Is the Premier League bubble about to burst?

By Michael Owen
cristiano ronaldo

Cristiano Ronaldo (Photo: Tsutomu Takasu)

All of the last five UEFA Champions League finals have featured teams from England — a true testament to the quality of the Premier League.

However, with one English side already out of Europe’s premier competition and the other three by no means safe, are we witnessing a power shift in European football?

Supporters of English sides have long boasted about the quality of the Premier League. For nearly two decades it has been considered by critics as the best league in the world. However, recent trends suggest it is no longer being the case as stars from around the globe are increasingly attracted to the likes of Real Madrid, Barcelona and other teams in Spain.

The most high profile example of such a trend is surely Cristiano Ronaldo’s record move from Manchester United to Real Madrid last summer, despite the English side being back-to-back Premier League champions and winning the Champions League only a season before.

Other big names have done the same with Kaka choosing the Bernabeu over both Eastlands and Stamford Bridge. Indeed every one of the five players nominated for last year’s FIFA Player of the Year award were from the Spanish League or now play in La Liga — a clear indicator of the quality of footballer attracted to the Spanish League.

And the trend looks set to continue. The well-documented financial troubles at some of the most successful clubs in England are more than likely going to force them to sell their bigger stars to their Spanish counterparts should they come knocking. The sales of both Xabi Alonso and Ronaldo from Liverpool and Manchester United to Real Madrid may just be the beginning of a mass-exodus of world-class talent to La Liga and, to a lesser extent, Serie A.

Additionally, the increase in the top-end tax rate in the United Kingdom won’t do the Premier League any favours. Despite their astronomical salaries, modern-day footballers still want more, and more is exactly what Spain can offer. The tax increases, coupled with the inability of Premier League clubs to meet ever-increasing wage demands means the financially-minded footballers — quite logically — are going to look elsewhere to ply their trade.

Of course it’s not all doom and gloom for England’s top flight. Television rights are still worth a fortune to clubs in the League, and demand for merchandise and tickets at the top clubs is still enormous. But as the big stars find the Spanish league increasingly attractive, it is likely football fans worldwide will too.

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