Most exciting league in the World; a reply from Argentina.

I was motivated to write this article after reading this thought provoking article by Matt at CONMEBalls which begins "Yesterday while driving home I heard commentator Nigel Adderley on Radio 5 Live refer to the Barclays Premier League as the most exciting league in the world when commentating on the Fulham x Manchester City game. And after shaking my head about it all day I've decided to put it into words and defend my choice of league." He then goes on to give several compelling reasons why the Brazilian league is more entertaining than the Premier League.

I wholeheartedly agree with the premise of his article. The constant cheerleading from the mainstream media in the UK for the Best League in the World™ is getting really stale.

I'm going to give my view from a more Argentine perspective than Matt's Brazilian one. As regular visitors will know my focus is slightly towards the Argentine Primera División, although I do my best to write about both of South America's biggest leagues and also cover the pick of the rest of the action in South America too.

For me the Argentine league is the most exiting because it has been the most competitive league in world football for several years (8 different champions in the last 8 tournaments), had three final day deciders between the two championship rivals in the last 4 years including the epic decider between Vélez & Huracán last year, has what is widely acknowledged as the best atmosphere in world domestic football and produces some really exciting young talent (Agüero, Lavezzi, Tévez, Di Maria, Pastore, Defederico.....the production lines just keep producing).

Argentine games usually attract a
few more fans than this.
I saw Primera División new boys Quilmes play Godoy Cruz in an empty neutral stadium last week because of a lockout in response to Quilmes fan's violence and intimidation towards their own players after their 13 game winless streak at the start of the season. The banks and banks of empty seats behind the action reminded me of watching Brazilian football a bit. This is not a dig at the quality of the game in Brazil, just the stay at home fans. There was plenty of drama, controversy, high scoring games and quality goals just this weekend in Brazil.

I don't want to make this a debate about the relative qualities of Argentina and Brazilian football and I don't want to make this about Nigel Adderley's comment either. I didn't even hear him say it and to pick one man out amongst thousands of media types and millions of armchair pundits for having that distorted worldview would be pretty unfair.

The British media is like a cocoon around the Best League in the World™ and to a lesser extent European football, probably only because they have unavoidable exposure to it whenever English sides play in European competitions. Anything outside the seemingly impermeable bubbles around British and European football hardly gets a mention. The mainstream media don't seem to care unless it has some sensationalist value, like another Maradona feckup to gloat over, an Asian dude bollocksing up on the pitch twice in a week to become an internet sensation or another Brazilian wonder kid to speculate about.

This abject lack of decent coverage is why we are here, to fill in the gaps for real football fans who are sick and tired of the old Gerrard vs Lampard debate, the two dimensional analysis, the tired cliches and the endless bits of recycled speculation, platitudes and hearsay about the Best League in the World™ celebrity brigade.

I reckon this stagnation of mainstream English sports journalism goes hand in hand with the stagnation of English talent in the game. Former players are more than happy to claim their massive (and very low risk) salaries as pundits, commentators and columnists rather than take up coaching or management. Lets face it, it doesn't matter how often they mispronounce the players names, go off on irrelevant rambles, repeat the same cliches and bad puns week in week out and even make jokes about having done no research or preparation about the World Cup game that they are about to be paid to watch and pontificate about. They wont be sacked unless they do something really stupid like say something racist on air or run a dodgy ticket selling scam.

Paul Ince, credit due.
This is why I give a lot of credit to the ones that choose to pursue a career in the high risk business of management, rather than the comfort of a TV studio. Paul Ince for example, at least in some way he is giving something back to the game while he earns his pay, rather than just soaking up a lifetime salary airing unoriginal and predictable views on the Best League in the World™ gravy train like so many others.

Youth development is a joke in the Best League in the World™, as is the English game's ability to export players but these are subjects wide enough for another article or two. We hardly have any English managers capable of winning a major trophy anywhere in Europe, less than 40% of the Best League in the World™ players are actually English. We export a tiny percentage of top class players compared to Spain and less even than the notoriously insular Italians. To put that in perspective there are thousands of South Americans plying their trade across world football, with varying degrees of skill and success, There are also dozens of talented South American managers and coaches at all levels of the game across world football.

The problem in the English game is money, it seems that the richer the Best League in the World™ has become the more dominant the rich clubs have become. The Premier League has been won by one of three super rich clubs for 15 consecutive seasons, the FA Cup has been won by one of four super rich clubs in all but one of the last 15 seasons, the only exception Portsmouth, and it is now clear that they spent well beyond their means to achieve it. Even the commonly mocked League Cup has been dominated by the biggest spending clubs for the last 8 seasons, the only exception being Steve McClaren's Middlesbrough team in 2003. It is worth mentioning that Steve McClaren is the only English manager to win a major European league since Bobby Robson won the Portuguese league with Porto in 1996.

The most successful English manager of recent years, Steve McClaren
now plies his trade away from the Premier League money pit.
McClaren is commonly derided in England for his failure to qualify England for the European Championships in 2008, however his success at Twente last season suggests that he is more than capable of building a championship side out of hard working and determined underdogs. Perhaps he was just unsuited to the task of getting that same level of commitment out of a bunch of super rich, pampered and egotistical players with massively overblown senses of self entitlement?

I would like to clarify that this is not intended as an all out attack on the Best League in the World™ or the massive influx of foreigners in the English game. The Premier League features many of the best players in the World, there is no shortage of skill, drama and controversy but the whole thing is spoiled by the predictability that has arisen out of huge financial inequality.

Other sports have come up with solutions to prevent this kind of boring predictability, the American franchise sports have the surprisingly socialist style draft system that ensures an equitable distribution of the most talented youngsters amongst the franchised teams. Rugby league has a salary cap and strict quotas on imported talent.

In South American football equality is ensured by the parasitic European market, which will strip the key players out of any championship side as soon as the transfer window opens. This means that the previous season's best teams will have to rebuild the squad with a mixture of teenagers, journeyman footballers and older players returning from European football, giving everyone else a chance to have a tilt at the championship. One of the main benefits of this situation is the fact that the majority of clubs have a large contingent of youthful local players from their own academies playing in their first team. The very thing that created the bond between the local communities and their teams in the early history of the game, a community bond that is becoming increasingly rare in the money and results driven environment of English football.

I realise that my view on this subject is not particularly popular. I've has several people counter my assertion that the Argentine league has been the most competitive in the world over the last four years with an argument founded on their own misconception of the meaning of the word "competitive", having used it as a kind of lazy synonym for "best". They also rage when I bring up the number of South American players across world football as an example, displaying their own small minded ignorance and contempt with statements like "of course people from 3rd world scum holes like Argentina want to come and play in the magnificent English Best League in the World™." and "why would any right thinking Englishman want to play in any  bloody inferior foreign league anyway?"

Commonly held views about the superiority of the Best League in the World™ amongst the general public and pundit class are self reinforcing. The more the pundits say it, the more the public expect to hear it and the more the public hear it, the angrier they get when someone has the nuts to tell them that there are several more entertaining leagues across world football than the familiar predictability of the Premier League.

btw - Quilmes got their first win in 14 attempts in that game without the presence of their supporters.


  1. Great read and good point's well made, well done!

  2. Cheers Rory, glad you enjoyed reading it.