Champions league? Michel is 'aving a laugh
UEFA and Michel Platini are discussing the possibility of expanding the group stages of the Champions League to a 64-team format (from the current 32). Which means 128 clubs involved from qualifying to CL proper. That would mean the top 7 sides in the Premier League being potentially involved. The Europa League would have to be scrapped as an avoidable consequence.
And there we have it. The people in power seeking to maximise the money they can make and appease all the clubs that harbour the same love for financial dominance. But that's football, right?
It's hardly a Champions League now, let alone one with 64 clubs involved. So maybe they should scrap the Europa League in all but name because that's what it ends up being. A European 'cup' League rather than one for the genuine elite, and by elite I mean actual champions rather than runners-up and friends.
Then again, everyone knows it's not really a league of champions. Just a league of the most consistent sides winning their championships in their respective leagues.
Once upon a time, they all dreamt of a super league. If this is meant to be a step in that direction, it's going the wrong way. Or is it? Personally, UEFA are getting it all wrong. But then I'm a traditionalist, a romantic. I see football first, money second.
What would I do? I'd turn the Europa League into a straight knock-out competition. Two-legged. Old school. It's hardly a new idea and neither is the one that would see either both finalists qualify for the CL the following year, or just the winner. Either way, you just know clubs will take it seriously. I know there's a contradiction in there. The fact that two sides that haven't qualified for the CL qualifying for it by way of winning another cup. And if they won it and qualified via the league anyway...well, they'd have to be a clear understanding on the impact to others. But the reason for this contradiction is simply a middle ground that I'd have to accept. CL isn't going away, it's just going to evolve. But perhaps it shouldn't evolve with such a dramatic push as being suggested by UEFA.
But then if there is no longer a distinguishable difference (in qualifying) between a champion and the teams directly below in CL positions then why even bother having a secondary European competition if a fair few clubs don't take it seriously? Why not just group the whole lot together and be done with it? Thinking like a Platini now.
Currently, CL teams drop into the Europa League. Why? It's about appeasing and protecting them, especially the really 'big' clubs who might find themselves surprised not to get through to the next stage. That's why in some ways, the Europa League is perceived as an after thought.
So I wouldn't change too much. If anything, I'd keep the CL as it is and refresh the Europa.
I like Andre Villas-Boas attitude and the attitude of other continental clubs that do perceive the competition (regardless of all the politics) as one to be taken seriously. Those politics aside, you're still facing other clubs from Europe - some of which are more than decent. It's still a cup competition, it's still silverware...it still provides the potential for Glory nights.
We won't see a day where only the champions of each country qualify for a 'European cup'. What we've got isn't really what the European Cup once was. There's no doubt the quality of football and clubs involved currently makes it one of the best, if not the best competition in football - but if this is the way UEFA wish to proceed then that much maligned super league will come to fruition. It just won't be one for the cherry-picking elite. Maybe that's actually the one positive thing to take from all this. And the only thing super will be pretty much akin to super-sizing a fast food meal. You don't need all that extra meat, but you can't help yourself whilst you pig your way through it.