Premier League versus EuropeIn the 28 years since the Premier League was established from the old First Division in the England, English teams have won the Champions League a sum total of five times – Manchester United twice, Liverpool twice and Chelsea once.
Last year was an aberration. All four finalists in Europe were Premier League teams. Liverpool played Tottenham in the Champions League final and Chelsea met Arsenal in the Europa League. Before last year only once had two Premier League teams played in the Champions League final. In 2008 Manchester United beat Chelsea on penalties after John Terry slipped while taking his penalty kick during the shootout on a rain drenched pitch in Moscow. There have never been two Premier League teams in the Europa League final.
Fans of the Premier League must be forgiven to feel that English teams deserve to be fighting for glory in Europe every year. After all, the world’s best coaches ply their trade here, it outspends other leagues handsomely in buying players and paying them mouthwatering wages and the stadiums are packed with raucous fans. But this year there was no English team among the Champions League semi finalists. Manchester City ignominiously lost to Lyon in the quarter final.
Having beaten Real Madrid in the round of 16, one could be forgiven to hope that it was their year. Despite the billion of Abu Dhabi oil money being spent on the squad, European glory eludes them. The best they have gone so far is semi-final in the 2015-16 season. Pep Guardiola was made the highest paid coach in the world to help the Sheikhs bask in glory but it has not been so. Having won the Champions League twice with Barcelona they thought the Spaniard was the one but they have been disappointed yet again. No Lionel Messi, no glory for him. In the three years at Bayern Munich, Guardiola did not even reach the final.
In the 28 years since the Premier League was established from the old First Division in the England, English teams have won the Champions League a sum total of five times – Manchester United twice, Liverpool twice and Chelsea once. The mid-noughties were the heydays of the Premier League teams in Europe’s elite competition. Liverpool beat AC Milan in the 2004-5 miracle of Istanbul, the next year Arsenal with ten men for much of the game fought valiantly against Barcelona, the year after that AC Milan took their revenge against Liverpool, in 2007-08, three of the last four were English with Manchester United beating Barcelona en route to the trophy, in 2008-09 once again there were three English team semi-finals but Barcelona got the better of Manchester United this time.
Since then the English teams have not reached the same heights. Roberto di Matteo’s Chelsea’s win in 2011-12 was fortuitous. An inspired Didier Drogba’s flicked header in the dying moments of the final took the game to extra time and eventually penalties. If any Premier League team deserved to win before Liverpool did last year was it was Liverpool the previous year. But serial winners Real Madrid were too street smart for the European novices, so to speak. Within minutes of the game’s start in Madrid, their captain Sergio Ramos incapacitated Liverpool talisman Mohamed Salah and the most successful English team in Europe never really recovered.
For all its popularity the world over, the English brand of football is quite different. There is a lot of huffing and puffing and players often run around like headless chickens. Players foul opponents nonchalantly. Fans bray for blood and crunchy tackles are cheered. Roman gladiators were probably cheered the same way two millennia ago. Entertainment there is aplenty. Fans would rather have their players sweat it out for the full 90 minutes rather than come up with moments of inspiration to turn the game around. Creative players like David Silva, Kevin de Bryune and Mesut Ozil in his pomp are few and far in between. Compare that with, say, a partially filled Italian stadium where the game is much more sedate and tactical, opponents are given space, teams wait for their chances to pounce and goals are much cleaner.
In Europe they play a different ball game.