Can a Scottish team ever win the Champions League?

Celtic’s home draw with Manchester United last night dumps them, all but mathematically, out of the Champions League for another year. They opened with, by Champions League standards, an easy home tie against Aalborg BK, but a disappointing 0-0 draw was all they managed to achieve in the game that held their best chance of success out of their six fixtures. Losses away to both Villareal and Man Utd left them with half their games played and not a single goal scored. A very disappointing tally for a team that is so successful in their home country.

Since 1995, the only two Scottish teams to reach the Champions League’s group stages have been Celtic and Rangers (Hearts once reached the qualifying rounds in 2006, but were denied qualification by AEK Athens). Rangers have made it to the group stages but failed to go through 7 times and once reached the last 16 and Celtic have reached the groups 3 times and for the last two years have made it to the last sixteen.

Joining the Premier League
Every few years or so, the topic of Celtic and Rangers joining the English Premier League rears it’s head and the debate rages, with some fiercely opposed and some all for it. Not that I necessarily support the proposition, but it seems to me to be the only way they can ever start to challenge for the last four spots of the Champions League or beyond.

The biggest players in Europe and the world will invariably shy away from joining Scottish clubs because they want to be playing high quality opposition week in, week out. This breeds a catch-22 situation, whereby the best leagues in Europe (England, Spain and Italy) will continue to attract the best players and the other leagues continue to fall further behind, as it’s so much harder to attract star names. In the 16 years since the formation of the Champions League, 4 times it has been won by a Spanish team, 4 times by Italians and 3 times by English (33 of the 53 winners in both new and old formats of the competition, being from these three leagues too).

Scottish teams are often criticised for not being able to cope with the pace of other Eurpoean teams, and how many times has a player been electric in the SPL, then moved to the EPL, only to be a huge disappointment?

In a changing football world, will Scottish teams ever cut it in Europe’s most prestigious competition again? Or will the EPL, La Liga and Serie A dominate for the foreseeable future?

Editor: We’re aware that Celtic were the first British club to be crowned European champions in 1967. This is about the present premier European club competition, the Champions League, and future chances of a Scottish team winning it.

Martin Banks writes at the Aston Villa Blog.

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