We’re often told “anything can happen in football – it’s the beautiful game, blink and you’ll miss something”. Well! Perhaps everything beautiful has already happened. Maybe all the good stuff took place in the previous century and now the last 10 years are part of a cycle that will circulate till the end of time.
Can Nottingham Forest ever win back to back European Cups again? Or can Celtic ever lift Europe’s highest accolade with a team from within 30 miles of Glasgow? Can any of these possibilities be achieved through hard work from a group of substandard, cohesive players, with a manager that just has the knack of getting the best out of them?
Football needs funding – we all know that. However, now it’s a case of you either have the green stuff or you don’t. It won’t take a genius to predict the top four in England this year. Add the top two in Spain and your list of potential Champions League winners is complete.
If you like power and greed, then you must love the current state of affairs. Chelsea and Arsenal can boast the immaculate tally of zero European Cups. Ajax have four. Not to mention an illustrious history that the aforementioned can only dream of. But if they’re placed against each other in a Champions League group, which set of supporters will have the arrogance of a “handy six points”?
To place blame you need look no further than Europe’s governing body, UEFA. They’re the ones who handed out Champions League places like confetti to Europe’s richest leagues. As a concentration of Europe’s most elite club’s became more rich and powerful, UEFA failed to see the negatives as their vision was blinkered by dollar signs.
The UEFA Cup, a once prestigious competition, is now tarnished with second rate clubs who consider it an inconvenience rather than a privilege to be entered. Once competitive leagues like Holland, Portugal and Scotland have had their standards lowered as their best player’s are attracted to the Premiership gravy tray.
In 2003 Porto and Monaco went against the grain as they swept Europe’s finest aside to reach the Champions League final. Eventually money won the day as any prospect of sustained success for either club was blown away; both were asset stripped of their best player’s who went in search of a fortune.
As the rich use their financial clout to snap up all the established talent, the knock-on effect for the rest of Europe is an over dependence on youth. Russia, Ukraine and Portugal bring players over from South America in their droves once they show an ounce of ability. Last seasons Champions League had more Brazilians than any other nationality registered to play.
As the new season roles ever closer and we’re already educated in the knowledge of what teams will be competing come the business end of the season, one wonders if there is a solution to ending the financial dominance of “the Big Four”. Man City may do it but, they’ll have paid their entry fee to sit at the top table.
No! If money is really to become secondary in football it can start by reversing the process. Let the Champions League do what it says and allow only champions entry. This would enable the UEFA Cup to be the tournament it once was. Cap the funding received from Sky and others to give the smaller clubs a prayer. It may be impossible, but only if Premierships can reside in places like the City Ground and Champions Leagues in areas like Belgrade, can football really slay the money monster.
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