How much fun can it really be as a talented creative player at the wrong end of the Premier League?
We like to tell ourselves that only Real Madrid and Barcelona, or maybe Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain, are more attractive destinations than playing over here. That if you cannot play for a super club then, well, you might as well stay in England and take the money.
Nowhere else in the world pays mid-table players like the Premier League does. And the story of the last few decade has been the pulling-power of England’s ‘Bottom 14’ over the top sides in mid-level European countries. Like Davy Klaassen leaving Ajax for Everton, or Georginio Wijnaldum leaving PSV Eindhoven for Newcastle. Or any of Wolves’ good recent imports, or Fulham’s bad ones.
But last summer, Dusan Tadic decided to go the other way. He had played four good years at Southampton. But the team was on the slide, the best players had left and the managerial appointments were getting worse every time. He spent the end of last season playing for a Mark Hughes team that only just scraped to safety, with little prospect of imminent improvement.
So Tadic left it all behind, to return to Holland, to play for Ajax. It was a surprise: he was Saints’ best player, and he was going to play in Europe’s 11th ranked league, behind Ukraine and Turkey. And he did not do it for money, either. Ajax pushed the boat out for Tadic, paying him a £3million salary. A lot for them, but not a lot for the Premier League.
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