The England national team will not succeed until the Premier League stops importing so much foreign talent and develops more of its own players, Germany's general manager Oliver Bierhoff declared yesterday.
Reacting to a question about his memories of the famous 5-1 friendly defeat Germany suffered in Munich to England seven years ago, Bierhoff, who has been a controversial figure in the German camp given the row involving coach Joachim Löw and senior players Michael Ballack and Torsten Frings, was equally punchy.
"Is that the only game you remember?" Bierhoff, a former German striker, replied. "I was sitting on the bench but I remember a lot of other games that finished with penalty shoot-outs." As a put-down it was final. There could be no comeback for England supporters in the face of the harsh realities of the 1990 World Cup and Euro '96 – a competition Bierhoff played in, and struck the decisive goal, in the final against the Czech Republic.
Given the absentees from England's squad, and the call-ups for young players, with manager Fabio Capello feeling he has to turn to the Championship and select Chelsea's Michael Mancienne, on loan at Wolverhampton Wanderers, then Bierhoff's criticism of English football was worthy of debate.
Winning the Champions League, with two English teams with a heavy home-grown bias in Manchester United and Chelsea was one thing, but allowing players from their own country to flourish in greater numbers in the competition was another, Bierhoff argued. He claimed that statistics showed more German players had featured in the competition in recent years than English ones – although the Premier League clubs could argue that their players are going further in the competition, including winning it.
But Bierhoff was adamant. "This shows that English clubs should promote their players more," he said of the stats. "English football should think about growing its own talent and giving it support. On the one hand the English league is the best league but a lot of English clubs are playing with a lot of foreign players."
However, there has been in the last year, a shift in English football that the Germans are all too aware of – the arrival of Capello. "He is a cunning player in the world game," Bierhoff said in admiration. "He has a winning mentality and he transmits this to his players. England are taking the anger at not getting to the European Championships to get themselves a good World Cup spot."
There has also been plenty of anger in Germany with Löw being rebuked by Ballack for dropping Frings, although both players were later forced to apologise. "There is a perception that Joachim Löw was a nice guy and now he tries to be the Vinnie Jones of German football," Bierhoff said. "But this is most definitely not the case. I have not seen a personality change in him but I do know that he was a bit cross at the internal squabbling and minor rifts that appeared in the German side."
Both Frings and Ballack, who was deemed not fully fit despite returning for Chelsea at the weekend, have been in Berlin for a "team meeting" to hear Löw lay down the law – although neither was included in the squad to face England. "If you want to call it a conflict then the conflict is done and dusted," Bierhoff said.Reuse content