One of the striking features of the 2010 world cup was the failure of almost every player who plies their trade in the Premier League to make a mark on the competition. Perhaps the reason for such a poor showing in the first ever winter world cup was the fact that Premier League players do not get a winter break during the domestic season like in the other continental leagues. A more likely explanation however would be that we overestimate the quality of the league and can’t appreciate that the quality of players on show in England is not what it was.
It does seem remarkable that of the supposed vast array of talents provided by the Premier League only one player managed more than one goal in South Africa (Carlos Tevez – who only got 2). Every member of the England squad came from a Premier League club and clearly did not perform collectively or individually. Patrice Evra and Nicholas Anelka’s showings both on and off the pitch were instrumental in the disastrous French campaign. Didier Drogba, Africa’s great hope, was nowhere near as good a player for the Ivory Coast as he is for Chelsea (although he arguably wasn’t fully fit). Even the two finalists can not be said to have progressed on the back of the performances from their Premier League stars. The Netherlands’ Robin Van Persie and Dirk Kuyt were dependable but not spectacular. Spain’s Fernando Torres was severely out of form, and Cesc Fabregas – undoubtedly one of the best players in the Premier League – couldn’t even break into the Spanish team (although both did play a part in the goal which won the tournament).
Respected football men such as Arsene Wenger, Roberto Mancini and Fabio Capello have all suggested that a winter break would prevent injuries and improve Premier League player’s performances in major tournaments. Perhaps the lack of a break is a problem – although it doesn’t seem to have had much of an impact in previous tournaments. More likely is that we have an inflated idea of the quality of the Premier League. Sky Sports constantly ram down our throats that our’s is ‘the best league in the world’, but no Premier League team made it past the quarter final stage of the Champions League last season. It may be the case that while other leagues have moved on and developed their young players, the Premier League is too reliant on aging stars and is dropping off the cutting edge of international football. Perhaps, unless changes are made, the anomaly of poor performances from Premier League stars could become a trend.