Looking back at the recent winners of the Champions League the obvious conclusion is that it can only be won with luck, which although that adds to the unpredictability it can also lead to less excitement.
Porto had a lot of luck when they won it(as did Monaco in getting to the final), Liverpool had it when they ‘scored’ that goal, Milan won it with a lucky goal, and it can be said for most Champions League winners, they got lucky. Although there is the odd time the favourites win it e.g Barcelona in 2006, it doesn’t often happen. But the Champions League is also built on turning points; Liverpool never looked like winning the final until the first goal went in, they never even looked like getting past the group stages until Gerrard saved them with a wonder goal, which gave them the confidence to go on and win it, Kaka did the same for Milan last year against Celtic, and when Porto beat Manchester United you can bet they had the belief that they could beat anyone.
The Champions League is often referred to as the most exciting competition in world football, and I often wonder why, there’s no doubting that it has the best teams competing in it year in, year out but more often than not up until the Quarter-Finals the football played is very tactical and often more cautious than the football we are used to watching our team play.
AC Milan never play their best football until long after the group stages, nor do Liverpool, Manchester United or Real Madrid(Barcelona the exception as they really play great football the whole way through, and rip the weaker teams apart in the group stages) . The so-called ‘big teams’ show much less ambition and play the same sort of football the other ‘smaller’ teams play against them. So I ask everyone, is the Champions League better than the Premiership or La Liga? (the Bundesliga isn’t of the same quality in truth, and I find it hard to watch Serie A, the football Italian teams play is just so different and I find it hard to get excited about it) Or even is it better than International football?
International football is completely different to club football, but there’s no doubt that it generates the same excitement when the World Cup comes along. The World Cup brings together entire countries together and the supports always unbelievable. The football is also, in my opinion, more open and much easier to watch than the Champions League, for the most part, which is slightly confusing as they are both cup competitions and the prize is equally as prestigious.
Being from Northern Ireland I don’t have a lot of experience of World Cup triumphs(or even getting past the qualifying stages…) but any International Match generates huge support and although Northern Ireland
are truly rubbish aren’t one of the best teams, we still get the odd thing to cheer about, beating England being one of them winning the ‘Best Supporters Award in European International football’ in 2005 being one of them
The Champions League also no doubt brings up some absolutely outstanding matches regularly in terms of excitement and technical ability, two of which being Roma v Manchester United and Liverpool v AC Milan, but also as is often seen in football great teams can cancel each other out and just be a test of endurance rather than ability. In terms of support I’d go as far as saying it is the best, in the days leading up to these matches(largely down to the media) are built up to be something special, and I find people are more excited before these matches than in their respective league matches.
Now in my opinion my preference is and always will be the Premiership because of the pace of the game and the continuous excitement and upsets. Theres nothing like hearing a Liverpool fan talking about how this season will be the season everything comes together, or the Chelsea fans’ in denial that without Roman’s millions they would still be the team they are(hopefully now with Fat Tony there the downfall will start and Roman will leave them, ah one can dream eh?) , Arsenal fans’ reiteration that they’re ‘still a young team’ and ‘next year they will have matured and become great’ or Manchester United fans’ saying… well they don’t say too much… its hard to say anything with a mouth full of prawn sandwiches. And although the games can often become scrappy, theres always a few goals, and goals of real quality at that.