The helplessness with which many saw Manchester United succumb to Barcelona in last year’s Champions League final was a bitter pill for one half of Manchester. Even the other half, along with the rest of England’s powerhouse teams would have been left wondering how such a gulf in class could be narrowed in the foreseeable future.
Make no bones about it, Masia’s finest, aided by Latin imports, look set to continue dominating the ball against all, save perhaps Real Madrid, even if the results do not always go the way of the Catalans. But only 11 men can take to a field, and a Guardiola squad is a trim, allowing for products of Spain’s lesser known names to come to England.
While not peas in a pod, the similar technicality that David Silva and Juan Mata have given their respective sides is glaring, all the more so given that they make their older British counterparts look even more jaded beyond their years.
Twinkly toed, and deft at darting his way through a crowd like Dicken’s Artful Dodger, Silva has confirmed the old adage that size isn’t everything. Though one might say, size ‘Matas.’ In all honesty, a six-foot, broad shouldered Frank Lampard or Gareth Barry is never going to weave his way through a crowd, nor harbour the low centre of gravity needed to perform such feats.
Fortunately, while Spain has an abundance of Matas and Silvas, albeit not as classy, Barca and Real will still have first glance in the shop window, or in Barca’s case, the school window. This will mean that English football too will have to turn to its academies, using the Spanish blueprint as a benchmark. Aaron Ramsay, Jack Wilshere, Tom Cleverly and Josh McEachran all possess the correct parts, and just require the fine tuning.
From an England perspective, excusing the Welsh captain, who could yet, alongside Gareth Bale, galvanise the red dragon, England will be hoping that Cleverly, Wilshere and McEachran can be more than just international spare parts who only dominate their club midfields.
From what we have seen of this crop so far, the gap does have the potential to be closed, but we have heard this talk before....