Number of posts : 421
Age : 39
Country and city : US, Washington DC
Laziale since : 1985
Registration date : 2008-05-23
|Subject: CL - History Mon Jun 02, 2008 10:30 pm|| |
I started this topic in the other forum and we received some great posts. I'm not sure if this topic should be in THIS specific area or Free Talks, but I will let the mods discuss the correct area for this discussion. Read onward!!
History And Evolution
Europe’s premier club competition was born in 1955 under the name of the European Champions Clubs’ Cup, better known at the European Cup. Only the champions from each national country were eligible to take part. For the next 36 years the tournament would use a two-leg knockout format in every round up until the final, which of course would be decided in a one-off game at a neutral venue.
In 1991/92, this format slightly changed, as two round-robin groups, each containing four teams, were included in the third round, with the top team from each pool, Sampdoria and Barcelona, then going on to meet in the final.
This system was officially inaugurated the following season, and the competition was renamed to what it is called today, the UEFA Champions League. This signalled the start of a gigantic expansion, and in 1997/98, runners-up from the top nations were also invited to take part. This rapid growth in numbers continued so that ten years on from this, England, Italy and Spain all now enter four teams into the Champions League.
The group phase, which in 1992 had contained eight clubs, all national champions, now has 32 teams, with a mix of first, second, third and fourth placed domestic squads.
A Champions League For Non-Champions
One of the major condemnations of the modern edition of the Champions League is the hypocrisy in the competition’s name. A tournament for ‘Champions’ should be just that – it should not include second, third and fourth placed teams from national leagues.
"When I won it, it was the last year when only domestic champions entered,” said legendary coach Marcello Lippi, who led Juventus to glory in 1996.
“Then it became the Champions League and now it's possible that even a team that has finished fourth can win it. It was more beautiful, more significant when it was the European Cup.”
Over the past 10 years, numerous winners have not been their national champions. Milan had finished third in Serie A (second, pre-Calciopoli) before they won the trophy last year, while the victors from two years earlier, Liverpool, had come fourth in the English Premiership. Even Manchester United’s famed treble winners from 1999, had finished behind Arsenal the previous season.
Part of the beauty of the old European Cup was the nationalist element. There was a feeling that teams were really representing their country.
In 1967 Celtic lifted the European Cup after famously beating Inter Milan 2-1 in Lisbon in the final. The ‘Lisbon Lions’, as they were known, were all Scottish, and remarkably had all been born within 30 miles of Glasgow.
Compare this to the dire state of the modern game, where Arsenal are supposedly representing England without a single Englishman. In the recent quarter-final between The Gunners and Liverpool, only two Englishmen, Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher, played from the beginning. Inter Milan are another example, with the ageing 34-year-old Marco Materazzi the only Italian outfield player in their senior squad.
Next season UEFA are attempting to tackle this problem with quotas that will require squads to name four players who grew up in the club’s youth system, as well as another four who are of that country’s nationality.
This will hardly solve much, as many of the foreigners, for example at Arsenal, were educated in the clubs youth system and will count as home-grown. As for nationality, it will just lead to the signing of cheap, reserve players, who effectively become the 24th and 25th men in the squad. There are reports that Inter are looking to go down this route with the signing of 32-year-old Siena veteran Tomas Locatelli.
All Countries Could Challenge
Today there are only realistically three countries who can provide a Champions League winner - England, Italy and Spain. Occasionally you may get an anomaly, such as Porto in 2004, but these are becoming rarer by the year.
In the old European Cup, all nations had a chance of emerging victorious. Who can forget the brilliant 1991 winners Red Star Belgrade from Yugoslavia (now Serbia)? Red Star are perhaps the final old-school winners of the competition. They had been knocking on the door for a number of years prior to 1991, but the chances of them ever winning the tournament again seem impossible.
Then you have Steaua Bucharest who won the European Cup in 1986, and reached a semi-final, and final in 1988 and 89 respectively.
Belgian teams, such as Anderlecht and Club Brugge, always made it to the latter stages, while Sweden also did well in European competition. Gothenburg, who won the UEFA Cup twice in the 1980s, reached the semi-finals in 1986, only losing to Barcelona following a penalty shootout. Russian-outfits such as Dynamo Kiev were always a dangerous animal too.
Holland and Germany produced two of the greatest European Cup teams of all time. Johan Cruijff’s Ajax won the competition three years in succession in the early 1970s, before Franz Beckenbauer’s Bayern Munich won it three times on the bounce themselves.
In the 1990s Ajax created another brilliant team under Louis Van Gaal, while Borussia Dortmund defeated the mighty Juventus in the final in 1997. A decade on, things have become so bad that it is now considered a surprise if a team from Holland or Germany wins the Champions League. The same can also be said about France, who in successive decades provided us with wonderful outfits like St Etienne, Bordeaux and Marseille. Portugal are in a similar boat, and memories of Eusebio’s legendary Benfica of the 1960s are fading fast.
What is becoming even more apparent is that, not only is there now only three countries capable of winning the Champions League, there is in fact only a handful of teams. Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Barcelona, Real Madrid, Juventus, Inter and Milan are probably the only clubs in with a realistic chance. Bayern Munich could be included to this list. It would be considered a shock if a team not on this list were to lift the trophy.
Where has all the romance gone?
In 1984 Scotland’s Dundee United beat Roma (Roma’s greatest-ever team in fact) 2-0 in the first leg of their European Cup semi-final. They lost the second leg 3-0 in Rome, but most young readers will probably refuse to believe that Dundee United could ever have been so close to reaching a final. The year before Widzew Lodz of Poland, also reached the semis.
Nottingham Forest, now in the third tier of English football, won back-to-back European Cups in 1979 and 1980. In 1977 they had been playing in the second division in England, yet two years later they were champions of Europe.
When would you ever get a story like that today?
Forest’s manager Brian Clough was an all-time legend for what he achieved at the City Ground, but it is downright unthinkable that he could ever repeat such a feat in the modern game. Today it is virtually impossible to be a successful manager at the highest level without money.
The tradition and the magic of the Champions League has all but disappeared. It has become an elite competition, ruled by money, and contested by only nine or ten clubs.