Friday, February 24, 2012


    The English Premier League is often referred to as the greatest domestic league in world football, and having played over 120 games in it, I am inclined to agree. I have the utmost respect for the other big domestic competitions and have had the privilege of playing in the German Bundesliga, France’s Ligue 1 and the Turkish Super Liga, so I have certainly tasted a wide variety of domestic football. But in terms of pure greatness, for me, the EPL is where it’s at.
    For starters it is probably the hardest league to win, and now more than ever.   Thanks to the rise of teams such as Manchester City, Newcastle United and Tottenham Hotspur who are competing comfortably with the traditional big four of Chelsea, Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool, it is impossible to predict who is going to top the table by the time May comes around.
    That said, the best club team in the world right now is probably Barcelona. But while Spain’s La Liga can certainly make a claim to be the greatest league from a technical point of view, it lacks the intensity and passion of the EPL and is therefore by no means as exciting - and at the end of the day, football is about entertainment.  In Spain, it’s pretty safe to assume that the title will go to either Real Madrid or Barcelona each season and that is because the gap between the top and bottom in La Liga is so big. You’ll never see the likes of Malaga or Zaragoza winning at the Bernabeu or the Nou Camp.
    Whereas in the English Premier League, even this season, we have seen Manchester United put eight past Arsenal, Arsenal put five past Chelsea, Manchester United beaten at Old Trafford by a struggling Blackburn, Fulham beating both Liverpool and Arsenal, Manchester City losing to Sunderland and all three newly promoted sides pretty much holding their own – and that’s without even mentioning Mario Balotelli letting off fireworks in his bathroom!
    But this is why people all over the world love the EPL so much. It’s why over 1.4 billion viewers tune in each week from Cameroon to Canada, from India to Iceland, to watch these thrilling and unpredictable encounters. I read somewhere that 70 per cent of the world's estimated two billion football fans now regularly watch Premier League matches, far in excess of either the Spanish or Italian leagues – regardless of the appeal of Barcelona, Real Madrid, Inter Milan and AC Milan. And it is that unpredictability – far more than pure footballing excellence – which seems to make the Premier League so compelling.
    In addition, actual attendances in the EPL are higher than in its rival leagues. The majority of EPL clubs are sold out every week - football fans voting with their feet. Nobody wants to miss a second of the action, even if it involves paying a sizeable amount of money to do so, and that speaks volumes.
    And from my own experience with Bolton, players love the EPL too. That’s why so many flock to play there from all corners of the world. The passion, the intensity, the atmosphere, the tradition – it’s pretty hard to beat. And while it continues to attract the world’s greatest players, the English Premier League is only going to go from strength to strength.
    Please remember to drink responsibly, strictly 18+/21+.
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