5 Premier League Players Who Would Shine in Another League
You would be hard-pressed to formulate an argument against the English Premier League being the best division in world football.
In Spain the duopoly of Real Madrid and Barcelona has been broken by only three clubs in 29 years (and that was on just five occasions), while the Bundesliga title has been shared by Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund in 13 of the past 16 seasons.
In terms of the quality of football and pedigree of players, both La Liga and the Bundesliga are there—but while the latter matches the openness of the title-race, neither can equal the sheer pace and excitement of the English top-tier.
That assertion is backed by viewing figures, and according to the Premier League website, last season the division was broadcast in 212 countries to an audience of 4.7 billion, with TV rights translating into astronomical player wages, as detailed by Sporting Intelligence.
So it is not hard to see why players from every time-zone on the planet are drawn to the English top-flight, but, as expected, the speed and physicality prove too much for many.
However, strugglers are by-the-by—a more interesting debate is which of the current Premier League crop would excel if they were transplanted to other shores.
Naturally most would be the star of, say, the Qatar Stars League or the A-League (which makes even Emile Heskey look talented), so we’ve whittled it down to five who would shine in some of the world’s other leading divisions.
All stats courtesy of Transfermarkt unless linked otherwise.
As with any young player at a mid-table club, whose development has accelerated over the past couple of years and is about to enter his prime, Schneiderlin has had his share of media speculation over the summer.
From being ordered by the club to miss Southampton’s final friendly match of the pre-season due to not being “mentally prepared”, via SkySports, to telling the BBC that he is “happy at the club for now”, the Frenchman has had an interesting summer.
Like many of his teammates at St. Mary's, both past and present, Schneiderlin’s stock has risen significantly, and unsurprisingly there is no shortage of potential buyers should the exodus continue, either before the end of today or in January.
But while the 24-year-old was rumoured by the Express, among others, to be angling for a reunion with Mauricio Pochettino at Tottenham Hotspur, there is somewhere else that his considerable talent could be used to great effect.
Suggested move: Serie A
Even at the height of the division’s fame in the 1990s, the cream of Italian football never quite managed to shake its reputation of "defence is the best form of attack."
Despite being home to some of the most technically gifted players in the game, it is still in the grip of its reputation and even meetings between the top teams are often tepid affairs where more emphasis is placed on not losing than winning—which is exactly the kind of environment in which Schneiderlin would thrive.
As detailed in this FourFourTwo article, the Strasbourg youth academy product recorded the Premier League’s highest tackle and interception rates in his first top-flight season, as well as averaging seven miles per game.
Put him in front of a typically miserly Serie A defence and, coupled with his ability to distribute the ball to the wide men and adaptation to the dynamic complexion of the Premier League, Schneiderlin could have found his natural habitat.
You might say that the Japanese international has already shown what he can do playing in another league, and you would be right—Kagawa’s integral role in back-to-back Bundesliga titles with Borussia Dortmund say as much.
While he possess almost faultless technique and the ability to thread exquisite passes through seemingly non-existent gaps, since arriving at Manchester United in 2012—despite a brilliant early-days hat-trick against Norwich City—he has struggled to replicate the form he exhibited in Germany.
Kagawa’s problem is that he is naturally just too light-weight for the rough-and-tumble Premier League, an issue that won’t be solved by spending hours in the gym.
His nous for finding pockets of space and quickly recycling the ball is excellent, but when you are crowded out by towering defenders and don’t have the upper-body strength to hold your ground, it is always going to be a losing battle.
That, and the fact that he spent most of his time shunted out to the left and since January has had to compete (past tense explained in a second) with Juan Mata for a behind-the-striker berth hasn’t helped him integrate any further.
Suggested move: Back to the Bundesliga
Having already shown what he can do in the forward ranks of the Schwarzgelben, and Jurgen Klopp having regularly sung his praise, via the Daily Mail, in retaliation to Kagawa’s lack of playing time in Manchester, a return to the Ruhr valley seemed in order…
Update: How nice it is to be proved right, as Dortmund announced on Sunday that their former player has been re-signed, following two disappointing years in England.
Outside of the Premier League, the Bundesliga is one of the faster-paced environments in world football, but does not have the same physicality and apparent refereeing lenience, while Kagawa will be confident having already made it his home once already.
