Philippe Coutinho's transfer from Liverpool to Barcelona has shown La Liga continues to dominate the Premier League for the best talent.
It was half a season. Just half a season. That half a season was all that Liverpool could put up in defence against Barcelona, when they came for Philippe Coutinho. We were told that Liverpool would only sell when they wanted to sell, and that FSG would back Jurgen Klopp with what he wanted.
Well, we should assume that he didn’t want to sell Coutinho, because he was his best player by a distance. Liverpool have other exciting players, but none with Coutinho's skill. Despite that, FSG and Klopp will see him sold to Barcelona for what could be £140 million. A decent price, but one that shows that despite recent spending, the Premier League is still well behind La Liga.
It began with the exit of Cristiano Ronaldo from Manchester United to Real Madrid. He left what remains the most popular and richest league in the world, to go for a raise and the promise of glory elsewhere. It took a few years for him to be proven right, but he claimed two Champions League, and two Liga titles. There may be more to follow if Zinedine Zidane can put his side on track.
Others followed. Luka Modric left Spurs for Real. Luis Suarez decided he would prefer life in Barcelona to life in the north west of England. Gareth Bale turned down United to go to Spain from Spurs. From Germany Toni Kroos had the chance to go to Manchester United but went to Madrid instead.
The players who left from Spain, like Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Ozil, Alvaro Morata and Angel Di Maria, came only because they were no longer wanted at the two big clubs in Spain. David de Gea would have left United if only there was someone on hand to properly work the transfer software at Old Trafford.
The Premier League earns the most money for all of its clubs, but Barcelona and Real Madrid are only challenged in the money leagues by United. Manchester City have their own peculiar funding from the start of Abu Dhabi, and United are hamstrung by the Glazer ownership.
City have relatively little tradition but plenty of excess money – United have the inverse. The surfeit will be claimed by their owners unless the top four finish is imperilled. Compare that to Barcelona and Real Madrid, where there are riches, trophies and sunny weather. It makes no sense for the best players to focus on anything except moving to Spain.
Coutinho didn’t play for City or United, so there was no promise of great wages or great success.
As talented as Klopp is, his club does not have the money to compete over wages, nor do they have the budget to compete for the Premier League. They have plenty of trophies from the past, and they will often finish in the Champions League places, but given the entrenched advantages of City, United and Chelsea, there is nowhere for them to go.
The Premier League is the richest in the world. It offers the best wages for those players just below the best. But Coutinho has shown that when the glamour of Spain approaches, Barcelona and Real Madrid can only be resisted for so long.
The Premier League might boast De Gea, Sergio Aguero, Kevin De Bruyne, Paul Pogba, Eden Hazard and others, but it can’t be ignored that it is only because the Clasico teams have let them stay in England – for now.