The Last Word: La Liga: simply the best and no Messing

It has been described as 'the SPL with skill' but Spanish League has great players – unlike here
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The Independent Football

Rather like those monkeys and their typewriters and the collected works of Shakespeare, it was merely a question of time before Sepp Blatter said something of sense into a microphone.

Did the Fifa president finally achieve the inevitable with last week's pronouncement that La Liga is "the best league in the world"? It seems he did, but thanks to the old boy's propensity to rattle on, the Eureka moment was lost in the usual bath of Blatter blather.

Is there nobody Sepp can't upset? Even Qatar – a tiny nation on whom his organisation bestowed the world – are having a pop. Everyone is agreed that his days are as numbered as certain Fifa bank accounts.

How ironic it would be if his last footballing assessment was spot-on. Of course, not everyone agreed, arguing that with Barcelona and Real Madrid 11 points clear of the third-placed team, La Liga is nothing more than the SPL with skill.

A two-horse race can never be deemed competitive, or so goes the argument which apparently overlooks the battles of Denman versus Kauto Star. If you want excitement, come to the Premier League of 2011, where anyone can beat anyone. "It's a crazy season," says Ian Holloway. Crazy, yes; competitive, surely; but exciting? Only in terms of not knowing what will happen next.

For the armchaired neutral – and yes, that pilloried bunch are still very much in the majority – genuine football excitement emanates from genuine football brilliance. It's that moment of magic which makes the heart go bump and the voice-box involuntarily scream: "No way!". Be honest, is there any team, any player even, in this season's Premier League who consistently elicits that response?

While Manchester United are admirable and Gareth Bale is occasionally thrilling, none of the combatants have set up camp on the upper tier of footballing endeavour. This is threatening to be a lost season.

Certainly, the temptation to view Blatter's critique as part of a wider anti-English campaign must be dismissed. "The Premier League is the best-marketed league in the world," he said. "When you consider not one player made the best XI of the world, maybe they should think about whether something can be adapted."

Maybe they should, although they shouldn't judge success by inclusion in Fifa's best XI in the world. That's Blatter at his arrogant best/worst. Fifa, or their World Cup, don't decide who or what is great in club football; the audience does. And only one factor is ultimately persuasive – great players. That is all the Premier League should adapt, as that is all that is lacking. It really is that simple.

Of course, excuses can be raised in this regard. Liverpool's downfall has seen the masking of the talents of Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres,while injuries, and other factors, have seen luminaries such as Wayne Rooney and Didier Drogba failing to shine. So instead of having a couple of big-name characters out in front, you have the entire chorus line battling for centre stage, with the occasional rasping solo breaking from the mêlée. It just doesn't make for as enjoyable a show. Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo prove as much.

The way they are stampeding the boards of La Liga makes for award-winning drama, with Messi, in particular, putting in command performances on seemingly a weekly basis. Incredibly, the jury remains out on the little Argentinian, as the charge goes up that he cannot be considered a great until he does it in a World Cup. That seems fair enough – until you watch him. Then it's impossible to consider him anything but "a great". Even if, as the critics claim, weak defences are magnifying his genius.

Therein lies the case for the Premier League, perhaps not to call themselves the "best league" but certainlythe "strongest". Recently, Andy Gray doubted whether Messi could be a prolific scorer in the Premier League. "Messi would struggle on a cold night in Stoke," said the Sky pundit. It was a throwaway comment which should not be taken too seriously, but it does reveal a certain inverted snobbery in English football. If only it could be put to the test. Except in one sense it already has, albeit in the reverse formation. In his last-but-one full season in England, Ronaldo scored 42 goals in 46 games. Thus far in this campaign he has scored 31 from 28. These startling ratios are not too different. Ronaldo has done it before and I would venture, if the team round him were good enough, he'd do it again. As would Messi, who has scored 33 from 28.

Think back to Ronaldo in 2008 and remember what English football is missing. Then, of course, all the talk was of a division within a division, with the top four contesting a league of their own. Now the perception is of a more open race, but a race without the quality. Can you have one with the other? Of course not. Logic dictates it is either the competition or the class. As Blatter says, Spain undoubtedly has the latter. And is therefore the "best".

Don't worry, tweeting is on the way out

At the risk of sounding like one of those colonels in the Thirties who declared TV was a fad, I implore the FA not to be too concerned with Twitter. Professional footballers won't use it for very long.

A few fines and new club rules will stop players saying anything of interest, and soon even their interest in their own wonderful selves will wane. What a blessed advent that will be.

The Twitterati is very protective and caution is advised in any critique. So here goes. Notwithstanding the remarkable witand insight supplied by sports journalists, the rest is banality decked in beige.

There is the occasional mock-up picture of a referee in a United shirt, but otherwise there is a stream of turgid self-obsession into which any sane outsider would refrain from dipping so much as a toe. "Texting for egos," as one non-using colleague put it.

Olazabal role signals end of British bias

Jose Maria Olazabal will be announced as the Europe Ryder Cup captain on Tuesday. It will go some way to addressing the charges of British bias.

But the statistics still make damning reading. Since becoming "Europe" in 1979, 32 players have hailed from England, Wales and Scotland – and 38 from Northern Ireland, Ireland and Continental Europe. So, taking that ratio into account, how many captains have the latter group boasted between them? Two. In 16 matches.

It's not just in the captain's seat where the English, Scots and Welsh have dominated. Of 18 home matches, three have taken place off this island. Yet after Gleneagles in 2014, it will not return again for at least 12 years.

In that time, Europe will truly become European; in terms of players, captains and venues as well. Ollie is heralding a brave new blue-and-gold era. Equality in golf – who would ever have thought it?

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