Premier League: Can England No Longer Attract 'Box Office' Signings?

Ryan Bailey@ryanjaybaileyFeatured ColumnistJune 14, 2013

BARCELONA, SPAIN - JUNE 03:  Neymar waves to the crowd during the official presentation as a new player of the FC Barcelona at Camp Nou Stadium on June 3, 2013 in Barcelona, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
David Ramos/Getty Images

With a single tweet, Cristiano Ronaldo has inspired hundreds of transfer rumour stories.

"All the news about my renewal with Real Madrid are false," the Portuguese superstar microblogged Thursday, leading many British outlets, such as Martin Lipton of Mirror Football, to jump to the conclusion that he could be back at Old Trafford next season.

If C-Ron follows the current trends in transfers, however, he will be nowhere near the British Isles when the 2013-14 season starts up.

Right now, the Premier League appears to be having a great deal of trouble attracting high-profile, "box office" signings.

Consider the facts.

Radamel Falcao has been pursued by both Chelsea and Manchester United over the past season. Rather than head to the Premier League, the Colombian has chosen (well, his third-party owners have chosen) to join AS Monaco, the principality side that will be readmitted to Ligue 1 next season.

Robert Lewandowski was once due to conduct talks with Blackburn Rovers, but the volcanic ash cloud of 2008 scuppered his travel plans.

Since enjoying two exceptional seasons with Borussia Dortmund, the Polish striker has been linked to a host of English clubs, most notably Manchester United. Yet Lewandowski evidently preferred a move to Bundesliga rivals Bayern Munich, and according to Martin Hardy of The Independent, BVB have blocked any further pursuit by Manchester United (although in fairness, Stefan Coerts of Goal.com says they have also done the same thing to Real Madrid).

If Ronaldo stays put—after all, his tweet may have been a ploy to improve the terms of his contract—the biggest summer transfer of the season has already taken place. After years of speculation, Neymar has chosen to join Barcelona in a deal thought to be worth €57 million.

After completing the move, the precocious Brazilian revealed that he turned down offers from Manchester City and Chelsea, insisting he didn't want to join a side with a culture of regularly sacking its managers.

With the illustrious array of top-tier talent that has snubbed the Premier League in mind, take a look at the underwhelming calibre of players that have been signed up by English clubs so far in this window.

The biggest import is Fernandinho, a midfielder who cost Manchester City an eye-watering €40 million, despite being a 28-year-old plucked from Ukraine with just five international caps to his name.

He's joined at Eastlands by Jesus Navas, who may have a World Cup and European Championship to his name, but appeared in both predominantly as a bit-player substitute.

Down the road at Manchester United, David Moyes' first signing is never-heard-of-him Uruguayan defender Guillermo Varela, who has cost the league champions a cool £1 million.

At Liverpool, meanwhile, £7 million has been handed over for Celta Vigo striker Iago Aspas, a 25-year-old who has never represented his country at any level, according to The Telegraph's Chris Bascombe.

Clearly, the Premiership is not attracting the best players in the world right now.

To make matters worse, its brightest stars appear keen to leave.

Luis Suarez cannot wait to escape the harassment of the British press for a better life in Madrid, according to Graham Chase of The Express. Gareth Bale might not be able to resist the lure of the Bernabeu if rumours, via Mirror Football, of an £85 million bid and stupendous salary are true.

And Wayne Rooney seems keen to hop on a Eurostar to join Zlatan Ibrahimovic at the PSG "project," according to Steve Goodman of the Daily Star.

So why has the Premier League lost its pulling power?

Perhaps it is because the biggest players in the world sympathise with Suarez and do not want to be hounded by the scurrilous tabloid press.

It may be that competition is so strong at the top of the league that short-term success is not guaranteed for a glory-hungry megastar.

If a player like Neymar joins Barca, he has a 50/50 chance of a trophy haul every year. With Bayern Munich he would be virtually guaranteed silverware. With Chelsea or Manchester City, on the other hand, it would not be unreasonable to be denied success for a season or two.

The sacking culture and fickle inclinations of certain club owners have certainly put Neymar off coming to England, and this may be a broader perception among football's elite athletes.

Thanks to its overwhelming global popularity and unrivalled marketability, the Premier League is arrogant enough to believe it is still the greatest league in the world. The recent lack of box office signings, however, may be yet another sign that the tide is turning.


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