For many years the English Premier League has been seen as the most enthralling league in the world for players, coaches and owners alike.
However is this once all powerful, mighty league starting to show signs of crumbling?
This comes on in the aftermath of the Champions League draw in which only two of the four sides from the Premier League have qualified for the knockout stages; the second time in two years.
Before the two Manchester sides, who finished the previous season first and second, failed to qualify last season for the knockout phase only one side maximum had failed to qualify through the group stage since the competitions reconstruction for the 2003-2004 campaign.
In terms of individual talent, once again when the Ballon d’Or is handed out to the best player for 2012 it will almost certainly not be going to a player on these shores. Not since 2008 has the winner played in the Premier League, a season in which the third placed player also played in the league.
In fact not since 2009 has a player in the top three played in the Premier League, Cristiano Ronaldo, who had moved to Real Madrid during the summer transfer window; meaning when the award was handed out he was playing in Spain.
The debate here though is the Premier League is a more complete league, whereas La Liga in Spain is seen to be a league where attacking talent seems to flourish, the Premier League depends on more all round skill including steel, something Chelsea showed many times during the Mourinho/Rijkaard clashes against Barcelona.
However Barcelona, as well as the quality of the Spanish league has been transformed since the summer of 2008. This momentous occasion being the appointment of Josep Guardiola as Barcelona manager the same summer Spain captured the Euro 2008 trophy.
Much of this Spanish side that not only won the European Championship in 2008, but then retained it in 2012 and won the 2010 World Cup between, was built on the bedrock of the Barcelona side that won the UEFA Champions League in 2009 and 2011.
Players such as Puyol, Xavi and Iniesta were involved in both national and domestic success. These are players that have come through the youth ranks at Barcelona as well as the next generation with Pedro, Busquets, and Alba all having been developed and being given a chance, although Alba was bought in from Valencia.
This seems to be a huge difference between the Premier League and La Liga as its main rival as ‘the best league in the world’. The Spanish clubs buy and develop Spanish players giving them a chance, and also to help the national side to glory.
It is a pattern that has been followed in Germany, with the development of players such as Neuer, Badstuber, Sven and Lars Bender, Mario Gotze and Marco Reus, but to name a few.
The rise of the Bundesliga can be shown with Bayern Munich having reached two of the previous three finals. Borussia Dortmund have also undergone vast improvements beating English Champions Manchester City with home-grown players Hummels, Gotze and Reus, who left the youth set up to Borussia Monchengladbach only to return this summer.
Does this prove that quality home talent is needed for a successful league? It’s often implied that there are not enough quality English players in the league, but during the Premier Leagues golden years, there were the ‘golden generation’ with Cole, Terry, Gerrard, Lampard and Rooney.
Although now been seen coming to the end of their peak years, other than Rooney. Cole, Terry and Lampard were all still able to win Europe’s top competition last season. However they were all also part of the first Champions League champions unable to make it through the group phase.
The question is then where are this next generation coming from? There’s Wilshere, Chamberlain, Sterling, Jones and Welbeck, but are these players going to develop into the same as the previous home-grown players who led their sides during the golden years for the Premier League.
The German and Spanish leagues in recent years have definitely proven giving home-grown youngsters, or even established players the chance to reach the top of the league leads to a successful national side, although Germany have no honours to prove this, surely it’s only a matter of time.
A country’s league does have to be the best, but giving national players the chance to play in the top sides, can led to international honours. Take Italy in 2006 there were the match-fixing charges put on the league, affecting many sides, including most notably Juventus.
However every member of the Italy World Cup winning squad in 2006 played their club football in Italy, it was not until after the competition the players started to filter out of the country.
Their league has still not completely recovered from the stigma with fresh charges going on during the European Championships in the summer, but Italy were still able to get to the final, and their league winners, that side Juventus again, went 49 games unbeaten and also beat Chelsea in this seasons Champions League.
The Premier League may not have declined that drastically, but perhaps are guilty of relaxing during the glory years and not continued to develop whereas, the Bundesliga and La Liga have given younger players the chance to flourish; who are now flourishing.
The Premier League have tried to match this now introducing a quota for British trained players, but this development should come naturally and not be forced. Perhaps players like Wilshere, Chamberlain, Sterling, Jones and Welbeck will bring English success and put the Premier League firmly out ahead again.