This week UEFA announced their three nominations for their Player of the Year award (POTY). All three were from England’s top division. Ngolo Kante (Chelsea FC), Jorginho (Chelsea FC) and Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City FC) all beat out the likes of Lionel Messi, Robert Lewandowski and Cristiano Ronaldo for a spot on the podium.
This is just the latest in what has been a series of significant moments that have signalled the change in dominance from Spanish football to English. Most of us have become accustomed to Spanish dominance, especially from Real Madrid and Barcelona with the occasional trophy or award for Atletico Madrid… recently this has changed.
Yes, it’s tough to break a cycle of Madrid and Barcelona rule when perhaps the two greatest of all-time played there, both at the same time. Messi and Ronaldo ruled football for what seemed like an eternity. In all honesty, it was, well in football terms at least. The most prestigious award, the Ballon d’Or was won by only these two between 2008 and 2017, with even the year after that Luka Modric of Real Madrid taking home the trophy. Messi won in it 2019.
These two made it so incredibly tough for any other league, never mind player, to steer clear of the pack. They simply on a different level to everyone else.
Nevertheless, things have changed. Ronaldo hasn’t played his trade in Madrid for three years now and Messi moved to PSG this summer in what was the most documented move ever, it was once impossible to think of these two not in Spain but here we are.
Just like those two, football has also moved on from Spain. At the end of the 2000s decade and for the majority of the the last one, Spainsh football and particularly the two Madrid clubs and Barcelona were the summit of world football. The FIFA Team of the Year is a good measure of a leagues status. La Liga dominated in the 2010s and it was only towards the end that their dominance cooled off, 2013 was entirely Real Madrid and Barcelona with Falaco (of Atletico) being the only player not to make it from El Classico.
Yet since 2018, especially, Premier League players have been an ever-present and they’ve earned it. Not only that but English teams have been a real force in Europe too, with an English team appearing in 3 of the last 4 finals. Before that an English side hadn’t made a final appearance in 5 seasons. Something has changed.
Much of this has to be credited to the FA and The Premier League for their investment into the English game. The investment into grassroots and academies is really starting to show, with a generation coming through dubbed as the ‘golden generation’ some of the best youngsters in world football are coming through the English football factory.
The investment by TV deals and state owners need to be credited too. Like or not but new ‘super-clubs’ like Chelsea and Manchester City have changed English football for the better. They’ve improved the quality of player in the league, quality of manager and the infrastructure in and around their areas.
These two have attracted the likes of Pep Guardiola, Jose Mourinho, Kevin De Bruyne and Didier Drogba, something we may have not seen without this investment. Whilst investment has been put in smartly, most of the time, in England, in Spain it’s the opposite. Barcelona are in over £1billion debt with Real Madrid close to that figure. This has accumulated over poor transfers and high wages, resulting in them clubs losing their pull in the transfer market, losing Lionel Messi and Ronaldo and their spot at the top.
This spot at the top is no longer Spain’s. It is England’s, for now. Yet, just like Spanish football has shown, it’s difficult to stay on top. Let’s hope us English can stay here, it’s better for us all.