Steve McManaman on BT Sport is fantastic. He was my hero on the field and having his experience and honesty on our screens is wonderful to behold. Many Man U fans will similarly enjoy Scholesy when he joins and enhances Fletch and Sav’s frippery; in fact everyone is grateful for Paul’s words of wisdom, especially in comparison to the hosts’ contribution. But he’s dour and doesn’t have the magnetism, class and impishness that Macca oozes.
I know many Liverpool fans feel he betrayed the club by leaving for Real Madrid on a Bosman ruling. He also managed to ostracise himself from the England squad at a time when he was just a superb footballer who made decisions that the powers that be didn’t like. I consider his omission from the national setup to be a major contributing factor in England’s lack of tangible success at that time.
He left Liverpool under the cloud of the Spice Boys tag, a free transfer and off pitch notoriety. But he left to join the Galacticos! He won the Champion’s League, twice. And two La Liga titles. He didn’t join the Galacticos, he WAS a Galactico! An England player excelling overseas for a manager who didn’t buy him – this did catch up with him the end though. Even with this unique experience and quality, England barely used him. Preposterous.
Nowadays we bemoan the lack of talent coming through the ranks and complain about the plethora of foreign signings across the Premier League. Rightfully so perhaps. English players certainly aren’t being snapped up by the big European clubs. Who is there out there? I can’t think of many high profile English footballer who plies his trade overseas…Wales have one in Bale, England? No sir. Not one from the current England squad plays outside England, in fact we’ve even had Championship players in the squad this last year. Brazil, by contrast, has players in many major leagues and at least three continents.
Would Harry Kane thrive at Bayern, Barca or PSG? Do they need him? Vardy? I can’t see it happening. And they are effective players for their clubs in the vaunted Premier League. Where are our superstars? Certainly our captain no longer fits that description.
It wasn’t always like this, there used to be a few players who had left England’s green and pleasant land. David Beckham arrived at Real as Macca left and was a true superstar, beyond Galactico even. Yes he was Man U but he was loved in an England shirt and, in some ways, he paved the way for Stevie at LA Galaxy.
Is the lack of overseas England players their own fault, is the ambition to venture away not there? The disruption of relocating their families too prohibitive? Perhaps life is too good in the EPL? Much as LFC are grateful Gerrard stayed loyal, few would disagree that he would have excelled at Real, Barca, Bayern, etc. Imagine these powerhouse collections of world class players with Steven Gerrard in the heart of midfield – what a prospect (one that many managers would’ve loved and probably tried to engineer).
What am I saying? Does England need to buck its ideas up? A huge money injection next year from the TV rights deals is not going to improve matters. Quite the opposite I fear.
EPL teams are bereft of genuine English talent (and by this, I mean flair) and many fans seem to laud hard work over skill and panache all too often. Paradoxically we are all mesmerised by Messi; everyone adored Ronaldinho; Ronaldo (R9) performed weekly magic; and Kaka was sublime. I’m glad they never came to England as they would’ve been condemned for anything short of perfection. But they certainly traveled with their football. EPL: best league in the world? For making money and then leaving to play proper football for fun again, maybe. Dele Alli looks to be breaking the mould it must be said.
There is no panacea. Despite all of the above, I still want Liverpool to sign Alex Teixeira. I also want us to play our current Teixeira! But more than this I want Ibe to have the freedom to terrorise defences; Ojo, Kent, Brannagan and Smith to get a proper run of games; our FA Cup youngsters to win the Cup; and Liverpool to show the world what England has got, inspired by our irrepressible German!