Neville: Premier League clubs are being taken for mugs by agents

Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City and Everton were all eliminated from European competition this week and the 40-year-old blames the problem on players’ representatives

Gary Neville believes the Premier League is stuck in a cycle of overpaying for average talent, and has blamed the problem on “super-agents” who take Premier League clubs for “mugs”.

The debate over whether the English top flight can claim to be the best league in the world has raged this week, with Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City and Everton all eliminated from European competition.

Liverpool face Manchester United this weekend and, while Neville believes the game will be passionate and end-to-end, he concedes that few of the players in each starting XI would make it into the respective squads of Barcelona and Real Madrid.

Neville believes that is symptomatic of a culture of overpaying for players who are not truly “elite” and says that top Premier League clubs must redouble their efforts to improve recruitment strategies if they are to improve.  

“Liverpool vs Man Utd will be full of entertainment, the fans will be up for it, the atmosphere will be great, it will capture our imagination,” he wrote in The Telegraph. “Relate it to the Clasico later in the day, though, and it will come a distant second, in terms of the technical and tactical aspects.

“Is this cyclical or a pattern? I hope it’s only a phase. Yet recruitment is becoming a huge topic of concern for English clubs. The modern game is controlled by the big overseas agents. There are no prominent English ones I can think of. We are being used as mugs by middle-men who will happily ship over to England the talent they want to send while the prime stock is pushed into other clubs where they have better connections, and where the players would prefer to go.

“We are not dominating the super-agent business – and I do detect a link. Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester United have been principled, historically, in their use of agents, but these days we are having to pay high, high prices for players who left the selling club reluctantly. Mesut Ozil and Angel Di Maria are examples.

“Meanwhile, we are forking out very good money for average, and extravagant money for good. But we’re still not getting the true elite. And if we do get them, they end up wanting to go back to Barcelona or Real Madrid.

“The Premier League will not be happy with these trends. Nor will Sheikh Mansour at Man City, or Arsenal’s owners. There are probably a lot of unhappy people out there. We have to come out of this.”

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