Photo: REUTERS/Dylan Martinez
After years of unquestioned supremacy as the top-to-bottom best soccer league in the world, the English Premier League has been chased down by the rest of Europe. When it comes to elite players and elite teams, the best soccer on Earth is no longer being played in England.
Unless Arsenal can pull off a miraculous upset against Bayern Munich next week, there will be no English teams in the quarterfinals of the Champions League for the first time in 17 years.
The two other English Champions League teams — Chelsea and the reigning EPL champions Manchester City — didn’t even make it out of the group stage of the tournament.
In comparison, all four Spanish teams that qualified for the UCL and three German teams made the knockout stages.
England still has a strong middle-class of quality teams — three of them are still alive in Europe’s secondary club tournament, the Europa League — but at the top, the EPL doesn’t have true world-class teams right now.
There is a similar trend going on with elite players.
All eleven players to make FIFA’s 2012 World XI (basically, the All-Star team of world soccer), play in Spain. Only Atletico Madrid’s Radamel Falcao doesn’t play for Barcelona or Real Madrid:
Photo: Fox Soccer
And things are about to get worse on that front.
Two of the four best players in the EPL — United’s Wayne Rooney and Tottenham’s Gareth Bale — are rumoured to be leaving this summer. While both could feasibly transfer within the league, the rumoured destinations are continental teams like Real Madrid, PSG, and Bayern Munich.
Beyond the lack of elite teams and players, there is anecdotal evidence that England has been caught by Spain.
Michu, who transferred to the EPL after playing for the 15th-place team in Spain last year, has 15 goals for Swansea this year in 25 games — the same number he had in 37 games in Spain in 2011-12.
And based on UEFA’s own metrics, the EPL is now second to La Liga as the best league in Europe.
With the type of money EPL owners have (Arsenal is rumoured to be the target of a $2.2 billion takeover from a Middle Eastern billionaire), this could all change in a flash. But right now the EPL is down, or, if you want, the rest of Europe has caught up.
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