Monday, 9 November 2015

Too much pressure on International players?

Are international players treated differently than English players in the league? Are they under too much pressure?

There is no doubt that the English top division boasts the highest spending power in all of Europe’s football leagues, a fact that is backed by the presence of world-class international players at the leagues smaller clubs. Just have a look at this list:

1)     Stoke City – Xherdan Shaqiri, Ibrahim Affelay, Bojan Krkic
2)     Crystal Palace – Yohan Cabaye
3)     Newcastle United - Georginio wijnaldum
4)     Swansea City – Andre Ayew

The most telling statistic to come out of this list is that Stoke City now boast of a squad that has more Champions League winners than Liverpool, Arsenal and Manchester City put together!

Foreign players have made it clear that their intention with moving to lesser premier league clubs is to be seen by the English elite. It’s a pathway for them to prove that they can compete at England’s extremely intense levels, and possess the quality to play for a top English club. What this does is it makes the premier league a highly competitive competition where every game has to be taken with utmost seriousness.

It’s become increasingly difficult for managers to rest key players, and conversely, clubs are heavily reliant on their star players to shine. This is all great for football fans that now get to watch nail-biting matches, week-in week-out. Sadly, there is an inverse effect that the quick turn-around demands of the league and the pressure of performance have on international players.

In the past few years, we’ve seen big names like Angel Di Maria, Mario Balotelli, and Radamel Falcao walk in and out of clubs in the matter of a year. Eliaquim Mangala is relegated to the Manchester City bench, as is Juan Cuadrado at Chelsea. It’s quite clear that premier league clubs and bosses do not have much patience when it comes to form and output. Gone are the days when international signings were allowed a season or two to adapt to a new country, its language, the new manager’s tactics and so on.

If you look at some of the premier league’s greatest international players, you’ll see that a lot of them took time to fit into their role. Dennis Bergkamp took 7 games to score his first goal in Arsenal colours and scored 11 goals in his first season. Cristiano Ronaldo scored a combined 18 goals in 3 full premier league seasons at United before hitting his peak form. Didier Drogba took his time and finished his first season at Chelsea with just 9 goals.

The fact is simple - when you take a player out of his usual, comfortable setting and throw him into a new, foreign land - his life is disrupted. No, he doesn’t forget how to play football, but he might not been mentally 100% to play at his peak. Footballers are humans too and they need to get acquainted with their new surroundings, teammates, manager, club, environment – the whole lot, before they can play their best football.

With intolerance towards player performances growing, we’re going to see a lot more foreign players leave England after a season or two. The end result will be more Messis and Ronaldos playing in Spain or Germany, and fewer of them in England – in the end, the EPL and its fans will be the real losers.

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