When it comes to Spain versus England at club and international level, there is only one winner. The past decade has seen 11 Spanish clubs come out victorious in Europe’s top two club tournaments compared with just three from England. The last 10 years have also seen the Spanish national side claim two European Championships and a World Cup, whereas the last time the English national team even reached a semi-final of a major tournament was over 20 years ago.
Over recent years, there have been a number of reasons thrown around as to why the English national team and English football in general has been inferior to the Spanish version of the game. Yes the Premier League is widely considered to be the most exciting and unpredictable football league in the world – its viewing figures certainly tell this story well – however one of the main arguments as to why English football is lacking, at least at international level, is precisely because of the popularity of the league. This is one of the views favoured by Las Palmas first team scout Marcos Ruano Suárez.
Suárez does not agree that the monetary strength of a league or club does not equate to the standard of a league or club. “Not necessarily,” he says, after being asked if the 14th placed side in the Premier League – at the moment, Burnley – would easily beat Las Palmas, who are 14th in La Liga. “TV rights in Spain are not equal for each team – Las Palmas received around €15 million last season – there is no comparison. TV deals in England award more than £90 million per season to each team.
“But our academy system produces good players every year and our club’s recruitment policy has succeeded without spending large amounts of money. Actually we have been focused on free agents and loans.
“It was a proper steal, the transfer of Jonathan Viera, just €800,000 and his performances during the past 18 months have been spectacular. There is no doubt that some clubs will enquire this summer, it shows you don’t need to spend lots of money in order to buy quality players.”
Suárez believes that the scouting system in England is still in the past compared with other European countries, he says: “Scouts in England seem too focused on the old standards of English players and let go of diamonds like [Jamie] Vardy. Kylian Mbappé was rejected by Chelsea when he was only 14, and Paul Pogba wasn’t good enough for United a few years ago. Those are just a couple of examples of bad and biased decisions.
“If you look at German, French and Spanish clubs you will find many good examples of academy systems and talent identification procedures. English football must adapt itself if they want to succeed in the future.”
Suárez, however, does not think the problems in England are only due to the scouting system. He also lays some of the blame on past coaching systems within the country, as well as tactics, although he also thinks the coaching set-up in England is improving. He says: “Europe is really different from national competitions, coaching styles and tactics have a major influence, which is why you see Mourinho and Guardiola in the Premier League – a change was needed for clubs to be successful in Europe again. Manchester United under Mourinho’s command is a good example this season.
“Of course there is an issue with coaching in England, that is why the FA have adapted the awards in coaching this year. I passed my level 1 in England and my opinion is that there is a massive area of improvement in the way coaches learn here. The combination of better coaching and talented players make the difference between England and Spain.”
Suárez is also of the opinion that the standard of coaching in each country will always have a knock on effect on the countries national team. “After the 2008 crisis, Spanish clubs had to start looking within the academy system rather than the market because clubs had no money to sign players. Because of this, it is easier to make your debut if you are an academy player in Spain, much easier than in the Premier League taking aside Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atlético.
“Las Palmas have played with eight homegrown players all in the line-up at the same time in La Liga. This means more Spanish footballers playing at a high level which can only help the national team.”