Why PFA nominees show Premier League delivers best experience to fans

The Spanish Liga has its Galacticos. But it’s the Premier League where stars are made.

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The Spanish Liga has its Galacticos. But it’s the Premier League where stars are made.

At 24, is there a better young player in the game than Eden Hazard? What about goalkeepers and David de Gea? Harry Kane and young centre-forwards?

The shortlist for last night’s PFA Players Player of the Year epitomised the strength of the Premier League – and its inscrutable relationship with fans.

Yes, it still must be a wrench for Tottenham supporters seeing Gareth Bale bombing down Real Madrid‘s wing. But it also must have been some journey for those fans who followed the Welshman from battling in the Spurs reserve-team to running Inter Milan ragged at the San Siro.

At Chelsea, they’ve seen Hazard go from a stroppy, self-important 21 year-old, famous for kicking out at ball-boys, to a leader of men. A pro’s pro. A player who has world greats, including Zinedine Zidane, queuing to lavish praise on him. And Blues fans have seen all this, up close, develop over three years. That’s some football experience.

The same can be said of De Gea and his emergence at Manchester United. Forget about being the best young goalkeeper in the game, some claim he is the outright best on the planet. But those fans who follow United home-and-away will remember that infamous flap at Tottenham two years ago, the blast from former captain Gary Neville and all the headlines about the Spaniard not being good enough.

If he does return to Madrid this summer, Real’s support will be getting the finished article. But they will have missed the chance to see De Gea develop into the player he is today. The highs and lows. The unswerving faith a supporter has in a player’s potential being realised. For many, it’s a big part of being a football fan.

Just ask Spurs supporters about ‘one of our own’, Harry Kane.

Some will have seen Kane in youth games at Enfield. Picked him as ‘one to watch’. Kept faith as he battled away on-loan with the likes of Leyton Orient and Millwall. And now celebrate with fans around the world as Kane smashes through the 30-goal barrier.

You can’t manufacture that experience. It’s among the most enjoyable aspects of being a football fan. And the Premier League offers this to us like no other competition.

Philippe Coutinho’s story is arguably the best of the lot. Bouncing between Italy and Spain, his career was going nowhere. At 21, he was washed up, Inter Milan couldn’t get rid quickly enough. But with Liverpool, under Brendan Rodgers, Coutinho has rebuilt his game and his confidence. He’s now delivering on the potential which had Europe’s biggest clubs chasing his signature as a 17 year-old at Vasco da Gama. And this has all played out – in spectacular fashion – in front of the Kop.

Even the ‘old men’ of the PFA shortlist have their best years ahead of them. Both Chelsea striker Diego Costa and Arsenal‘s Chilean dynamo Alexis Sanchez are still 26. We’re sure to see their greatest moments achieved playing in the Premier League.

Since this season’s Champions League flop, English clubs have been hammered over transfer policy, scouting, even their development structure. But given the nominees we celebrated last night, the Premier League is still where stars are made.

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