It's no news that England are a quarter-final side at best at big international tournaments (World Cups and Euros). Why? Because they're mostly just good athletes who don't get exhausted on the pitch.
Over the weekend I watched Real Madrid and Barcelona play. Alex Song was on the bench during Barcelona's 2-1 win. Seeing the lad, I couldn't help but wonder; no matter how good a footballer you are, you need some time to settle into your new surroundings.
So I thought of the lad learning Spanish, then I realized Fabregas played for Arsenal, Pique played for Manchester United and Mascherano played for Liverpool. Alex Song wasn't a stranger after all.
Then I thought of Luka Modric at Real Madrid. He can't speak a word of Spanish and nobody speaks Croatian in Real Madrid. So how does he settle in? Common knowledge of the Premier League- That's how. Alvaro Arbeloa and Alonso played in Liverpool while Cristiano Ronaldo was at Manchester United and Ricardo Carvalho was at Chelsea.
Let's concentrate on the Spanish allies only, Xabi Alonso, Fabregas, Pique and Arbeloa are first choice players in the all-dominating Spanish National side, and they all played in England before.
Apart from Fabregas, the rest tasted Champions League glory before going back to Spain. And this is the problem with the England National side. Either English players are good only for the EPL or they aren't good enough to attract scouts in Spain, Italy and Germany.
When France won the World Cup in 1998 and Euro 2000 it was largely thanks to its foreign brigade. Even Stephan Guiv'arch (top scorer of French League in 1998) was not always in Les Bleus starting 11.
Same with Spain in Euro 2008, World Cup 2010 and Euro 2012 where they employed the foreign brigade we identified earlier, mixed with those like Xavi, Iniesta, and Casillas who have never left Barcelona or Madrid.
There is definitely a Latin football style as practiced by Spain and Portugal. There is an Eastern School practiced by former Warsaw Pact countries and a Central European Style (France, Germany, Italy etc. - 8 World Cups won). Two South American currents led by Uruguay (tough) and Brazil (fluid) have won 8 World Cups too. I find it hard to classify the English because they entertain! Because they got pace!
When England last bragged at the World Cup (Semi-Finalists Italia 1990), Chris Waddle played for Olympique de Marseille in France, Gary Lineker played for Barcelona (1986-1989), David Platt went on to play for Bari, Juventus and Sampdoria, Paul Gascoigne for Lazio and Trevor Steven for Olympique de Marseille.
At this rate England will never have a chance at re-inventing football; even the mighty Brazil (5 World Cups) counts on a foreign core. That foreign contingent brings home what the local league lacks and without them, what you get is England 11.
Gerrard, Hart, Welbeck, Lescott, Richards, Sturridge are world class but they bring nothing new to England 11. Along with them is the overrated bunch led by Andy Carroll. Until England develops exportable talent like the French, Belgian, Japanese and Brazilian sides do ... the England 11 will always be a third tier team.
image: © Sorren Lissner