For years, people have had to listen to English press ‘experts’ thump their chest and tell us that Premier League matches are harder than any other. The story goes that, in La Liga, the Bundesliga, Serie A and every other league, you have a few hard fixtures. In the Premier League, though, all 38 are tough.
It would appear that the belief isn’t just one that ‘Proper Football Men’ subscribe to. Now, we’re seeing people outside of this horrible little clique buy into this utter nonsense. Thankfully, fans of European football will be pleased to know that they have essentially the utmost authority in the game on their side.
Asked this weekend by a journalist after the draw with Everton about the difference, Guardiola was wonderful. He was asked if, after winning 4-0 against Deportivo la Coruna, he was concerned that Barcelona had it easier than his Manchester City side before the big game. The question essentially implied that the rest of the leagues are terrible, and that only in England do you get a challenge week in, week out.
In the other leagues you can just stroll through matches, or so people believe. Thankfully, Guardiola has played in Italy and Spain, and has now managed in Germany and England. It would feel safe to assume that, as one of the best coaches ever, he might know a thing or two about intensity and the difference between leagues.
Pep was utterly dismissive of such a notion.
‘The problem here is maybe that there are more games but the way that they play in Germany is… it’s amazing. I think you have to have respect for the other leagues, how they play and the way they play.
‘I think every league has its points but especially it’s the quality of the players and that’s the reason why.
‘In Spain in the last seven, eight, nine years they’re winning or in the final of all the European competitions because they play well because they have good players. That is the reason why.
‘Here there are more games to play, but the intensity in Italy, in all of these places, is the same.’
His introduction to this discussion should be instructive to all. Not only has he utterly shut down the idea that the other leagues in Europe lack quality but he’s put everyone right about the supposed quality of the Premier League.
Leaving aside the fact that the majority of the best players in the Premier League were imported (as well as all the good managers) the league itself seems to believe that everyone else is inferior due to club resources. When the clubs in most other leagues are still shocked at someone spending €10m on a player, it shouldn’t a surprise that you can be seen as the biggest fish when even the most average of Premier League teams could spend that much without trying.
The disparity comes from money – not from intensity. If anyone can understand that, then we would suggest that Pep might be the one to grasp that better than anyone else.