Picture the scene.
It’s your wedding night, you and your new life partner sit down on the edge of the bed, slightly tipsy from the champagne.
And then they say: “Thing is, Messi has never played in England so he can’t really be considered a great. He’d probably struggle in the Prem, to be honest.”
Last night the mighty Man United were beaten 2-1 by lowly minnows Sevilla at Old Trafford.
Before the first leg, in which Jose Mourinho shrewdly opted to park the bus and rely on David De Gea’s superhuman reactions, Ray Wilkins gave his assessment of the La Liga side.
The former England international told TalkSPORT: “Where would Sevilla be in the Premier League? Bottom six? Probably.”
Well Ray, here we are, the morning after the night before.
Still think the team who have won three of the last four Europa Leagues would currently reside below Brighton, Bournemouth, Newcastle and Swansea if they were in the Premier League?
Wilkins’ comments were typical of the superiority illusion many fans hold true about football in England.
Yes, Arsenal, Spurs, Liverpool, Chelsea and the Manchester clubs mean the Premier League’s top six is more competitive than that of the other top European leagues.
In theory, we would see a trickle-down affect and that would make for a strong league from top to bottom.
But if this season is anything to go by, that is not the case.
The entire bottom half has been in the relegation scrap for the majority of the season and it’s telling that Burnley, hyper-organised and diligent in defence but low on resources, have occupied seventh spot for what feels like an eternity.
The gap between the top six and the rest is as wide as ever… okay, maybe not Arsenal.
The Premier League is a fantastic league, possibly the best in the world.
But to write-off other leagues as tediously inferior can make you look rather foolish, just ask Ray Wilkins.
Man United didn’t lose to an inspired Sevilla, they lost to an average Sevilla.
At half-time, Paul Scholes said on BT Sport: “This Sevilla side are poor, they don’t have a goal in them.”
It’s an ill-judged comment in hindsight but he was certainly right in his analysis of Sevilla’s threat (or lack thereof) in the first half.
Wissam Ben Yedder’s pinpoint finish for his first goal was impressive but the visitors’ second was a scrappy effort from a corner.
Clement Lenglet and Simon Kjaer performed well at centre-back and Steven N’Zonzi stamped his authority on the game in midfield but generally, Sevilla didn’t play to maximum capacity, nowhere near.
And yet they beat Man United, at Old Trafford.
The most ridiculous strand of the Wilkinsian argument is the idea that players can only be judged on their efforts in the Premier League because the standard elsewhere is laughable..
Messi’s loyalty to Barcelona works against him when those of this persuasion take to their keyboards.
You can try remind them about his four-goal blitz against Arsenal, his hat-trick vs Man City, his goals against Man United in two separate Champions League finals, but they’re not interested.
They call Radamel Falcao a fraud and point to his injury-plagued spell in England as evidence.
Never mind his 208 goals in 272 games for Porto, Atletico Madrid and Monaco — 45 of which have come in 56 European games.
Simone Zaza goes goalless for West Ham then reaches double figures for Valencia and they brand all La Liga defenders ‘farmers’.
But Mohamed Salah doubles his goal return by switching Serie A for the Premier League and not a word.
Football is complex; a myriad of factors are at work at any one time, in any situation, in any league, in any country.
It’s much more enjoyable as a sport if you’re willing to consider achievements outside the Premier League without contempt.
The gap between the best league in the world and its closest rivals is barely visible to the human eye.
Man United have paid the price; will the Wilkins’ of this world learn the lesson?
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