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Sit back and name your top twenty players in the world.

The number that sit with Bayern, Barcelona and Real Madrid right now is quite incredible.

Premier League clubs can't attract the world's best playersAdd the spending power of PSG in to the mix and the hoarding of the world’s very best players has had a possibly unintended consequence.

The Premier League right now is the most competitive it has ever been, and whilst there is a genuine lack of quality at the top (for the reasons stated above), the riches are allowing the other teams to close the gap.

Everyone has been talking about what an amazing season this has been in the Premier League, after 16 rounds Leicester sit top, Crystal Palace are 6th and Watford 7th and Chelsea are languishing in 15th place, it is all quite unimaginable.

Wages are sky high yet the product at the top is lacking with the Premier League’s big guns seemingly lacking the quality to scale the heights in the Champions League. The capacity of Barca and Real Madrid to cherry pick the world’s richest league’s best players is without question right now. Both Gareth Bale and Luis Suarez were huge losses to the division and it is a long time since Cristiano Ronaldo graced the red shirt of United.

That knowledge also goes a long way to explaining why the arrivals of Angel di Maria and also the retention of David de Gea were so important to the league, it is short of stardust. Di Maria of course did not work out.

It also explains why Jurgen Klopp’s arrival was treated with the excitement normally reserved for a new royal baby. If we can’t have the best players, we’ll have the best managers at least.

And it could also be a large part of the equation that sees so many less ‘fashionable’ clubs enjoying life in the higher echelons of the division. With the very best players not available to the top sides, they are shopping in similar shops to everyone else.

The likes of Dimitri Payet, Xherdan Shaqiri, Bojan Krkic, Ross Barkley, John Stones and Yohan Cabaye are all capable of gracing the Champions League and it is clear that the league is being compressed.

The traditional ‘top four’ all have players in their squads who conversely would not look out of place at mid table sides. Manchester City who are title favourites have lost four games already this season.

All of which equates to an even more exciting product even if the mammoth TV deals look to finally have reached saturation point after the latest round of bidding.

Another clue is that Spurs and Liverpool have both topped their groups in the Europa League, at a notch below the very top level, Premier League clubs have some genuinely good players and there is a real depth to the division even if the top end is lagging Europe’s elite.

Now where all this ends is anyone’s guess but there does seem to be a pattern of clubs with more and more money and at the top end, simply unable to buy the players that would make a difference. Van Gaal’s assertion that Suarez or Aguero would be scoring goals in his team was actually a very salient point. The truth is also that many of the very top players are simply ‘un-transferable’ nowadays. It is to Van Gaal’s detriment that he could not use Di Maria effectively it must be said.

The question however for the Premier League is just how long the gravy train can keep chugging along when the highest glamour lies elsewhere. It is refreshing that the likes of Stoke and West Ham are now teams that people will tune their sets to watch but it is hardly the stuff of record breaking TV deals.

The prospect of Leicester qualifying for the Champions League is a mouth watering one and would be a massive shot in the arm for all those who believe that football has lost its’ soul entirely. But again, they are hardly likely to make any impact on the competition were the unthinkable to happen.

The Premier League will remain a compelling product but it is the lack of access to the true elite players that is compressing the division even if the likes of Marko Arnautovic at Stoke are a breath of fresh air.

Originally published at oneshotfootball.com

Post written by Steven McBain
for One Shot Football, Blog: One Shot Football, Twitter: @O_S_Football

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