Manchester City, now with the talents of Erling Haaland up front, are now arguably a stronger force than ever before. They are odds on favourites for the Premier League, and strong favourites to win the FA Cup and the Champions League, so you can see why, for many, they are the best team in the world.
But they aren’t.
It is so easy in this Premier League-focused world to get caught up in the hype around the teams from these shores, and with other leagues struggling to draw the same level of attention, audience and finances, it can be classified as the strongest league in the world. But that doesn’t mean we should disregard what is happening across Europe.
This intrinsic mentality was best shown by Michael Owen after the Champions League final. “I still think they are the best team in Europe, I really do,” he said about Jurgen Klopp’s defeated Liverpool team. “On other occasions Liverpool would have their name etched on the trophy.”
On other occasions, Liverpool could have won the quadruple. They played every possible game in the 2021/22 season, which is an achievement in itself but ultimately they came up short in two of the major competitions. Manchester City beat them to the Premier League and Real Madrid defeated them to win their 14th European Cup.
Which brings us nicely to the best team in the world, who start their La Liga title defence on Sunday. Madrid stormed to the Spanish title by 13 points and then embarked on the most difficult run to the Champions League title that we have ever seen. A star-studded PSG were disposed of in the last 16, Chelsea were beaten in the quarter-finals, Manchester City were defeated in the semis and Liverpool were downed in the final. The Premier League’s best and brightest were all defeated by this illustrious Madrid side, managed by the great Carlo Ancelotti. You can look as impressive as you want in a home game against Southampton, but the best team in the world has to produce at key moments. PSG bottled it, Manchester City bottled it and Liverpool were beaten by the better team. A team that knew how to manage a final and deal with a big occasion.
If you win the European Cup and your domestic league, there can be little argument that your team is the best in the world. Yet, for some unknown reason, the British broadcasters love to peddle the claim that we have the best team in the world in the form of Liverpool or Man City.
The best managers ply their trade in the Premier League. Now some of the best players in the world play on these shores. It’s the most watched league in the world. We don’t need to push another agenda that we have the best team, when Real Madrid have clearly proved they are superior.
It’s not only the pundits however. Jurgen Klopp told journalists that: “Man City are the best team in the world, but they only have one more point than us” in the title run-in last season. It may be his belief, one he shares with 38.1% of The Sportsman’s audience according to a Twitter poll this week, but City need to produce in the key moments to be crowned the best team in the world.
If a side like Liverpool in 2005 shocks the world to win the Champions League while finishing fifth in their league, then the conversation is open to debate. Nobody thought that Rafa Benitez’s side were the best in Europe that year, but they produced in key moments. The AC Milan side they faced in the final was far stronger on paper, featuring the likes of Kaka, Hernan Crespo and Andriy Shevchenko, but they only finished second in Serie A, behind Juventus.
You need to win the Champions League. You need to win your domestic league. Only once you have ticked both those boxes can there be no debate. So far, the English clubs haven’t managed a double since Manchester United did so in 2008. It’s been a 14-year stretch since an English team was the best in the world, but is 2022-23 the year the Premier League finally gets back on top?