Europe In Premier League’s Grip Once Again
Liverpool’s victory in the Champions League could usher in a new era of English dominance of European competition — but titans Real Madrid will not take the challenge lying down.
The 2-0 win for Jurgen Klopp’s side over Tottenham Hotspur in Madrid on Saturday was the culmination of a week of all-English European finals after Chelsea had thrashed Arsenal 4-1 in Baku to lift the Europa League trophy.
The Premier League’s European rivals have taken note of the English dominance this season, with many seeing it as evidence of the Premier League’s overwhelming financial power created by TV contract receipts that put other leagues in the shade.
A report from accountants KPMG last month underlined that financial muscle, with six English teams, ranked among the top 10 European clubs that generate the greatest revenue.
Manchester United were runners-up to top-placed Real Madrid. Abu Dhabi-backed Manchester City, the newly crowned Premier League champions, were in fifth place, ahead of Russian-owned Chelsea, US-backed Liverpool, and Arsenal, with Tottenham in ninth spot.
The looming prospect of Brexit does not yet seem to have had a detrimental effect on the growing incomes of the top English clubs.
For Tottenham, who reached the Champions League final after miraculous escapes in the group stage, quarter-finals and semi-finals, the question is whether their achievement shows mounting momentum or is merely a lucky high water-mark.
– Glittering new stadium –
The London club opened a glittering, 1 billion ($1.26 billion) 62,000-capacity stadium to rave reviews in April. It holds 26,000 more than the old White Hart Lane and the club has landed a 10-year deal to host NFL games.
How much of that increase in revenue will be available to strengthen the squad is not clear. The club reportedly took out more than 600 million in loans to pay for the stadium.
Tottenham’s dynamic Argentinian coach Mauricio Pochettino has been linked with jobs at Bayern Munich and Juventus. An emotional man, he sent conflicting messages in the run-up to the Champions League final.
While Spurs face immediate challenges to make the leap to Premier League contenders, Liverpool and their coach Jurgen Klopp appear to stand a good chance of dethroning City and winning their first Premier League title for 29 years next season.
Liverpool lost out to City by a single point in a thrilling race this season.
– Madrid spending spree –
The Daily Mail’s football editor Ian Ladyman said he expects Liverpool “will only get stronger from here”, tweeting that the “only feasible threat is the big Spanish clubs coming for the front three, which will happen at some stage I am sure”.
He was referring to envious glances aimed at Egyptian forward Mohamed Salah, Senegalese striker Sadio Mane and Brazilian Roberto Firmino.
Thirteen-time European champions Real, and Barcelona, who have won the Champions League five times, have had poor seasons by their high standards, and the response has been swift.
The Madrid club are widely expected to announce the signing of Belgian midfielder Eden Hazard from Chelsea within weeks. A host of star names are expected to follow.
Barcelona have raided Ajax’s precocious lineup, snapping up 22-year-old midfielder Frenkie de Jong. His Ajax teammate Matthijs de Ligt could join him in Catalonia, although Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester United are also reportedly interested.
France’s World Cup-winning striker Antoine Griezmann is expected to move from Atletico Madrid to Barcelona too, to bolster the ageing attack of Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez.
United’s wealth has rarely been matched in recent years by the same success on the pitch as they enjoyed under former manager Alex Ferguson. The Old Trafford club are expected to spend big to attempt to regain the Champions League qualification they missed out on in a calamitous season.
Perennial German champions Bayern Munich have also splashed the cash to begin rebuilding their squad, investing in French defender Benjamin Pavard and Lucas Hernandez from Atletico Madrid.
The problem for the Premier League’s rivals is that success is attracting ever more foreign investment.
Evidence of that was provided this week when Qatari investors linked to Paris Saint-Germain were revealed to be in talks with the owners of one of England’s sleeping giants, Newcastle United, about a possible takeover.