Is the Premier League in decline?

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Thiago Alcântara, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Edinson Cavani, Lucas Digne, Radamel Falcao, Mario Gómez, Mario Götze, Asier Illarramendi, Isco, Fernando Llorente, Marquinhos, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, João Moutinho, Neymar, Dimitri Payet, James Rodríguez, Heung-Min Son, Kevin Strootman, Carlos Tévez, Jérémy Toulalan and David Villa.

There’s a list of 21 top players who have transferred to top teams this summer. 20 of them have avoided the Premier League and Carlos Tévez is leaving the Premier League to join Serie A champions Juventus.

Combined these 20 players have joined four different leagues – Spain’s La Liga, Germany’s Bundesliga, Italy’s Serie A and France’s Ligue 1.

Most of these players had been linked to Premier League clubs in the past 12 months – but for one reason or another they did not come. Thiago Alcântara joined the Champions League holders. Whilst most Premier League teams simply wouldn’t have been able to compete with Paris Saint-Germain and AS Monaco in signing the likes of Edinson Cavani (€64 million) and Radamel Falcao (€60 million).

But the Premier League failed to attract two prolific goalscorers in Mario Gómez (Fiorentina) and David Villa (Atlético Madrid) – the former who won’t even be competing in European competition this season.

Mario Gomez

Manchester United were strongly linked with both Thiago Alcântara and Kevin Strootman before they joined Bayern Munich and AS Roma respectively. The most successful team in English football then made two ambitious bids for Cesc Fàbregas who I cannot for the life of me see leaving FC Barcelona to join up with David Moyes this summer.

The Premier League’s billionaires

The biggest signing a Premier League has made this summer goes to Chelsea who brought José Mourinho back from Real Madrid. The Europa League holders’ biggest signing so far this summer has been André Schürrle from Bayer 04 Leverkusen. There was no apparent interest from the top two clubs in Germany or any from the rest of Europe for that matter. The only other signings made by the Blues this summer have been Marco van Ginkel (Vitesse), Mark Schwarzer (Fulham) and Cristián Cuevas (O’Higgins).

Manchester City, the other Premier League side with a billionaire owner willing to open the cheque book freely have been the most successful in big name signings this summer. 28-year old Fernandinho with 5 Brazil caps to his name joined for £30 million from Shakhtar Donetsk, Stevan Jovetić £22m from Fiorentina, Álvaro Negredo £20m from Sevilla and Jesús Navas £14.9m also from Sevilla.

Outside of the well-funded Chelsea and Manchester City, the English Premier League has struggled to attract stars so far this summer – less than a week away from the start of August.

Arsenal look set to miss out on Gonzalo Higuaín who is seemingly on his way to Napoli. They had been strongly linked to Wayne Rooney this summer too but there appears to be no progress. Dare they fail to sign Liverpool’s Luis Suárez and be left with Nicklas Bendtner to start the opening game of the 2013-14 Premier League season??

Which begs the question – why is all the world class talent avoiding the Premier League this summer? Players with the potential of Thiago Alcântara, Mario Götze, Neymar and James Rodríguez have all ignored the Premier League.

Prolific strikers Edinson Cavani, Radamel Falcao, Mario Gómez, Fernando Llorente and David Villa have too.

Exciting players previously strongly linked with Premier League clubs, Isco, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, João Moutinho and Heung-Min Son all stayed abroad too.

Radamel Falcao

Completed signings

Tottenham Hotspur appear to have made a solid signing in Paulinho – the Brazilian international has come to White Hart Lane for £17 million from his homeland. But “world class”? No. Keeping hold of Gareth Bale is surely Spurs’ biggest challenge this summer. The Premier League would not want to lose such an exciting player and of such ability surely.

Sunderland appear to have made a good signing in Emanuele Giaccherini from Serie A champions Juventus. The versatile midfielder didn’t start a great number of games last season but remains an Italian international and certainly a top-rated player joining a team who finished directly above the relegation zone last season.

Fulham appear to have made a good signing in 30-year Maarten Stekelenburg who joins from AS Roma after starting half of their Serie A games last season. The once highly-rated goalkeeper looks set to replace Mark Schwarzer as the Cottagers’ number one after the Australian was released on a free transfer before joining Chelsea.

At the top

With the top 3 finishers of last season all changing their manager heading into 2013-14 has made for an intriguing prospect heading into next season. Will Mourinho win his third Premier League title? Will Pellegrini win his first in Europe? Can Manchester United cope without Sir Alex Ferguson?

Arsenal appear set to miss out on the opportunity of taking advantage of clubs changing their manager having been 16 points off the pace last season and still yet to make a significant signing this summer. The form they ended last season however is certainly something they will be wanting to both head into this season with, and build on.

