Where have all the Premier League superstars gone?

The last few seasons have seen numerous high-profile departures to Spain and Italy, leaving a top flight lacking in world-class quality and devoid of personality
By Greg Stobart

As David Beckham’s retirement last week led news bulletins, generated front page splashes and inspired special pull-outs, we were reminded of the Hollywood appeal of modern football and, in particular, the game’s leading stars.

The former Manchester United midfielder was just one in a plethora of superstar names to make the Premier League so popular; to fill stadiums, sell merchandise and generate a boom in television revenue thanks to viewers in all parts of the world.

A list of world-class departures
Jun 09
Cristiano Ronaldo to Real Madrid (£80m)
Aug 09
Xabi Alonso to Real Madrid (£35m)
Aug 10
Javier Mascherano to Barcelona (£20m)
Aug 11
Cesc Fabregas to Barcelona (£25m)
Aug 12
Didier Drogba to Shanghai (free)
Aug 12
Luka Modric to Real Madrid (£33m)
Jan 13
Mario Balotelli to Milan (£19m)
The names of past greats roll off the tongue. From Eric Cantona to Dennis Bergkamp, from Thierry Henry to Cristiano Ronaldo. All wonderful players in their own right, but all with the charisma and personalities to match.

The drab, predictable final day of the season on Sunday only hammered home the reality that the Premier League in 2013 is, well, a bit dull.

Where is the ‘showbiz’, the characters of the game, a Mario Balotelli or Paul Gascoigne?

It has all become rather clinical and vapid. Players score goals, hug their team-mates and mumble out platitudes about the importance of three points. Rinse and repeat.

English football is crying out for more high profile characters to energise and bring some effervescence to the game.

Who is there now who you would want as the Premier League’s posterboy?

Robin van Persie, the man who fired Manchester United this season, is a wonderful player but has limited X-factor when it comes to marketing, commercial deals and broader appeal beyond your average football fan.

Gareth Bale swept the end-of-season awards yet is meek and mild-mannered off the pitch, with a limited profile beyond these shores, possibly a consequence of the fact he does not play for a title-challenging club.

There is, of course, Luis Suarez to provide plenty of talking points, but incidents involving the Uruguayan have been so controversial that even Liverpool are reluctant to use their star man in the club’s marketing campaigns.

Football’s global superstars are in Spain. The Premier League may be more popular than ever but the biggest character next term is likely to be a manager when Jose Mourinho’s return to Chelsea is confirmed.

In the context of a division that has become less competitive and dipped in quality - highlighted by the poor performances of English clubs in Europe this season - there is a risk that the league might lose its appeal.

There are some great players in England, but something is missing. Every year another star name seems to depart these shores, the glamour slowly dissipating with each year.

Football these days is as much about entertainment as it is sport. The Premier League need more posterboys, more stars, more glitz and glamour - or we risk falling behind.

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