Gary Neville has told The Times Paul Pogba’s move to Manchester United is a sign that “something is starting to happen again” in the Premier League.
English clubs have endured a disappointing period in European football over recent years, with Chelsea the only club to win the Champions League since United’s 2008 success.
The Premier League has also struggled to attract players at the very top of the game, with no England-based players making the Ballon d’Or shortlist since 2008, when Cristiano Ronaldo and Fernando Torres finished first and third respectively.
Former United captain Neville said Pogba’s world-record move from Juventus — as well as the presence of bosses Pep Guardiola, Jose Mourinho and Antonio Conte — may signal a return to prominence for the Premier League, with clubs now benefiting from a lucrative new TV deal.
“It excites me, because for the last three or four years the Premier League hasn’t been exciting enough,” Neville, who is returning to his role as a Sky Sports pundit, said.
“Not that it hasn’t excited me, but the quality of the football hasn’t been of the highest level. I think the quality has been poor. For all the money that has been spent, we’ve not been able to keep Grade A players or incentivise them to come here in the first place.
“I feel that, for the first time in a few years, a potential world-class player, who could have gone to Barcelona or Real Madrid, is coming to an English club. That’s good for the league.
“The fact that Guardiola is here, Mourinho is here, Conte has come, the fact that we’ve enticed Pogba to come, I think it gives the feeling that something is starting to happen again, that the very best players might be starting to think about coming to England again.
“The best players in the world are at Barcelona, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich, and they need to start coming to Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool, City.
“With the money we have in this league we have to be attracting not just the best managers but the best players.
“They spend an incredible amount of money and, with what the fans are paying, what Sky are paying, we need to be seeing the best players over here rather than watching teams struggle like crazy in the Champions League.”
Neville, who had a brief and unsuccessful spell in charge of Valencia last season, added: “I was in Spain for four months, and we in England are seen as easy meat when it comes to transfers.
“They literally see us as ‘we need our coffers filling, it’s OK, let’s go and get some off a Premier League club.’ That’s how we’re viewed. We need to get away from that.”
Neville accepts that the game is changing, though, and said he has no issue with Mourinho spending big money as United seek to win a first Premier League title since Sir Alex Ferguson’s departure in 2013.
“The priority for United has to be to win the league again,” Neville, who is not planning a return to coaching, said.
“In a perfect world, the core values of United are to play entertaining football, to bring kids through, homegrown players, and to win things.
“But sometimes one has to be prioritised over the others and the priority at this moment in time has to be win the league, to get rid of the myth that they can’t cope without Sir Alex Ferguson, to stop the years building up so that three becomes six becomes 10, like it has done for United before, like it has done for Liverpool now.
“You’ve got to get rid of that problem and I think that’s where Jose Mourinho is at now, that’s where the club is at, with the money they’re investing in the team and the squad and the manager.
“And actually, entertaining football, yes, it’s important, bringing kids through is important, but both probably come behind winning at this moment in time.”