Ignore Premier League doom merchants

Trevor Steven
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SO the Premier League is going down the pan because only three of its players made the shortlist for the Fifa Ballon d’Or? Nonsense. Reports of its demise have been greatly exaggerated.

The argument goes that the 23-man Ballon d’Or selection is an accurate measurement of the health of the English top flight. I would seriously question how useful a barometer it is.

For starters, on what basis are players selected? If it’s on their performance over the last 12 months I don’t think anyone would argue with the fact Wayne Rooney (right) deserves to be on the list. Before his injury in March, he and Lionel Messi were head and shoulders above the rest of the world.

It seems to me as though the list is warped because far too much emphasis has been given to performances at the World Cup. England were dire at the tournament and I think all players from the Premier League have been tainted by association and marked down as a result.

In terms of technical quality, the Spanish top division is probably the best in Europe, but for excitement and marketability the English game leads the way. In this country we love open, hell-for-leather football and that is why it remains such a successful export.

Perhaps the acid test of a league’s strength is how well its teams do in the Champions League. For years we gloated about how many of our sides make it to the last four, and with such regularity. Last year none did and it’s crucial that this season the Premier League’s best bounce back.

I believe they will, however, because I think the division is stronger than ever. Chelsea look fantastic this season, Manchester City have emerged as a real force, Arsenal look as good as they have for years and United will be formidable again now Rooney’s contract business has been resolved. Outside the top four, Everton and Aston Villa are strong sides, as are Tottenham.

If next year’s Ballon d’Or shortlist only has three English-based players on it, I might be worried. But I’d prefer to see the selection process changed: players should be voted for month-by-month and then scores totted up at the end. That way dazzling performances earlier in the year would be given equal weighting to those a few weeks ago.