International Status in Football: to be or not to be
It is often said that English players do not tend to migrate into leagues other than the EPL, the main reason being stated that national team coaches rarely consider players in foreign leagues.
The same trend seems to be forming in the Spanish national team as Vicente Del Bosque has been seen selecting his team directly from the Barcelona and Real Madrid squads. A frequent jest that kept popping up before Spain’s matches was that Del Bosque’s pre-match team talk was usually: “All you Barca boys do what Pep’s says, and all you Madrid guys just follow Jose’s instructions!!”
But recent seasons have seen the likes of David Silva and Santi Cazorla leaving their homelands for more lucrative deals, and this has forced Del Bosque to look into the EPL as well. One could argue that it is different in the case of these two and Fernando Torres as they were already in the national team fame before making the move, but often is the case that talented players with an impressive record in foreign leagues have just been overlooked.
The names of Leon Osman, Michael Carrick and Ledley King would immediately pop up for an English audience. Though all these players’ absences could be linked with the two main axes of the English team: Frank Lampard & Steven Gerrard and John Terry & Rio Ferdinand, their performance year-in year-out should definitely have gained more plaudits, especially since they are playing in their own country.
It is a completely different matter for players who have flourished after arriving in a foreign land. More recent examples can be seen in Mikel Arteta and Michu. Arteta has been in England for the better part of the past decade, and fact that Wenger turned to the almost 30 year old Basque man at a time of crisis, just shows the amount of respect and confidence that top coaches have in Arteta.
The ex-Everton and Celtic man has been denied a role in the Spanish midfield by the emergence of another La Masia graduate, Sergio Busquets, who many find to be heavily over- rated. Though Arteta is a much more attack minded player than Busquets, it is impossible that Arsenal’s vice-captain will find space in any of the more advanced role due to the presence of a few other La Masia graduates such as messrs Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta and Cesc Fabregas.
Miguel Pérez Cuesta aka Michu is a different case altogether. After being the highest scoring midfielder in the Spanish League last season with Rayo Vallecano, his £2 million transfer to Swansea went unnoticed amongst the wads of cash splashed out by bigger clubs. But Laudrup had different plans for Michu, as he dropped last season’s star striker Danny Graham and promoted Michu to No.9.
With Christmas already around the corner, that Michu heads the goal scoring charts ahead of Robin van Persie, Luis Suarez and Demba Ba itself shows the importance of a good finisher ahead of a talented midfield. Are you listening Mr. Wenger?
One would have thought that Michu has done plenty to be considered for Del Bosque’s team, but the 26-year-old still does not feature in the national squad. Recently Del Bosque took up Michu’s name as a secondary option to the phasing out of David Villa.
With a false nine being preferred more by Del Bosque these days, a Fabregas or Silva can be visualized as more of a feasible option in that role, rather than a player like Michu who is not familiar in that role. Moreover if Del Bosque is really thinking of replacing Villa with Michu, one can actually not see the Swansea man playing in a left-striker role due to his limited technical abilities.
When the likes of Stewart Downing and Gervinho are seen representing their respective countries, one does often wonder if those who really deserve to be up there are ever going to be bestowed with that glory.
Here again comes up the small matter of selecting a country like England to represent rather than smaller ones like Finland, Jamaica or Ghana. Wilfried Zaha, Raheem Sterling and Carl Jenkinson all chose to join the Three Lions band wagon rather than taking the tougher route. This decision not only puts them under severe scrutiny of the entire nation, but also multiplies their market value.
National team pressure as well as status has often led to either disastrously high expectations as in the case of Keiron Dyer and Shaun Wright Phillips, or to the controversial exits of Terry and Rio.
The simplest route might be the one chosen by Albion keeper Ben Foster who turned down first team opportunities for England stating that he is not ‘that interested’ in football outside the club world.