions – they were unable to hook the undoubted but hardly stratospheric talents of Leighton Baines, the question must be where do they stand now?
Expect, with their financial affluence, Chelsea and City to make another raft of big signings. Liverpool, too, are quite likely to bring in big names. A few swallows won’t make a summer, however, and the true test of the real quality of all of them will be away from their domestic scene.