It was just a year ago and conventional wisdom had the EPL running rampant as the world's powerhouse. The challenge of playing in the world's best league would prove irresistible to players. Now, Sir Alex is turning to retreads to fill his depleted roster and Thomas Vermaelen is still proving to be the biggest signing this summer. What has forced this change?
Norman Hubbard writes a interesting article describing the reasons why the Liga has stolen a march over the Premiership. Real has obviously distorted the market with its unlimited transfer funds but that still does not fully explain why a player like Karim Benzema turned his back on Man Utd. Or why Franck Ribery's demand is Real and nothing else. Man Utd and Chelsea can come up with the cash but they are being spurned. The article focuses too much on Real but the reason lies elsewhere.
Other clubs make the Liga attractive:
It has more to do with the style that the Liga plays. Most players woke up to the promise of Spanish football with their attractive attacking style in Euro 2008. We were introduced to a whole host of players from other clubs: Marcos Senna from Villareal, who gave the Rojas the steel that they desperately lacked in previous outings. Carlos Marchena and Joan Capdevila, part of the surprisingly hardy defense from Valencia and Villareal respectively. In attack, David Silva so destructive down the left and David Villa with his speed and opportunism were both from Valencia. Dani Guiza, the super sub was from Real Mallorca based in the Balearic Islands.
What began at the 2008 Euro continued when Barca turned in a scintillating performance to destroy Bayern and then Man Utd in the CL final.
In the Liga Barca had Real's number in the El Clasicos as they gutted Real, 6-2 at the Bernabeu, their worst performance in four decades. Meanwhile the Liga continued to be unpredictable with none of the top teams taking any match for granted as Valladolid, Deportivo, Osasuna, Sporting Gijon, Real Mallorca, Racing Santander and Espanyol pulled off some remarkable wins. With Barca having coasted to the title, Villareal and Valencia waged some thrillers to close out the season.
The Liga was so up tempo that relegated club Real Betis scored 51 goals. Barca topped the outscoring output with 105 goals but Real and Atletico Madrid also chipped in with 83 and 80 goals respectively.
The challenge for the superstars joining Real is that they are assured of meeting their nemesis on a regular basis. Cristiano Ronaldo is assured of going toe to toe with Lionel Messi on at least two occasions. Kaka can pit his wiles against Andres Iniesta. Karim Benzema knows he might have been a big wheel at Lyon but it will take a special something to outlast Diego Forlan, Samuel Eto'o and David Villa for the Pichichi. What player would not relish the settling of such accounts? Which other league gives you so much on the same platter? Real can splash the cash but so can Chelsea, Man Utd, and City but these players choose to come not just because of Real but because other clubs and their players make the Liga highly competitive. The stratification of the EPL is more obvious because after the first four clubs, the drop off in standards is precipitous and predictable.
Spain's tax rates are an additional inducement:
In this uncertain economic times, highly paid footballers are under pressure to keep as much as they can earn. Against the weaker pound, foreign players cost English clubs more money. These players will also be subjected in 2010 to the highest tax bracket of 50% as compared to Spain's more beneficial rate of 23% for top earning foreign players. Plus, England's higher cost of living also eats away at how much you can save.
However, the author also points out that this migration could prove a boon as the Premiership focuses on younger and unproven talent from smaller European leagues and leagues elsewhere. It needs a discerning eye but mangers like Sir Alex and Arsene Wenger have proved adept at it. A few more rejections could also force Carlo Ancelotti to look elsewhere which he seems to have done by signing Yuri Zhirkov from CSKA Moscow.