Now comes the task of ousting one of Henrikh Mkhitaryan et al for a place in the starting-11…
A couple over years ago it looked as though the Chelsea stalwart was on the way out.
After spending his entire senior career at Chelsea, Terry appeared to be getting even slower while losing the positional sense and aerial ability that had made up for his characteristic lack of pace over the years.
Then Jose Mourinho returned, and so did Terry’s confidence, and he regained the form that, combined with his natural leadership and heart-on-sleeve approach, ensures his status as a Stamford Bridge legend regardless of his personality traits.
It’s not often that a 33-year-old continues to hold down a starting-spot in a top Premier League team, especially not one as rife with talent as Chelsea’s, but Terry has defied the odds and is showing no signs of flagging—but it can’t last forever.
Suggested move: Major League Soccer
When the time comes, the Barking native would do well to follow in his former teammate Frank Lampard’s footsteps and head for the States.
Not only would he secure a lucrative final contract, but the credibility of MLS is building year-on-year as more top players choose to end their careers there and football’s popularity grows as a result of the national team’s performances in the previous two World Cups.
Style-wise, MLS football is not too far from the Premier League, with its hard-and-fast attitude likely to provide Terry with a smooth transition when Mourinho finally decides to let him go and allows for any slight drop in timing and positioning.
And, as with many ageing players who have made the trip, the effect that his experience would have in a league that it is still developing would be highly beneficial for the increasing number of clubs that are looking to develop U.S. and Latin American-born players in their own academies.
The 216,355th wunderkind to be hyped as the saviour of England’s international prospects in the last 20 years, Wilshere has been under immense pressure since becoming Arsenal’s youngest ever player aged 16.
His talent is undisputed—extraordinary vision, stamina, deftness of touch, leadership qualities, always gives his all…the list could go on, and features everything you need in the centre of the park.
But out of the nearly six years Wilshere has been a senior player, according to talkSPORT he has spent over 20 months on the side-lines through injury, making just 137 appearances.
Gooners around the world wince every time Wilshere goes into a challenge, with each collision almost invariably ending in him lying on the floor clutching his right ankle.
While Wilshere clearly has some issues with his right leg, something that is likely targeted by his opponents, it can in part be attributed to the hard-tackling nature of the Premier League.
Suggested move: La Liga
Wilshere’s passing and technical ability would slot right into Barcelona’s tiki-taka system, and while Blaugrana players tend to draw more fouls than most, they are far less damaging than those that Premier League referees turn a blind eye to.
Real Madrid’s direct spear-head attacks aside, Spanish teams favour co-ordinated build-up play—an approach that would have Wilshere firmly in his element as the midfield metronome.
He would also develop significantly faster without the long stays in the medical room as a result of constantly getting scythed down.
Don’t take this as an inference that Hazard is out of his depth in the Premier League—24 goals and 23 assists in 72 Premier League appearances immediately dispel any ill-conceived notions.
While many players from the continent—especially a division as comparatively lacking as Ligue 1 where Hazard made his name with OSC Lille—take a while to adjust when dropped in at the deep end of English football, the Belgian provided six assists and one goal in his first three Premier League games.
When it became clear in 2012 that the Belgian international would be leaving the club he joined as a youth to move on to bigger things, his reputation, even as a 21-year-old, brought a whirlwind of speculation as to whose line-up would receive an explosive burst of attacking energy.
Suggested move: La Liga
But imagine the effect those surging runs, splicing pull-backs and feather-light touches could have if utilised in the relatively slower and contemplative arena of Spanish football.
Real Madrid, and more recently Atletico Madrid, have been rewarded for their direct and adventurous approach, personified by players such as Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale and their ability to run straight at defenders who are more at home when the opposition pass the ball around and wait for an opening.
Having already been compared to a young Ronaldo—and widely considered to be more complete at the same stage of his career—Hazard would take the transition in his stride and very likely be even more effective than he is in England.
While Barcelona have started to lean towards running forwards in the past couple of years with the purchases of Neymar and Luis Suarez, Real Madrid is the natural option, though usurping Ronaldo on the left-wing is about as a tall an order as they come.