Thursday, May 22, 2008


After yesterday's rousing Champions League final between Manchester United and Chelsea, the worlds' eyes are certainly on England, a soccer-mad country which placed 3 teams in final 4 of UEFA's most prestigious competition. The phenomenal quality of the affair, which saw Man U eke out a 6-5 victory by PKs, may well finally drive home a point that I've been making for a while now: the English Premiership is, by leaps and bounds, the best soccer league in the world.

Consider: in the past 3 years, the fabled "top 4" teams in England--Man U, Chelse, Arsenal, and Liverpool--have all reached a Champions League final. Additionally, were it not for an ill-advised red card drawn by Jens Lehmann several years ago, we might well be celebrating the fact that 3 different English clubs had hoisted the UEFA trophy in a span of 4 years.

People love to point to Spain--to the Bernabeu and the Nou Camp, where traditional European powers continue to lure quality players with the prospect of mega-club football. There's also Italy, where perennial European giants AC Milan can afford to buy nearly anyone.

Now... it's hard to liken football's team-trading to anything in American sports. There aren't tidy analogies to be found, simply because European football spans numerous countries, each with its own culture, environment, and soul.

Still, though... why would any world-class player want to play anywhere but England right now? If, for example, Cristiano Ronaldo leaves Manchester United for Real Madrid, I will be shocked. Sure, their past is storied, and they always contend for trophies... but look at the state of the game. England is consistently placing one or two teams in the Champions League semifinals these days. It also says a lot that the best English-born players--John Terry, Wayne Rooney, Steven Gerrard, and Frank Lampard--have chosen to stay in their native league.

As things stand now, Chelsea are a team with limitless potential; Manchester United have a core of players that could win any number of trophies; Arsenal are among the most consistently competitive and exciting teams in the world; and Liverpool under Rafa Benitez display an extreme knack for European competition.

Other than Barcelona, AC Milan, and Real Madrid (the traditional giants), who else in the world is going to challenge the dominance of England right now? Going into next season, one has to like the odds of Man U, Chelsea, Arsenal, or Liverpool hoisting the CL trophy yet again.

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