By Paul Scholes
I don’t find elite football as interesting to watch any more, especially in England. You hear about people saying English football’s the best football there is around. I think Spain’s by far the best league. Germany has better teams. In Italy probably the strength in depth isn’t great. They talk about Italy being a bad league but I don’t think English people look at it. They say it’s boring. No chance. The Juventus team would beat any team in this league. They came up to Manchester City and beat them easy. But we have this interpretation of the Italian league that it’s rubbish. They only try to defend. No chance.
The Spanish league’s the best by far if you’re judging on the European competitions. In the quarter-finals of the Champions League and the Europa League in 2015–16, they had six of the 16 teams. Nearly half of them. The Premier League had just two.
There needs to be a real step up in quality in England. Other than Sergio Agüero, Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva, we don’t have the best players. All the best players are in other countries.
The best players are in Spain or at Bayern Munich and Juventus. We’re linked with big players – Gareth Bale is a top player – but we don’t get them now. Not any more. You never see a Lionel Messi coming over here, you never see a Neymar in the Premier League.
I probably do enjoy watching Salford more. I don’t know if it’s as much that I don’t like the hassle of going to the game, getting in, sitting in traffic. Going to Salford, I park up behind the goal and get out of my car. But I genuinely get more enjoyment from watching even my son’s team, Royter Town. It’s like a men’s team, but he’s 16. He started playing a few games for them last season. I went to watch him once, it was 5-4. It’s just entertainment.
There’s some good players, really good players, but it’s not always the best for quality. In the Premier League in the last two years, have I really seen a game of high quality? A game that I’ve thought: “Wow!” It’s difficult to think of any.
Then I think of games abroad that I’ve watched: Real Madrid–Barcelona, Bayern Munich–Borussia Dortmund, proper games of football. I can’t imagine Real Madrid players, Barcelona players, watching our games and being as excited as we are to watch a Real Madrid–Barcelona game or a Bayern–Dortmund game or Juventus–Roma, something like that. Now 10 years ago, in those days, other than Real Madrid … I don’t think Bayern Munich were particularly special. Juventus were good, don’t get me wrong, but I think English teams were probably on a par with them.
It’s all about money and sponsorship in England these days rather than football, rather than entertainment. And I don’t think that’s just from the top teams either. I think it goes right down through the league. I know there is pressure on managers, but styles of play become so negative because managers are frightened of losing their jobs. If you lose three or four games on the trot obviously you’re under big pressure and you’re sacked and that makes them think: “Right, do we need results or do we need to find a way of playing to entertain people?” It’s rubbish. It spoils English football.
I’d probably be sacked after five games if I was a manager, wouldn’t I? I really don’t know if I’ll ever manage. I’ve done my Uefa B licence. I haven’t done the A licence.
I will get it done. But I’m just wondering, is it worth it? I haven’t had any major offers. I had one offer from Oldham a couple of years ago. But you have to start somewhere; if you get your coaching badge you start doing a youth team, doing something first, and if you like it then you take it from there, I suppose. I haven’t done it enough to like it or not like it really. I think if I really got into it, I could enjoy it. But I wouldn’t be one who’d be worried about losing his job for not playing the right way. I suppose you never know, though. But if you’re doing it the way that you think it should be, if people are paying to watch, I’d want to entertain.
The money’s the most important thing these days about football because owners, the majority of them, are just interested in making money for their football club. They don’t care what they see on a Saturday afternoon on the pitch. They’re purely businessmen, whereas at Barcelona you have a balance between business and football.
Obviously they have to make money for the club’s sake, but it’s a club that is a cooperative owned by the fans, not by one businessman or a group of individuals. So they want to make it pay, but making as much money as they can isn’t the primary objective. It’s entertainment. Winning the Champions League, winning the best prizes. That’s why they have the best players. And why clubs like that are the best teams.
Class of 92: Out of our League – Our Journey Back to the Heart of the Game. By Nicky Butt, Phil Neville, Gary Neville, Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes.