Date: 23rd February 2007 at 7:54am
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What do we think about the current standard of football across Europe, particularly the Champions League? Is it as good as it used to be?

This is a debate I’ve been having with many people for some time now and it’s one of those subjects that everyone has an opinion on, but it’s very difficult for anyone to be definitely right about (or wrong!). Comparing different generations of football players is very difficult, particularly as the game is constantly changing so much.

I’ll admit that I have a personal bug bear with the current format of the Champions League. I simply think that there are too many teams in it and yes, I’m afraid I am one of those traditionalists who thinks that the name of the tournament is misleading. I just don’t see how you can call it a competition for ‘champions’ when most of the participants are NOT champions, even in their own countries!

It’s not that I don’t appreciate the fact that the top four teams in Spain are all likely to be of a higher standard than say the champions of Lithuania (soon to be Hearts?!), but the bottom line is that the only reason that four teams from any one country can be in this tournament is money. The big clubs always want a piece of the action and this tournament panders to those clubs, allowing them to continue to get all the money that goes with being in it every season, even if their domestic form slips up. Some might say this is fair enough, as people want to see the big clubs playing against each other as often as possible, but what is this actually doing to the standard of competition, both in this tournament and domestically?

I think there’s an argument to say that because these big clubs don’t have to win their own domestic leagues to qualify for the Champions League, then the standard of these leagues has started to suffer and this has had a knock-on effect to Europe’s Premier Competition itself. With the exception of perhaps La Liga in Spain, if you look around Europe I think you’ll be struggling to find a league that is currently of a higher standard than it was say 10 years ago. Or if the standard hasn’t dropped, then the interest in who wins most definitely has, with the English Premiership being possibly the best example of this. Winning the Premiership used to be everything as far as teams were concerned down south, but although it’s still significant, there is nowhere near the same importance placed on it, as you can afford to finish as low as fourth and still get to play in the Champions League. Furthermore, because there are so many games in the Champions League, the top teams are tending to rest their top players for domestic games, meaning that very often teams of a lower quality are able to finish higher up the league because the top teams are rarely at full strength, which can result in poorer sides getting into Europe.

As for the standard of the Champions League itself, there can be some fantastic entertainment in there – after all, most of the world’s best players do play in Europe. However in recent years we’ve had quite a lot of average football teams qualifying for even the knock-out stages of the tournament. I hate singling out Scottish clubs to exemplify a lower standard, but let’s face it, the Rangers team that got to the last 16 of last season’s Champions League was arguably the worst Rangers team in 20 years! And this season we have a very poor Celtic side (in European terms) at the same stage with a chance of progressing further at the time of writing. Other sides such as Monaco and Porto have also reached the final in recent years. If these clubs had genuinely great sides getting to these stages then I wouldn’t be questioning it, but the fact is they weren’t. Even some of the big clubs who’ve won the tournament lately have been far from great, like Liverpool and Bayern Munich. Great names perhaps, but not great sides. I do doubt if teams of comparable standard would have gotten a sniff of winning this tournament a decade ago.

It’s all about opinions though and I know several people who will disagree with every word of this! Personally I felt that the Champions League peaked when there was only one round of group matches with less groups than there are now. To have the number of sides in it that we have just makes it too long with too many games, to the point where you have meaningless matches. You should never have meaningless matches in a tournament as big as this.

Only the views of one person though………..


7 Replies to “Champions League Standards Dropping?”

  • I agree with your I think the standard has slipped quite a bit. There’s no way that the likes of Rangers as they are just now would have gotten near the last 16 a few years ago. They need to reduce the number of teams, probably by half.

  • If they reduced the number of teams, there would be 16 teams. I think that is too little. Maybe 24 would be ok… When you say that Porto, Monaco and Celtic of this year are not good sides, I don’t fully agree with you. The thing is that although those sides might not be very good on paper, they have been able to play well at the right time. Especially nowadays when there are three playoff rounds plus the final, upsets are very possible. I think that is one of the better aspects of Champions League, that much smaller teams can beat big ones. And although as a Jambo I shouldn’t perhaps say this, I hope Celtic will go far this year.

  • Actually, I’m not an idiot and besides I never said that there is more than one round of group matches. What I said was that there are 3 playoff rounds, that is the 1/8-finals, quarter-finals, semi-finals, plus the final. So before you want to make yourself look like a clown, better read what has been written.

  • Don’t fret, AirHearts. He was most likely referring to me as being an idiot and although he may well be right, he could have been a little bit less insulting with his words. He is missing the point entirely though – I was referring to the number of teams and games in the competition, not the number of group stages.

  • Of course there did used to be two group stages in the competition, and IMO they should bring that back. Why? Because the UEFA cup is a waste of time… just like the Cup Winners cup was deemed to be. In my opinion they should have ONE European competition, with 48 teams in it… eight groups of six teams. Your league position merely determines your seeding – so you don’t get Chelsea playing Barcelona in the groups for example. Top two qualify to the knockout phase of 16.

  • So…you want a European League then? That’s effectively what we’re talking about here, but with the top 16 then going into a mini-cup tournament. Personally I think there are too many teams in there already so I wouldn’t like to see this happen. Watching games like Man U V Real Madrid used to be a mouth-watering prospect, but because it now happens quite often it’s become de-valued.

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