Yes. In short, I believe it has. Ranieri's sacking was the final nail in coffin.
However, I want to look at two major factors over the recent months that, despite being unrelated, have been said to be changing football - the rise of China and the 'magic of the FA Cup.’
Firstly, I believe China's new money is starting to have a negative impact on football and more specifically, our British football. I understand that it is an upcoming league that wants to invest in order to get better. Moreover, I understand how it can be used similarly to the MLS where older players can contemplate ending their career whilst subsequently boosting their bank balances. Despite this, the examples of Oscar, Axel Witsel and to some extent, the rumours of Diego Costa, are, for me, hard to stomach. Top players in the prime of their careers were so easily tempted by the money even when they were playing at the top level for a prestigious club and in the case of Costa (who thankfully didn’t leave) were one of the best in their leagues. Of course, one can say that there was this money in football previously, but this extreme scale is showing that the 'religion' of football (as I have previously discussed in another article) is fading away and that players are no longer playing for the love of the game, which something that is so deeply rooted in football, more so in our country. If this carries on, we could be saying goodbye to some of the best players in the our favourite leagues and possibly to our love of the Beautiful Game to a league that is nowhere near the level and intensity that we have in Europe. My final view is that all players must take the view of the Dutch winger Arjen Robben, who explained that, 'A transfer to China would be something else entirely. That is basically acknowledging your career is over. I want to keep playing at the highest level as long as possible.'
Let's look at something that provides hope to the dark times that football is turning towards - is there still the magic of the FA Cup? This has been asked constantly throughout the past few weeks during the various ties and I am pleased to say that, thankfully, this competition hasn’t died… yet. For me, some managers viewed the FA Cup as an opportunity to play the youth team or those who will never break into the starting eleven. However, we have seen that this historic cup deserves respect. Who doesn't want to see that giant killing against a side that is playing their world class players? It is one of the only times where non-league teams have a shot at the big boys, it is the time where we see our favourite clichés and the time where we are the ones who cheer when a team we have never heard of scores against one we most definitely have.
This has been seen in what can only be described as the magic that has been produced by Lincoln and Sutton and who didn't want the latter team to grab a goal against Arsenal? I'm relieved to see the so – called ‘bigger teams’ playing their 'weaker' players and being punished and red-faced. Is this all it because foreign managers do not have the knowledge of the historic cup? Possibly, but that shouldn’t matter: if you manage in England, you should know the blissful uncertainty that comes with our competitions and if you do not turn up and play as you would against any other team, then you will become the laughing stock of the country. The best part of the FA Cup is that wherever you come from, whoever you support, your team will always have a chance.
I hope and pray that this sort of football continues for years – it is the sort of competition that made me fall in love with the game and always champion the underdog. I assume that the only thing left to say, as we look with eager anticipation to the quarter finals – come on Lincoln City!