Friday, July 29, 2011

English Footballers: Stubborn? Or overpriced?

The English Premier League is arguably the most entertaining league in the world. Not necessarily the best, but the most entertaining. It is definitely the most commercial league of all; the quality of football on display cannot be disputed, but the debate over its strength above other leagues can be. We’ve come to accept and love the fact that players from all over the world come to the English Premier League to showcase their talents and become superstars for the clubs from the top to the bottom. We see quality players like Mikel Arteta showing off their stuff for a mid-table club like Everton. But I’ve always wondered, why don’t English players ever do the same? Why don’t English players move abroad to play and make a name for themselves abroad? And I don’t mean your superstars like David Beckham, I mean the average players like Matthew Etherington. Of the current crop of English players, how many of them play for a club side outside of England: none. Are they not good enough to make it abroad? Or do they just lack the balls or ambition to make a move?

When you look at the full squad lists of most Premier League clubs, you’ll find Italians, French, Germans, Spanish and any other nationality (of all ages) you can think of; but on the other hand we never hear or see any young English talent trying to break through abroad, or even just a regular English player taking the opportunity to play abroad. Is it because the players don’t want to move? Or is it because the clubs don’t want to buy English players?

I’ve got to say I believe most English players (again, not the superstars) could probably do well in other leagues which are at a slower pace than the Premier league, but I also believe that English players have got a certain stubbornness and laziness which is what keeps them where they are. Very rarely have we seen any English player speak another language, even after they’ve moved abroad. David Beckham was in Spain for almost 5 years and he could barely muster a sentence to complete an interview in Spanish; so there’s already the refusal to learn another culture and to improve on a personal level. I also think there is a superiority complex with this belief that the Premier League is the ultimate league and that nothing else comes close to it; whereas most leagues across Europe are just as competitive. Let’s take the example of a player like Jermaine Defoe, who has been at numerous clubs all over the Premier League - he has never won a single trophy in his career but is earning lots of cash sitting on the bench (for club and country). Doesn’t an example like this make you question the motives of English players? Do they play for the love of the game and to be successful? Or do they play to just earn the money and stay home? I’m pretty sure someone like Defoe could move to a top club in Germany, France, Greece or wherever and win titles and make a name for himself, but if he was given the option he would choose to stay still instead of going for something new.

The other thing that also makes English players moving abroad such a rare sight is their prices. English players are way too overpriced. When a young player has half a decent season like Jordan Henderson, or like Phil Jones, and then both command fees of above 16 million pounds to move clubs, it makes you wonder what the true value of some of these players is. It’s a strange one, because this is only the case with English players. You never find unproven talent being shelled out for such large fees amongst clubs from the same league elsewhere. It feels like these good English players are such a rare breed, that teams would pay anything to have them. Like with any marketable product, the rarer it is, the more expensive it gets. That’s why at times I sympathize with managers who take gambles on unknown international players for cheap, because when we think of how overpriced English players have become (and sometimes even overrated) it is fairly understandable if the gamble on an international is the safer bet. I can’t seem to recall any top European clubs, or actually any European clubs at all, being linked with English players over the past few years. By linked, I mean heavily linked to the point that a bid was actually done. It’s not a coincidence. Clubs know the value of players, and English players don’t offer that.

When we see how other European footballers embrace playing abroad and gaining the experience of a different football culture, we tend to notice that their game matures and they’re able to mould into different situations to become more complete footballers. Players like Cristiano Ronaldo, Mathieu Flamini, Xavi Alonso, Samuel Eto’o, Arjen Robben…have all shown that they can pull it off in different leagues and that demonstrates the true quality of a Footballer. Being able to turn their backs on their home culture, getting out of their comfort zone and taking on the challenge of a whole new way of playing the game – and succeeding. That’s the sign of a good Footballer. That’s something that English players rarely do, and even if they did, they would probably end up complaining and returning back home. But there is always hope for English players and maybe they’re beginning to see the light now. Micheal Mancienne (21) and Dale Jennings (19) have both joined Hamburg SV and Bayern Munich respectively, and I get the feeling that it could be the start of something different to break the trend of English player sticking to home. New times on the horizon maybe…

1 comment:

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