In 1955 Real Madrid won the Spanish League and were permitted entry to the European Champion Clubs’ Cup, in the same season Stade De Reims won the French League and were also blessed with the opportunity to take part in the first competition that entailed the top teams throughout the best leagues in Europe.
Real Madrid won the first European Champions final 4-3 against Stade De Reims after going behind and were crowned the European Champions, and would continue to do so for the next four years.
In it’s current state the UEFA Champions League can now comprise of a maximum of four teams from each league ranked one to three within the UEFA coefficient. In one instance five teams were granted permission from the English Premiership when Liverpool were granted the right to defend their title, but had been unable to qualify within the regional position.
Over the last few years there has been a satisfying dominance from within England, who began their European journey seemingly sceptical, denying Chelsea the opportunity to take part in the very first European Cup, supposedly believing that the ‘fad’ would not last and that it would not be good for English Football. Now however, you have to go back to the 2005-2006 season before you can see a Champions League Semi-Final in the last few years that did not include at least three English teams, and then even further still to 2002-2003 if you’re looking to see when the penultimate game did not include an English team at all.
Whilst as a Chelsea fan I await the fall of Manchester United and Arsenal week in week out in the hope that Chelsea will increase the gap domestically, in Europe I anticipate the justification to the claim that the Premier League truly is the greatest league in the world; Regardless of the negative connotations of increased tax within the United Kingdom and the supposed ‘galactico’s’ rising from the continent.
Recently there have been rumours regarding a potential Champion’s league play off place instead of the fourth spot, in the same way that it occurs within the lower English league for promotion, which has been positively backed from many managers within the said league.
I believe that this can only take from the superiority of England if the opportunity to take part in the Champions League is based essentially on a couple of games at the end of the season. Had this been imposed last year, a little bit of luck, a controversial decision from a referee or an un-characteristic slip up from Arsenal or Everton could have led to Fulham (who finished 19 points short of the fourth spot) taking part in the Champions League instead of Arsenal.
That 19 points is huge, and is the clear difference between a team entering the Champions League that our continental rivals will be desperate to avoid, or in contrast the team that everyone is crossing their fingers in desperation that they will be drawn against. To draw an equivalency it would ask the question as to whether you would be looking to draw Fiorentina, the team that twice beat Liverpool, or alternatively playing Udinese, the answer to which is blindingly obvious.
I completely understand the success that the play-offs have had within the football league, the excitement and financial benefits it can bring, and the newly found drive for all those mid-table teams that usually flounder within the doldrums of the league. But from a perception that looks for the best for English and European football, surely the idea of creating a play-off place for the pinnacle of all the prestigious competitions is farcical?