You’d need to be obtuse beyond belief not to notice that something exciting is happening in English football. And, no, it’s not the return of the Premier League.
England’s various youth teams have a sensational record over the last few months – Under-20 World Cup winners plus a list of beaten finalists, semi-finalists and now their U17 team are absolutely flying at the World Cup in India.
I’m working often with Luis Garcia (ex-Liverpool, Barcelona and Atlético), who’s currently working over there. And when he says “young” England are the best side he’s seen so far, you know they are the real deal. He doesn’t do flattery.
When Spain began to win or place in youth tournament after youth tournament it wasn’t in fashion for La Liga’s clubs to promote the young bucks quickly. What happened is that the tidal wave of success was so huge that, gradually, trust was extended and the generations of Puyol, Casillas, Xavi, Fernando Torres, Iniesta, Joan Capdevila and Carlos Marchena emerged.
The path ahead for the Premier League is not to wait, as England’s media would have it, to see whether players from these various new successful age groups “are good enough” to force their way through.
The way ahead is to trust them, throw them in and let that proof emerge over months – probably even seasons.
Until that happens the Premier League will still be a product where the sizzle is much more appetizing than the actual sausage.
The highest profile game in Europe this weekend will be between Liverpool and Manchester United.
But I’d wager that even after many of the players at the Wanda Metropolitano stadium feel the effects of what Spain calls the “Fifa virus” (after a couple of weeks of international football and huge waves of jet lag thanks to transatlantic flights or playing at altitude), the better football will be played between Atlético and Barça (tomorrow night).
But if you’re looking for an unexpected treat, do not miss Betis v Valencia – between them their matches this season have seen almost 50 goals.