Sport – and we are back to football in this week’s column – is all about being the best or striving to be the best.
And by plenty of measures, English football is not the best, far from it, even without considering last year’s abysmal performance by England at the World Cup in Brazil.
For example, Lionel Messi won the Ballon d’Or award for the world’s best footballer from 2010 to 2012 while Cristiano Ronaldo won it in 2013 and 2014. The pair both play in La Liga in Spain.
Last year’s Champions League final was played between two Spanish sides while the one before that was between two German sides.
This year’s knockout stages are yet to get under way and Chelsea may be in the running with Jose Mourinho as the mastermind, but many are sure to agree that on the top of their game, the best sides in Europe are not from the Premier League.
However, from a spectator’s point of view, sport is also about excitement, upsets and the underdog, and this is where English football comes into its own with the weekend’s FA Cup fourth-round action providing a perfect example.
On Friday night, the 75-place gulf between Manchester United and Cambridge United paled into insignificance as the East Anglian side were brilliant in their draw, which earned them a trip to Old Trafford.
Then on Saturday, all hell broke loose as Middlesbrough beat last year’s champions of England, Manchester City, in their own backyard before, even more incredibly, Bradford came from two goals down to win 4-2 against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.
You can contrast this with recent results in the Spanish equivalent, the Copa del Rey. In the round of 16, Barcelona played two legs against Elche, a team in the same league, and won 9-0 on aggregate.
I know where I’d rather be watching football week-in, week-out.