The Premier League has been lauded as the greatest on the planet for many years.
European glory over the past three days has confirmed it is indeed the best.
Lingering doubts about the PL’s elite not being able to get near the likes of Real Madrid and Barcelona have been blown out of the water.
‘Your teams are good, England, but can they conquer Europe? Hmmm…’ None of that chat from continental Europe anymore. For the brand and/or the image of the league, being the best of the best is important. EuroLeague basketball is good, but we know the NBA is the best.
The Premier League is now the undisputed top dog in the soccer world, with La Liga, Serie A and the Bundesliga knowing it has a heck of a job to try and catch up.
For the first time in history all four finalists in the UEFA Champions League and Europa League finals are from the same country, England, with Tottenham v. Liverpool and Chelsea v. Arsenal the lineup for the respective finals over the next few weeks.
Managers from across the league have applauded Jurgen Klopp, Mauricio Pochettino, Unai Emery and Maurizio Sarri in their press conferences on Friday, as there is a shared happiness and pride at seeing their colleagues, and rivals, dominate Europe. Because it wasn’t just the semifinal success. PL clubs were rampant in the group stages and battered some of Europe’s elite teams on their way to the finals with swashbuckling, gritty and tactically flexible displays.
This is a monumental moment for the Premier League.
Giants have finally delivered with huge player wages, massive investment in youth development and the ability to hire the best coaches all now bearing fruit.
The success of this season underlines the greatness of the PL, and puts recent European struggles firmly in the rearview mirror. The importance of usurping the rest of European soccer cannot be underestimated when it comes to the growing positive image of the Premier League in the global game, as a timely ego-boost has arrived for this juggernaut of a league. Alongside a historic title race between Man City and Liverpool, this European success story adds further fuel to the fire that the PL is head and shoulders above the rest.
For so long the best paid players and coaches have flocked to the PL, but cycles of European success have swung from Italy to Spain to Germany and then back to Spain. The gruelling PL season and no winter break was given as one reason why English teams struggled in Europe, but we all know that was a weak excuse.
Now it is the turn of England, and the Premier League, to shine.
Dramatic comebacks from Liverpool and Tottenham against Barcelona and Ajax kicked things off in dramatic fashion this week, then Arsenal and Chelsea finished things off nicely against Valencia and Frankfurt to complete the clean sweep.
In Madrid on June 1 and Baku on May 29, two finals will showcase the brilliance of the PL as fierce rivals will lock horns and the drama and power of England’s top-flight will be rammed down the throats of everyone on the global stage.
But we shouldn’t overlook the fact that certain circumstances have played into the hands of Premier League clubs this season.
Real Madrid have been a mess. Lionel Messi aside, this is not a vintage Barcelona side. Bayern Munich is in transition. Juventus relied on Cristiano Ronaldo too heavily. Atletico Madrid have been off. And PSG are, well, just PSG, as they crumbled in the knockout stages once again. In the Europa League, only Napoli and Valencia were real dangers to Arsenal and Chelsea. If there was going to be any year for the PL to dominate, this was it.
The Premier League has made the most of its chance to surge to the top of the tree in Europe and now comes the hard bit.
Only once in history has there been an all-English Champions League final: 2008 as Man United beat Chelsea in Moscow. In the 10 finals since then, only three Premier League teams have been among the 20 UCL finalists. An era of Spanish and German domination followed, as English clubs took their eye off the ball and the Premier League has had a mark next to its name over the last decade, with Chelsea the only winner since 2008.
European success during the 2018-19 campaign is a ringing endorsement of everything the Premier League now stands for, and it should now provide a platform for continued success.
Just as the rest of Europe is looking towards the UK from a political standpoint as Brexit continues to dominate the headlines, the rest of Europe is now looking at the Premier League with envy as clubs have found the perfect formula to succeed in Europe.
That is: Big spending, the best coaches and putting sustainable structures in place for future success with youth academies as the English national team has proved in various international tournaments over the past few years.
Continuing that success is key for the PL’s global status as the best league on the planet. Spending money to attract the best coaches to nurture star players in order to create a wonderful domestic league is one thing.
Beating all of your European competitors to prove you are the best is the cherry on top the Premier League needed, and now has.