The Premier League might be the richest football league in Europe, but if the recent crop of Champions League results is anything to go by, there’s a long way to go before it is considered the best.
Manchester City, so dominant domestically, looked toothless and fraught against a Liverpool side that have, in the main, been inconsistent this season.
Kevin De Bruyne, Gabriel Jesus and Leroy Sane are expected to shine in this summer’s World Cup; they’re the cream of the crop as far as their international sides go, but they were ruthlessly put to the sword by a Liverpool side who remain nothing more than rank outsiders for the tournament as a whole.
Gabriel Jesus – By Agência Brasil Fotografias – Brasil estreia contra a África do Sul no Mané Garrincha, CC BY 2.0.
Meanwhile, Spanish sides were asserting their absolute dominance over their Italian counterparts with two first leg results that demonstrated how much further ahead they are than all of their European rivals.
We’ll come to Real Madrid in a minute, but Barcelona showed once again why they’re one of the world’s Premier club sides with an efficient and measured demolition of Roma. It was top against third in their respective leagues, but it could well have been top versus reserves as they controlled proceedings throughout. Technically, they looked on another level. Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez might not be getting any younger, but there’s little evidence their stars are on the wane.
Fellow La Liga giants Real Madrid went into their clash with Juventus as the lower-placed side. Third against top again, this time in reverse order, but the outcome was much the same. The evergreen genius Ronaldo, written off by critics, scored one of the season’s most iconic goals.
Juventus didn’t ever look like troubling the third best side in the Spanish league right now and when their fans applauded the superb Ronaldo, it became very clear that their nation had nothing comparable to the wonderful Spaniards. This is a Madrid side that are currently favourites to finish third behind city rivals Atletico in La Liga betting.
Back at Anfield and Manchester City, the pretenders to the crown, barely forced a shot on target against their hosts. They’re the champion-elect in England, the best side by a country mile and yet they couldn’t muster an effort against Jurgen Klopp’s men. As the minutes ticked away, any hopes of a Premier League resurgence in Europe went with it. If the cream of the Premier League can’t even beat one of their own, what chance do they have of claiming to be kings of Europe?
Ronaldo – By Ruben Ortega – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0.
It might have been Roma and Juventus getting annihilated in the other ties, but it could well have been Liverpool or Manchester City. The matches highlighted the immense chasm that still exists between the best and the rest, even though the driving forces of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi continue to age. Frighteningly for the rest of Europe, they’re aging like fine wines and simply mature and develop into something perhaps even better than they were before.
The money-laden Premier League will continue to thrive and offer up pretenders to the throne, but whilst £50m might by you Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang or Alexandre Lacazette, it cannot buy you the complete and utter dominance being shown by the greatest two club sides in the world. Money can buy you a lot of things, but it cannot buy you unparalleled and unequivocal success.