The Last Word: Do the galacticos shun us because visiting Stoke just isn't much fun?

New managers at the top three Premier League clubs at least promise more intrigue this season

You can hardly say that football abhors a vacuum when it cheerfully accommodates so many of them every Saturday night – even if it's true about Lawro and Match of the Day. But a summer void, conversely, can certainly make football feel pretty abhorrent. Without the lush oasis of a World Cup or European Championship, parched fans find themselves marooned in a desert of cruel mirages and cactus spikes of vicious self-interest.

Robert Lewandowski, for instance, is complaining bitterly that Dortmund – Champions League runners-up, no less, inspiration for all those clubs clinging pathetically to the hope that imaginative coaching and transfers can still foil sheikhs and oligarchs – are "unfair" in inviting him to do what it says in his contract, namely, to play the odd game of football for its duration. He has hinted darkly that, forced to adhere to these exorbitant terms, inner misery might infect his performance. Let's hope Amnesty International is on the case.

After Gonzalo Higuain evaporated into a quivering haze of petrol fumes, meanwhile, the unnerved club that once spat Jay Bothroyd from its craw for throwing his shirt at Don Howe in a youth cup final, swiftly turned to a player whose most recent transaction with a London club entailed a very literal claim for his pound of flesh, from Branislav Ivanovic.

But if this summer has once again exposed meretricious players, clubs and agents, it has also starkly disclosed the diminished status of a league extolled – routinely and ludicrously – as the best in the world.

There is still time, naturally, for some flattering "correction". As things stand, however, most of the biggest names on the move have conspicuously abjured the Premier League: Cavani, Falcao, Neymar, Rodriguez, Götze, Moutinho, Llorente, Isco. So far only Manchester City and arguably Spurs – seemingly about to lose an indigenous one – have contrived to tempt anything resembling a galactico to these shores.

Now, obviously, some of these deals reflect the latest, dazing escalation in the football arms race, and the brazen ruses by which Financial Fair Play already has its teeth tied to a swinging door. With luck, Ipswich Town can soon announce a £200m shirt sponsorship from Tourist Information at Bury St Edmunds. In the meantime, PSG and Monaco light a path through FFP – towards a duopoly that threatens to kill off their domestic league.

In turn, meanwhile, some of those clubs who have banked Qatari and Russian millions have been enabled to divert other targets – such as Higuain himself, or David Villa – from English suitors. In this country, needless to say, we have long inhabited too lavishly glazed a palace to start throwing any stones on that account. And it is not as if Juventus, for instance, depended on financial muscle to lure Fernando Llorente (he arrived on a free transfer – just like Andrea Pirlo and, for that matter, Paul Pogba).

Whisper it softly, but is it possible that Europe's elite players are beginning to mistrust an environment that earned no more friends in somehow winning the Champions' League two seasons ago than with the collective poverty of its football next time round? Did young stars such as Thiago Alcantara and Isco perhaps notice that the last Premier League season, aside from redressing the melodrama of the previous one with numbing tedium, was also disastrously bereft of quality?

When Chelsea won the Champions League, of course, they contrived to stop both Barcelona and Bayern Munich. But the club's owner himself seemed so ashamed by the way his dream was achieved that he started to recruit players who might sooner help them emulate Barcelona and Spain. Sure enough, Bayern promptly came up with a superior model.

These things go in cycles and the resources of the Premier League are such that it can certainly rise to the challenge. New managers at the top three at least promise more intrigue, this time round, and adventurous young coaches at clubs like Everton, Swansea and Southampton will not share the dangerous delusions of the league's cheerleaders.

Because it's not about the shallow glamour, about all those vanity signings mysteriously demanded by fans no less than by nouveaux owners. It's not about the European clubs who have outspent the Premier League this summer. The real problem is the median. For what kind of wage seriously warrants the indignity of playing West Ham or Stoke, when even unfashionable Serie A might introduce you to Fiorentina one week, say, and Catania the next?

The big spenders across Europe think there's room at the top. In this country we must beware a rather deeper vacuum.

Suggested Topics
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
filmDirector said film would 'never have been financed' with ethnic minority actors in key roles
News
people
Sport
footballArsenal 2 Borussia Dortmund 0: And they can still top the group
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
An unseen image of Kurt Cobain at home featured in the film 'Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck'
film
News
Andy Murray with his girlfriend of nine years, Kim Sears who he has got engaged to
peopleWimbledon champion announces engagement to girlfriend Kim Sears
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden and Edwina Currie are joining the I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! camp
tv
Arts and Entertainment
George Mpanga has been shortlisted for the Critics’ Choice prize
music
News
Albert Camus (left) and Jean-Paul Sartre fell out in 1952 and did not speak again before Camus’s death
people
Arts and Entertainment
Roisin, James and Sanjay in the boardroom
tvReview: This week's failing project manager had to go
News
Ed Miliband visiting the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem. The Labour leader has spoken more openly of his heritage recently
newsAttacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But are the barbs more sinister?
Arts and Entertainment
'Felfie' (2014) by Alison Jackson
photographyNew exhibition shows how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
News
i100
Life and Style
Fright night: the board game dates back to at least 1890
life
Environment
The vaquita is being killed by fishermen trying to catch the totoaba fish, which is prized in China
environmentJust 97 of the 'world's cutest' sea mammals remain
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit
Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

It's no surprise that the building game born in Sweden in 2009 and now played by millions, has imitators keen to construct their own mega money-spinner
The King's School is way ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology

Staying connected: The King's School

The school in Cambridgeshire is ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology. Richard Garner discovers how teachers and pupils stay connected
Christmas 2014: 23 best women's perfumes

Festively fragrant: the best women's perfumes

Give a loved one a luxe fragrance this year or treat yourself to a sensual pick-me-up
Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition

Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund

The Ox celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition
Billy Joe Saunders vs Chris Eubank Jnr: When two worlds collide

When two worlds collide

Traveller Billy Joe Saunders did not have a pampered public-school upbringing - unlike Saturday’s opponent Chris Eubank Jnr
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?