So far in the 2014 World Cup, all England footballers combined have scored, in two games, the same number of goals as Luis Suárez has scored in his one game against England. Two.
All of which, inevitably, has led to the same-old howls of derision and complaint. And I’d like to add just a little of my own… Only, I hope, with one all-important twist. See, from where I’m sitting – on a New Jersey Transit train making its way slowly into New York – I reckon the same-old howls of derision and complaint might just be a whole lot of xenophobic nonsense.
Here, we’re always led to believe, is “the problem.” One: there are not enough opportunities for young English footballers to play for the best English teams. Two: the reason for this is a surfeit of highly skilled foreign players playing instead off them. Three: therefore, even though the English Premier League has an extraordinarily high concentration of world-class footballers it doesn’t result in a world-class England team.
Seems about right so far, doesn’t it? More-or-less, at least. BUT, of all the conclusions that we could draw from such a state of affairs, why do we hardly ever draw this one:
- It’s easier to become a world-class footballer by playing overseas.
Or, indeed, this even simpler one:
- It’s difficult to become a world-class footballer without playing football.
Ok, many people do reach that second conclusion, I admit… But surely they get the answer all wrong. Don’t force Manchester City to find room in their team to play Jack Rodwell every week – encourage Jack Rodwell to become a better player overseas.
Really, is that such an awful thing to contemplate? A year or three in Ligue 1, the Eredivisie, the Bundesliga… If you’re a young English player keeping the bench warm at a top English club, how about getting off your lazy arse and seeing what some other country has to offer? Be the man keeping someone else out the team! Become a fan favorite. Just, you know, GET BETTER.
Like, for instance, Luis Suárez did. He left Uruguay as a teenager to play a few thousand miles away in the Netherlands, where he scored 126 goals in 196 games. Before, of course, traveling yet again to join our beloved Premier League – and scoring, last year, 10 goals more than anyone else.
Maybe, after all, foreign ‘mercenaries’ like Suárez, Yaya Touré (played for teams in Belgium, Ukraine, Greece, France, and Spain), Eden Hazard (five years in France), Mesut Özil (three years in Spain), and Sergio Agüero (five years in Spain), and so on and so on, are not killing the English game while simultaneously grabbing greedy fistfuls of cash. Maybe, instead, they’re the lesson we really should be learning. Hey ho.