This year’s FIFA Ballon d’Or celebrated the world’s best footballers and coaches but also highlighted the increasing fall of the Premier League against Europe’s elite leagues. The La Liga has provided the last 8 winners of the title – with Cristiano Ronaldo and Leonel Messi taking four each on behalf of the Spanish league. The top three in this year’s Ballon d’or, which consisted of Messi, Ronaldo and Neymar, were all from La Liga whilst last year’s had a contribution from the Bundesliga when Manuel Neuer came third.
The Premier League has never provided a winner for the FIFA Ballon d’Or awards since it joined up with the FIFA Player of the Year Award and the last time a player from the English league featured in the Team of the Year was in 2011 when Manchester United’s Vidic and Rooney made the XI. Out of Europe’s top five football leagues, the Premier League was the only league not to have a representative in 2015 – a sign of falling standards. 2014 saw Angel Di Maria named in the team of the year while the midfielder was at Manchester United but it was for his efforts whilst with Real Madrid that earned him a place.
There were some complaints at the team this year when Real Madrid contributed four players to the XI despite not claiming a trophy last season. Barcelona on the other hand, won 5, including the league title and the Champions League. The Bundesliga, Serie A and Ligue 1 each contributed one player as La Liga supplied the other eight.
Last season, Jose Mourinho guided Chelsea to another Premier League title in emphatic style. Viewers of the Premier League claimed it was one of the best teams to win the title however given their disappointing performances this year, it’s sparked questions over whether the standard of the league was simply poor in comparison last season. Granted, no English team made it to the quarter finals of the Champions League during the 2014-15 season, the second time in three years.
Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City were all knocked out in the last 16 whilst Liverpool failed to make it through the group stage. Chelsea, who won it in 2012, are the only English team to make the semi-final of the competition in the last four years. It seems so long ago when three English teams made up the semi-final line-up for three consecutive seasons between the 2006-7 campaign and the 2009-10 season.
The standard of the Premier League has fallen so much in recent years that the fourth European place may be stripped from the English teams as Europe’s quality improves. La Liga is now home to the world’s best players and the Bundesliga is renowned for producing some of the best youth in football. So why is the Premier League falling behind so much?
It’s still regarded as one of the best leagues – despite not containing the best players or the best teams in Europe. However, it’s still one of the most unpredictable and highly contested league’s in Europe. Before the 2013-14 season when Atletico won the La Liga title, Barcelona or Real Madrid had won it every year almost a decade before then. During that time, the Premier League saw Chelsea, Manchester United, Manchester City and Arsenal as champions whilst Liverpool and Tottenham both came close. Whilst some of Europe’s other leagues, including the Bundesliga and La Liga is dominated by one or two clubs, the Premier League continues to throw up surprises and it’s not as easy to predict the champion.
Despite its competitiveness, the falling standards of the Premier League is worrying for English teams and the FA must take action to ensure its homegrown players are getting the opportunities they need to succeed. European success must become a priority for the league’s top clubs as the loss of a Champions League place would be nothing short of a disaster.