Monday, May 19, 2008
Didier Drogba for Chelsea (v Liverpool), 30 April 2008
And so the European club football season moves towards its climax this Wednesday as England's very own Chelsea and Manchester United go head to head in the final of the 2007/8 Champions League.
Great for English football, best League in the world blah blah blah. This may all be true, frankly, and I can't begrudge either my fellow United or the Chelsea fans the excitement of the European Cup Final but I can't help feeling that there is something fundamentally wrong with the European Cup Final being between two teams from the same nation.
Two teams from the same nation can't both be their league champions, can they?
I appreciate that this has happened before (in 2000 and 2003) and that the recent history of the Champions League is littered with winners and finalists who weren't the champions of their respective countries when they won the tournament. I also understand that there isn't a snowball chance in hell of this changing any time soon.
It just seems to defeat the whole object of a Champions Cup (which it effectively is) when the final can be between two clubs from one country.
Platini has the right idea by trying to open up the competition to more of the "lower ranked" countries. The beauty of a knockout competition is that there can be upsets along the way, but naturally the larger clubs want to keep these to a minimum (the league format will often see to that) otherwise they lose a great proportion of their precious television revenue.
Abolish the league stages, let the first round include every Champion from Bosnia to Belgium and remove the daft "you can't play someone from your own country" rule. Famously, Nottingham Forest beat reigning European champions Liverpool in the first round in 1979.
I don't much care how good an all English final is for the English game (all English clubs - a smattering of English players, of course on show) but I would like to say a Champion win the Champions League occasionally.