In the aftermath of Spain’s memorable Euro 2012 triumph earlier this month, there have been many comparisons between the current Spanish side and England’s under-achieving Three Lions.
A little over four years ago, both teams were considered to be on par: extremely talented but unable to shine at the big stage.
All that changed with Euro 2008, when the Spaniards used a combination of brilliant passing, supreme technique, fierce defending, and an incredible resilience to win it all in Austria and Switzerland.
They subsequently went on to claim World Cup glory in 2010 and capped off a terrific four-year period with a successful defense of their European title following an emphatic 4-0 thrashing of Italy in Kiev on July 1.
England, meanwhile, have continued their failure to not only win any major silverware in these four years, but also to bow out at the grand stage in the quarterfinals.
In fact, while Spain were busy celebrating their Euro 2008 triumph, the England squad was back home wondering why they never even made it to the tournament that summer.
To their credit, the Three Lions did win an impressive exhibition match against the Spaniards at Wembley last year, with a Frank Lampard goal deciding the 1-0 result in England’s favor.
That win once again highlighted that at a fundamental level, England does not lack much of what Spain has.
Of course, Spain’s winning streak and championship mentality is unparalleled, but from a purely footballing perspective, there is perhaps only one missing ingredient for England compared to Spain: while the latter has enjoyed an increasing number of English club players in the national side, the former has had no such experience.
John Gontier, the academy manager of Spain-based youth club Racing Portuense, where the mission is to groom aspiring young English players in a diverse football environment, summed up the current situation by making a notable observation.
“Much of the Spanish team is made up of English connections, with all but one goal in Euro 2012 scored by Spanish players with an English football background,” Gontier asserted while speaking exclusively with Premiership Talk.
He was alluding to the scoring contributions of Xabi Alonso, Juan Mata, David Silva, Cesc Fabregas, and Fernando Torres. Jordi Alba was the only player without any Premier League experience to have scored for Vicente Del Bosque’s side.
While Spanish players continue to take advantage of diversifying their skill-set in the English top flight, England internationals have not been able to do so ever since the Real Madrid trio of David Beckham, Michael Owen, and Jonathan Woodgate left La Liga a few years ago.
“It’s time English clubs think about this and seek an agreement to take the young English players who come to Spain. I see this as the only way for England to be a world beater again,” Gontier continued.
“Conviction in my NextStars project is the only thing needed for success without financial ruin for any forward thinking English club,” he concluded.
Gontier’s ideas are certainly promising and the mindset he suggests needs to be considered more seriously in England. Although it is clear that such a development is likely to take time before yielding concrete results, Spain’s success is proof enough of why it needs to start sooner than later.