Thursday, 28 October 2010

The 2010 Ballon d'Or Shortlist: The latest indication of the demise of English football

X. Alonso, I. Casillas, M. Ozil, C. Ronaldo (R Madrid)
D. Alves, A. Iniesta, C. Puyol, L. Messi, D. Villa, Xavi (Barca)
D. Forlan (A Madrid)
S. Eto'o, J. Cesar, Maicon, W. Sneijder (Inter)
M. Klose, P. Lahm, T. Müller, A. Robben, B. Schweinsteiger (B Munich)
D. Drogba (Chelsea)
C. Fabregas (Arsenal)
A. Gyan (Sunderland)

This is the 23-man shortlist for the 2010 Ballon d'Or. The reaction of the English press to it has been predictably glum. Rightly so. For the first time since 1995, there is not one English player nominated for the award. Furthermore, the Premiership's claims to be the best league in World Football is looking more and more suspect as only three players from the English top flight have made the exclusive list – in reality it should only be two as Asamoah Gyan only moved to Sunderland over Summer.

The announcement of this shortlist serves as a useful means for me to conclude my bleak insight into the state of English football, a theme that has dominated the blog since England's woeful World Cup.

The most prestigious footballing accolade illustrates the trouble that English football finds itself in. This is not to say that the absence of England's finest from the award ought to be met with all-out doom and gloom. Nevertheless, Fifa's shortlist is the latest condemnation of English football.

Quite simply, the vast majority of the world's best players apply their trade in elsewhere. Financially, the Premiership can no longer assert its dominance over other divisions. England's big stars are dwindling while the intensifying search for a new generation of world-class players has proven relatively fruitless.

This is not to say that the Premiership is not still the most entertaining league in world football. It probably is. This is not, however, a result of the quality of the football but rather the style and perhaps the lack in quality that is cohesive with entertaining matches. England's dismal performances in South Africa were certainly, in part, a result of the declining quality of Premiership football.

A crumbling economy, off-the-field distractions for players, a lack of emphasis on nurturing home-grown talent by clubs and declining numbers of English players, managers and owners in the Premiership have, as I have commented on various occasions in the past three months, played a fundamental role in the recent demise of English football.

The time, not so long ago, of English teams dominating the latter stages of the Champions League has past. The lure of the Premiership for foreign players has waned - the transfer activity over the past few years has seen the big names flying out of England while, with the exception of Manchester City's signings, few are coming in.

This post may seem overtly negative. English football is far from being in a state of complete disarray. There are, however, underlying problems that need to be addressed. The World Cup made that much abundantly clear and Fifa's Ballon d'Or shortlist has emphasised it. Our view of England's position within world football must be re-evaluated.

It appears to be abundantly clear that England is falling behind their European rivals. The passion for the sport remains unfaltering but the way the game is run is a far more serious concern, though. Their approach to grass-roots level coaching, whether it be young players or new coaches, falls short of the standards of the likes of Germany, Spain and Holland. The infrastructure of English football needs to be reassessed. Our over-reliance on a very slow stream of stand-out players, of which Jack Wilshere promises to be the latest (hence the huge amount of hype surrounding him), has left England evidently short on genuine world-class talent and sufficient strength in depth.

The clubs have a tendency to be too short-minded to invest in youth. Too many top players seem to be lacking a functioning moral compass (the likes of Giggs and Scholes being the exceptions that prove the rule) which hinders their ability to maintain progress on-the-field. It is, to an extent, a cultural issue. The huge wages and celebrity status that now comes with being a professional footballer in England can easily diminish a love for the game and a hunger to succeed. The FA, meanwhile, spends more money on failing managers rather than attempting to find solutions to problems at the grass-roots level.

We know the Ballon d'Or will not be won by and Englishman this year. What remains unknown is when an English player will win one again. Michael Owen was the last Englishman to do so in 2001. He ended the 22-year wait since Kevin Keegan had picked up the award back in 1979. It seems likely that, unless the faltering foundations of English football are corrected, England may be facing an even longer wait this time around.

Thoughts, comments and opinions please...


  1. Since when was any decision made my Fifa a fair reflection on football? The inclusion of Gyan in the list strips it of any credibility. They have clearly based it almost entirely on the WC which is completely wrong.
    Both Rooney and Lampard enjoyed their most successful domestic seasons ever compared to someone like Klose who barely played for Bayern and only scored about 5 goals in the whole of last season. But because he scored a few goals in the WC he made the list (even though he let his nation down by stupidly getting sent off against Serbia).
    If the Premiership isn't the highest quality league in the world then what is? The Spanish league maybe, where third place finished 20+ points behind second? Suggesting that the English league is exciting due to 'lack of quality' is absolutely ridiculous.

    Awful stuff Pollard.

  2. There may be a point in saying that Fifa's list is not accurate. Dispute will surround any Ballon d'Or shortlist. There are many other non-English players like Militio who could feel aggrieved not to make the cut. Nevertheless, to bemoan the selection policy would be the easy option.

    Instead, I have simply used the list to underline and conclude my recent exploration of the concerning state of English football. Although I will accept that this and previous posts may portray too negative an image of English football, the fact remains that there are serious problems that need to be addressed.

    The Anglo-centric claim that the Premiership is the best league in the world cannot stand up anymore. The quality of the players has fallen short of those abroad. The Premiership entertains in spite of technical and tactical flaws.

    Priorities need to be altered in English football. The passion and love for football in England is not matched by the media-attention-seeking and money driven boardrooms at the clubs. Off-the-field stories so often dominate the back pages for English football.

    I accept your opinion, of course, but perhaps you have over-looked the main idea of this and my previous few posts. There are financial and cultural issues that are more serious than any award. I have merely used Ryan Giggs and the Ballon d'Or (to name but two) as subjects through with which to explore these problems. The shortlist was of little interest to me beyond the simple absence of English players. The post was far more concerned with English football in general. If you don't believe that these problems exist in the foundations of English football than that is a different matter. Whether or not Klose should be on the list is ultimately of little importance.


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