CHAMPIONS LEAGUE – For the first time in history, the knockout stages of the Champions League will be reserved for five countries. The five most powerful on the continent. Chance? Coincidence? None of this. A sense of history and another insidious step towards what the richest clubs on the continent dream of: the closed league.
Since the 1992 reform, the European Cup of Champions Clubs, which have become the Champions League, have only closed in on themselves while generating more revenue. While hosting European champions in the beginning, it has gradually opened itself to dolphins in the "big leagues" and then to a wider elite since hosting up to four teams per championship (or 5 depending on the identity of the C1 and C3 winners). Better yet, since 2018, the four most powerful countries on the continent (England, Spain, Germany and Italy) are guaranteed to take advantage of half the seats at the start of the competition. No more room for them. Less for others. It's called a vicious circle.
Virtuous – malicious, both sides of the same coin
It is especially vicious for those who stay outside the door. Because for the powers of the continent it is quite virtuous. Revenues have never been so high in the Champions League, and they have never been so small to share the cake.
This season, from the eighth finals, they will only be five countries, including France (cocorico), to collect XXL revenue for a competition that has never so badly borne his name. Admittedly, it's not just "big" clubs at the event, like Atalanta Bergamo, who came to the top 16. And that's good. But it will be recalled that Bergamasques, residents of Serie A, benefited from a direct entry into the competition. That master of the Netherlands, to name one, dreams of the night.
And France in all this? It boasts of placing two units in this super elite in the month of February. But do not forget that it owes its place to a small miracle and to the XXL power of its best representative, more than the club's overall health. Then check the results of other courses on the European front to make sure.
Lyon qualified in pain against LeipzigGetty Images
This situation is obviously exceptional: five countries represented will not happen every year. Just as the presence of 10 nations at the same stage of the competition in 2016 was an incongruity. But if 2016 was anachronistic, this 2019/2020 collection is well in tune, symbolizing perfectly the slow joy of the Champions League to a closed league, long sought by the presidents of the few clubs most rich in the continent. The same people who kill, national weekend after weekend, the national championships whose interest is always slightly diminished due to the growing imbalance.
At a time when Messrs. Agnelli, Perez or Rummenigge are pushing hard and trying to slam on their doors if their wallets are less well-stocked than theirs, the risk of normalization and habit is: that the public should get used to this tightening of the elite, solely related to it economic power balance. I hear and read here and there already "it might not be worse this way". All opinions are in nature and all, in essence, are respectable. Nevertheless, the fact that most of the clubs in the Old Continent are sidelined for their less financial attractiveness is a deep injustice because it is reinforced by the inegalitarian structure of the current Champions League. In my eyes, she is even unbearable.
Philosophically speaking, how is 4th of La Liga – I could have mentioned Germany, England or Italy – more legitimate than the champion of the Netherlands (cuckold Ajax) when it comes to getting a direct ticket into the Champions League? No need for four hours to answer the question.