Thursday, 22 March 2012

Spain are not yet leagues ahead of England

A lot has been said about Athletic Bilbao’s extremely impressive win over Manchester United last week.

Defeating the current English champions both home and away led to a comprehensive score line and a place in the quarter finals.

A lesson in football and incontrovertible proof that the Spanish league is superior to the English Premier - I’m afraid not.

Firstly, it was one tie.

Not 5 seasons of dominance.

Secondly, you have to question the motives of Sir Alex Ferguson and look at the benefits of getting knocked out.

The Europa League is a great competition for the likes of Shamrock Rovers, Stoke City and Athletic Bilbao.

But it quite simply isn’t entertained by clubs the size of Manchester United, Manchester City or Tottenham Hotspur.

Especially when they are going for the league.

They all want to be sitting at the top table with Europe’s finest and if they fail to do so, see very little point in taking part in European competition.

So while Athletic did so comprehensively defeat United, you can’t help but think that Sir Alex was more concerned with his weekend trip to face Wolves.

This season has been a strange one for English clubs.

So dominant for much of the previous 5 years, they now find themselves with only 1 team remaining in the Champions League quarter finals.

Chelsea are the only side performing to a similar level that we have come to expect.

Manchester United took a calculated risk in trying to qualify from a relatively easy group.

Unfortunately for them, they got their calculations wrong.

It doesn’t make them a bad team overnight.

They took a risk and it backfired.

Had they scraped through against Basle however, they would surely be vying for what would have been their 4th final in 5 years.

Manchester City had the misfortune of being drawn in the group of death.

Roberto Mancini’s expensively assembled side is still on a building process and will no doubt be serious contenders for next seasons crown having tasted some Champions League action for the first time.

It’s worth noting however that it was Spanish side Villarreal who finished bottom of that group with 0 points.

Arsenal’s campaign finished with a thumping at the hands of AC Milan in the last 16.

They however, similar to another one of England’s Champions League stalwarts Liverpool, are undergoing a rebuilding process.

A process that the English league seems to be going through too.

This seasons results have not seen the shift in power to Spain.

But rather England’s dominance suffering a blip.

Next season should see the return of Tottenham Hotspur - a team on the up.

The two Manchester clubs will see themselves as major contenders.

And one of either Chelsea or Arsenal, who have both come through a tough season looking that bit stronger will no doubt be looking to reach the quarters at least.

Which league is stronger will not be answered by one victory by Athletic Bilbao.

But it did raise some interesting questions.

English teams, so dominant for 5 seasons now - have had a major blip.

Repeating this next season will cause much concern.

Maybe then the Spanish league will be able to stake their claim as the best in the world.

But for now - they must make do with the best side in the world.

Leagues ahead of everybody else in Europe.

Just not in the best league...


  1. Agree overall re Spain v England debate but dont agree that ferguson didn't want to win the competition. He put full sides out in both legs. His record of 3 trophies in 25+ years shows he has yet to master Europe (of the 3 one was on penos and another a last minute come back- and yes I know he has fallen at the final hurdle a few times)

    1. Apologies he has only won 2

  2. SAF has won 4 major European trophies and 4 minor European trophies...

    And 3 Champions League finals in the last 4 years, only losing out to perhaps the greatest clubside of all time, would suggest that he is one of the most successful managers in European club competition.

    Not many managers win the CL twice nor do they have such sustained periods of success in Europes main club competition like he has.

  3. Given the financial backing he has had over the years and longevity of time there you would expect him to get to a number of finals. I don't count european super cups as a trophy given its only 1 game, like the charity shield .
    He has never won the Uefa cup and the cup winners cup was Hardly the cream of Europe .
    Yes he lost to barca and yes they are one of the greatest teams but Fergie had that with scholes giggs beckham etc when they were viewed as the greatest team but they still floundered in Europe . And there hasn't been a lot of home grown players brought through in recent years. Jones and smalling are big money transfers , the brazilian twins arent bad , but he has not recreated the success he once brought through. The midfield only has Cleverly who has recently come through and he has a lot to prove . Rooney and berbatov cost a fortune and wellback is a decent prospect , as was luke Chadwick , Frazier campbell and Phil bardsley
    His "gamble" in Europe didn't pay off and this has happened in the past and ultimately he should be judged on trophy counts and not near misses (Liverpool would be top 4 this season if they converted their near misses)

    And 2 european cups in 26 years doesn't inspire . Benitez nearly had 2 in 3 years.

    I'm off to bed!

    1. Did you just say that SAF has to be judged on trophy counts and not near misses yet finish with Benitez nearly had 2 CL in 3 years?

  4. Since 1999 final:

    W 2 L 2 SAF
    W 2 L 1 Carlo Ancelotti
    W 2 L 0 Jose Mourinho
    W 2 L 0 Josep Guardiola
    W 2 L 0 Vicente Del Bosque

    QED: Most successful manager in Europe in the recent past.

  5. First part re: Benitez I was being facetious as it was you who said it! Second part - losing a final does not make you a success. Sheffield wed were no success in 1993 for losing 2 finals .
    I'm also unsure as to why you are saying since 1999 af is successful - he's been there since 86 . Guardiola only took over in 2008 so saying saf is more successful is simply wrong . Jose has only managed since 02 and has won 2 cls and 1 Uefa . They have to be considered more successful


  6. Josep and Jose might well go on to be more successful, but over the previous few years they have not been. QED.

    Your original point was that SAF hasn't mastered Europe yet. With his record over recent history being better than every other manager - are you suggesting that no manager has mastered Europe of late?

  7. Not sure how you can say over the previous years they have not been . Pep has won it twice in the last three years ancelotti twice in the last decade as has jose . 2 of the three are relatively new to management . Fergie has won it once this decade and once in the previous decade and a half (admittedly they didn't play in Europe due to ban in late 80s). That's 6 times in the last 9 and 2 with a chance of making it their third this year