La Liga leads, says Rio

Published: Friday | August 28, 2009



FERDINAND

MANCHESTER, England (AP):

With Spain increasingly the destination of choice for the world's top players, Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand concedes that La Liga can claim to host football's best league.

The stage for the Premier League to reassert its supremacy is the Champions League, Ferdinand argued in an interview with The Associated Press.

The England centre back has seen Spanish football's standing surge in the last year with the national team becoming European champion and Barcelona derailing United's bid for back-to-back Champions League triumphs in May's final.

And since then, Ferdinand's United side has been weakened by world player of the year Cristiano Ronaldo joining a Real Madrid side which has also lured Kaka from AC Milan, while Zlatan Ibrahimovic has joined Barcelona.

Champions League

"La Liga have bought marquee players - I think Ronaldo obviously, Kaka and Ibrahimovic are three of the best players in the world and any team would like to have them," Ferdinand told the AP in a Manchester hotel suite. "They've all gone to La Liga alongside the likes of (Lionel) Messi, (Andres) Iniesta, Xavi (Hernandez) and people like that (at Barcelona). So they've got a claim to being the best league in the world.

"I think the last three or four years we've had English teams in the semi-finals of the Champions League ... at least two so that says it all about where the Premier League is at at the moment. This season we have to wait and see - with the proof in the pudding - if we're still the best league in the world or not."

The Red Devils avoided Madrid in yesterday's draw for the Champions League group stage, where they will play CSKA Moscow, Besiktas and Wolfsburg.

A confrontation closer to home for United is the growing threat from neighbours Manchester City, which has spent around $200 million since May building a title-contending side after several barren decades.

Criticism

While European football's governing body has led criticism of City's heavy spending since Sheik Mansour's takeover last September, Ferdinand embraces it, believing greater competition only serves to enhance the Premier League.

"I'm sure they will be hoping to be up there and trying to contend for the top four spots," he said. "You've got to look at it as a fan, it's great when there are more contenders for the league title.

"You can see the social issues and the social ethics of saying the world's in recession at the moment and it may be wiser to spend it in different ways, but who am I to tell them (City) to spend their money in a different way?"

That is despite United spending barely 20 million in the offseason - just a quarter of the windfall from Ronaldo's sale.

When asked if he wished United was throwing around money like City, Ferdinand said: "I'd be a lot more envious and maybe a bit jealous if I didn't have the squad that I've got in my training room.

"I'm confident we can win every game," he maintained.