Liverpool have spent a fair bit of money in the past couple of seasons but with the possibility of losing Suárez will be a bit of a blow to them. And seeing how they fair without Jamie Carragher at the back is another thing. Not that I’ve ever considered them title challengers in my lifetime.

Luis Suarez

Tottenham are building nicely but a top 4 finish is their most realistic aim in the league this season. They could do with a goalscoring striker to replace Emmanuel Adebayor if they want to make a serious challenge for Champions League football.

French riches

In terms of both finance and simply attractive places to live, English sides now cannot compete with Paris Saint-Germain and AS Monaco. Even if the latter side aren’t playing European football next season, their tax free haven and billionaire owner has already attracted the likes of Ricardo Carvalho, Radamel Falcao, João Moutinho, James Rodríguez and Jérémy Toulalan this summer. That’s to a side who has only just been promoted to the top flight of French football and who averaged less than 6,000 fans at home games last season. Money talks and these two French sides are heading towards becoming football powerhouses ever so soon if they’re not already.

The league’s losses

In years gone by England has seen the likes of Kaká, Manuel Neuer, Mesut Özil, Ronaldinho and Wesley Sneijder turn down moves to Premier League clubs in recent seasons.

On top of that, Cesc Fàbregas, Ruud van Nistelrooy, Michael Owen, Arjen Robben and Cristiano Ronaldo have all left the Premier League when at the top of their game. Admittedly to Barcelona and Real Madrid – arguably the two biggest clubs in the history of football.

Has the Premier League lost its appeal? It remains in number two spot in the UEFA coefficient (and with help of German Bundesliga and Italian Serie A sides not taking the Europa League very seriously at all there’s a good chance it will stay there for a few more seasons at least).

Can we really put it down to the weather and cities in England? Well when you’re a football who’s making more than the average person’s yearly salary in a week you have freedom to live where you want. And I know where I’d rather live out of Barcelona and Manchester. Or Munich and Merseyside. Or Paris and Sunderland if I didn’t have to worry about money.

Eiffel Tower

Better leagues abroad?

Right now, Barcelona is the team to be at. Everyone wants to play for them. A number of their players come through the youth system but in recent seasons they have made a few major singings – David Villa, Alexis Sánchez, Cesc Fàbregas and Neymar. The attractiveness of Spanish football has shot up with the Pep Guardiola-José Mourinho/Barcelona-Real Madrid battles and the dominance of the Spanish national team for the past 5 years now.

Germany is a league getting stronger and stronger. Borussia Dortmund are now an attractive side for big name players to play for whilst Bayern Munich are the best team in Europe now and have appointed Pep Guardiola who was strongly linked to both Chelsea and Manchester United at one stage. But will the rest of the league catch up? Bayer 04 Leverkusen and Schalke 04 – Germany’s other two Champions League participants this season have not made any major summer signings so far.

In France, it’s either Paris Saint-Germain or AS Monaco. The French league has not previously had much pulling power or success in attracting players to its league over England. Like Germany, there are now two teams in France that are more popular to play for right now than England.

Juventus are keeping Italy on the map in Europe after recently falling out of the top three in the UEFA Coefficient. AC Milan is always an attractive club to play for whilst Napoli have been making a name for themselves over the past couple of seasons. Fiorentina too apparently with the signings of Giuseppe Rossi and Mario Gómez.

Carlos Tévez joined former Manchester City team mate Mario Balotelli as the second player to leave the Etihad and Premier League to join Serie A within the space of a season. Gareth Bale, David Luiz, Juan Mata, Wayne Rooney and Luis Suárez have all been linked with moves away from England this summer. Four of those are amongst the best players in the division and Bale, Mata and Suárez were amongst the six candidates for PFA Player of the Year this past season, in which Bale won the award.

Mario Balotelli

A decline?

No doubt Sky and other journalists will plug the 2013-14 season as the “most exciting yet”. It has three teams heading into the season as legitimate title contenders. But it’s missing an absence of some of the world class players it had just a few seasons ago.

No more Xabi Alonso, Didier Drogba, Cesc Fàbregas, Thierry Henry, Luka Modrić, Arjen Robben or Cristiano Ronaldo. Paul Scholes has now retired whilst the likes of Steven Gerrard, Ryan Giggs and Frank Lampard are all ageing.

Perhaps one could argue the lack of world class signings springs opportunities for young English talent to break through into the first team and stamp their name on football. Something young German and Spanish footballers have done over the past few seasons.

Even then, the England youth internationals don’t look all that promising. Where does English football go from here? Will we see any more big names sign before the summer transfer window closes?

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