It seems a very long time ago since Arsenal fans witnessed their emphatic strike partnership of Theirry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp ripping up the Premier League every week. The same generation were able to appreciate Manchester United’s attackers in all their glory – from Cristiano Ronaldo to Ruud Van Nisterooy. Even in recent seasons, ex Liverpool striker Luis Suarez, brought more quality to the Premier League as Chelsea waved goodbye to their long-serving Ivory Coast international, Didier Drogba.
This season, it’s been a different story. Young English strikers, Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy have caught headlines for their performances for Tottenham and Leicester City at the top of the table whilst Danny Welbeck, Marcus Rashford and Roberto Firmino have added the goals for Arsenal, Manchester United and Liverpool in recent games. But where have all the world class strikers gone? Only Sergio Aguero and Diego Costa can truly be described as world class from the current selection in the Premier League and despite there being some fantastic players like Daniel Sturridge and Alexis Sanchez, the English campaign is missing those forwards who light up the international stage.
Although it’s refreshing to see upcoming strikers in the league, it’s no doubt disappointing that the Premier League has lost its status as a league which attracts the best in the world. For the last eight years, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi have picked up the FIFA Ballon D’or awards – Ronaldo’s first coming after his last impressive season at Manchester United in the Premier League. Before Ronaldo, you’d have to go back 15 years to 2001 when Michael Owen won the FIFA Player of the Year award whilst he was at Liverpool to find a Premier League player given the same status.
In Europe, clubs are being brought by foreign billionaires and huge amounts of money are being spent on squad expansion, stadium extensions and commercial goods. Paris Saint-Germain is an example of this – spending over £270m on players within three years of Qatar Sport Investment taking over. Since that period, the club has won 3 league titles, five cups and have competed in the Champions League quarter finals in the last three seasons – the investment clearly proving its worth. Their forward line is led by Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Edinson Cavani and PSG have a host of impressive names in their books. Although the club are enjoying success, you can’t help but feel the high wages and promise of further investment was a great lure for players of such calibre who, ten years ago, would’ve looked towards England, Spain or Italy to further their career.
In 2014, Manchester United brought Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao to Old Trafford as just two of a host of big-name signings intended to boost the club back into the heights of the Premier League. Before the transfer of Di Maria and the loan agreement for Falcao, the two had made a name for themselves in Europe playing at Real Madrid and Monaco respectively. Falcao had scored 150 times in 200 occasions for Porto, Atletico Madrid and Monaco before joining Manchester United and Di Maria had bagged 22 goals from midfield for Real Madrid so it was clear the two had bags of talent. However, they lasted just a year at Manchester United as both were labelled as two of the biggest flops in the league. Falcao was paid £165k a week but only scored on four occasions with the Reds and was only described as a disappointment. Despite costing a lot of money to bring them in, both players were quickly shafted out of the club and Di Maria’s sale gave them a £22.5m loss.
It wasn’t encouraging signs. Two talented strikers had failed to implement themselves on the Premier League and it seems their bad experiences may have put off potential incomers too. Liverpool hoped to make a statement by signing exciting youngster, Alex Teixeira from Shakhtar Donetsk. However, the Brazilian international opted to go to Chinese side, Jiangsu Suning FC in a shocking turn of events which further highlighted the impact of foreign investors after it’s believed he was lured by the promise of money. It’s rumoured the striker will earn up to £185k a week – an amount he wouldn’t have been offered at Liverpool.
As well as falling behind financially, despite investment at Manchester City and Chelsea in recent years, the Premier League’s success in Europe has fallen dramatically and this may be another deciding factor preventing players from transferring to England. It’s been almost 8 years since Chelsea won the Champions League – the last time a team from the Premier League won the competition. English team’s performances have been less than exhilarating in European competition and there’s even been talk of a Champions League place being taken away from the Premier League – a statement of just how much the league has fallen in the last decade.
If English clubs hope to attract Europe’s elitist strikers, they’ll have to start winning abroad and giving foreign players the lure of success. Money will always be an attraction in football unfortunately but the best of the best are always driven by the chance of success and to showcase their talents on the biggest stage. Premier League clubs need to become driving forces in Europe once again and renounce themselves as trophy contenders and hopefully a new generation of world-class strikers will provide entertainment in England once again.