The transfer rumour mill is currently in overdrive and Premier League teams are set to throw huge sums of money around as they bid to improve for next season. They have been left behind by Spanish giants Real Madrid and Barcelona in recent years, and need to seriously invest if they are to challenge for the Champions League. After five years of underachievement, it could finally be time for the Premier League to reassert itself as a serious force in Europe, and signs in the transfer market so far are encouraging.
Real Madrid won a second consecutive Champions League final when they destroyed Juventus in Cardiff earlier this month and they will take some stopping next season. Betonline has odds for it and various bookmakers have released lines, showing that Real are joint favourites with Barcelona to scoop the big prize in 2017-18.
Barcelona finished just three points behind Real in La Liga last season and will strengthen their midfield in the summer, so they are arguably the best placed to challenge Zinedine Zidane’s men next season. Real swatted aside German champions Bayern Munich and Italian champions Juventus, asserting La Liga’s dominance over Europe, and it could take a domestic rival to topple them in the Champions League. Boasting the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Neymar, Gareth Bale, Luis Suarez, Luka Modric, Sergio Ramos, Gerard Pique and Toni Kroos, it is hard to argue with the assertion that these are the best two sides in the world.
But go back five years and this was not the case. Chelsea had just won the Champions League final and it looked like the Premier League would continue to dominate for years to come. After all, the league had provided eight of the last 16 finalists in the Champions League. But Real, Barca and Bayern Munich kicked on, while the Premiership teams either stayed still or regressed. The league has continued to be the most popular in the world, full of tight games, unpredictability and a gruelling winter campaign. But now it is time for the Premiership to challenge La Liga on the big stage.
The challenge is unlikely to come from Italy next season. Juventus have twice been beaten by La Liga’s big two in recent finals and their fabled defence is ageing, while Roma and Napoli lack the quality. Monaco will be picked apart by vultures this summer, while PSG seem to lack the mentality to progress in this competition. The challenge will have to come from Bayern and from England.
The odds on the winning nationality of the 2017-18 Champions League have a Spanish winner as 6/4 favourite. That looks a brilliant bet as you get holders Real Madrid, their most fearsome challengers Barcelona, and you also get a very strong Atletico Madrid side thrown into the bargain. Germany is 10/3, but that is down to Bayern alone. The second favourite is England at 5/2, despite English teams failing to trouble the latter stages of the competition for years.
But they have five contestants in next year’s Champions League: Chelsea, Tottenham, Man City, Liverpool and finally Man Utd, who finished sixth in the Premier League qualified thanks to victory in the Europa Leage final. That is a pretty formidable bunch. Man City have the deepest pockets in world football and have already spent £70 million this summer, with plenty more spending forecast. Man Utd have a two-time Champions League winner in the dugout and Jose Mourinho will also invest heavily in his squad this summer. Liverpool play an exciting brand of high-intensity football under Jurgen Klopp and can overwhelm anyone on their day, while Tottenham have a young and improving side blessed with the talents of Dele Alli and Harry Kane, currently rated the world’s second and third most valuable players after Neymar by independent researchers. Any of them could go on a great Champions League run, but the biggest threat to Real, Barca and Bayern could well be Chelsea. They won the Premier League at a canter last season and are also expected to invest a good £200 million in bolstering the squad this summer, bankrolled as they are by a generous billionaire. With stars like Eden Hazard and N’Golo Kante, they can go toe to toe with any team in the world. The Premier League is now blessed with the best gathering of managers it has ever seen – Mourinho, Pep Guardiola, Antonio Conte, Mauricio Pocchetino and Klopp – and some of the world’s best talent is expected to flood into the league this summer, so there is no reason why a Premier League club could not topple the Spanish kings.