Nothing plagues the sports world like the “next” label. In chess, every talented American player is the next Bobby Fischer. In soccer, Neymar is the “next Pele” and Messi is the “next Maradona.” Fans cling to nationalities as predictors of success and prototypical molds.
Which is why EPL clubs continue to sign Spanish strikers.
When Fernando Torres left Atletico de Madrid for Liverpool, his reputation was a scorer of great goals, but not necessarily a great goalscorer. Yes, he was the bogeyman of once F.C. Barcelona, but he lacked consistency. He could speedily breeze by most centerbacks, but could never slow down to, say, composedly finish a cross.
He hit the ground running at Liverpool – he thrived as a sole striker with Stevie “Hollywood pass” Gerrard playing underneath him as an attacking midfielder. Torres was the complete striker: he could make his own meal aka turn and dribble by a defender. He played neat give-and-goes around the box. He headed in crosses. His early movement created space for teammates.
He suffered an injury, but still won a Champions League title at Chelsea. He was a shell of his former self, but still a complete enough player to fit into Diego Simeone’s plans at Atletico de Madrid.
Yet….how many other strikers have made the jump from La Liga to the EPL with success? Notice that I don’t obsess over “nationality.” Yes, Roberto Soldado, Alvaro Negredo, Fernado Morrientes, Nolito, and Lucas Perez are Spanish. Negredo enjoyed a hot start to his time at City, but his level dropped after that first Christmas break and he never recovered.
This goes beyond the trite “the EPL is better than La Liga neiner neiner.” Rather, La Liga and the EPL are demanding in different ways. The high technical level in Spain means players have to think for 90 minutes with few lapses. Every touch is scrutinized. Conversely, in the EPL, hard running is still the norm, not the exception. Fouls aren’t called as tight. The games go in waves, up and down, rather than the possession and wait fun of La Liga.
Thus, I’m not surprised Nolito made so little impact at Citeh and is heading go Sevilla. Or taht Lucas Perez wants to leave Arsenal. Even Fernando Morrientes underwhelmed in England.