Tom Burchill looks at the Champions League next season and what it means for English football to have five teams in the tournament.
For the last two seasons, the Europa League has transformed from a Micky Mouse trophy that nobody dared compete for to a back door entry to the Champions League. We were almost the first team to do it but alas we didn’t.
I am sure none of us has forgotten the heartbreak of reaching two finals last season and failing to win both. One that promised to end a four year silverware drought and another that offered Champions League football. A year later, just as I thought I was over it, I find myself hurting again.
Why am I hurting do you ask?
Because Manchester United’s walk over Ajax on Wednesday evening meant that even in a season where they were at their worst, they had the season we were desperate for last year. Even I cannot bring myself to say their campaign has not been a success. But what I can say is that Mourinho and United are ******* *****.
It’s not that they’re the first English team to do it. It’s not even that they’re our biggest rival (it is). What it comes down to is the fact that it proves that no matter our history we are still not one of the current big boys on the world stage.
We might tell people that Real Madrid would be scared to have us in their group. In the back of our minds, though, we haven’t forgotten the 3-0 slaughter at Anfield that was only mitigated by the fact Madrid had El Classico that weekend.
We are currently in a stage of rebuilding, a stage that we have been in for years. Maybe even decades. For seasons we haven’t had trophies, we haven’t attracted big names and we haven’t really progressed. The one thing that we do have though is a ticket to the big show.
Next season, providing and assuming that we win our qualifier, there will be five English teams in the Champions League. Everyone keeps talking about this, but why is it so important?
An English team has not won the Champions League since Chelsea beat Bayern Munich in a penalty shoot-out in 2012. Since that, an English team has not even graced the final.
You constantly hear Premier League fans boasting that “this is the best league in the world” but on what basis is that? We do not boast the best teams in the world and we do not have a native team that wins anything on the European or world stage.
No, the average Premier League fan will tell you it’s the best league because it’s the most “competitive.”
The reason that this view is held is that teams like Swansea can go to Anfield and take three points. Is this because Swansea are good or because Liverpool aren’t good enough?
The reason that it appears to us that lower league teams simply “roll over and die” when playing Madrid and Barca is because of their sheer class. If they were in our league would they lose on a rainy day in Stoke or struggle to break down a tight-knit West Brom? I don’t think so.
Next year’s Champions League is crucial to not only Liverpool but to the Premier League in general. Should five horses enter the race and not one can reach the final then I don’t think we can continue to glorify our league.
I love our arrogance. Our God damn British arrogance. We are the best because we say we are the best. But it’s time to put our money where our mouth is. It’s time for England, anyone from England, to prove that we have what it takes to compete with Juventus, Bayern Munich, Madrid and Barca.
The way we played against the top six makes me hopeful that we can be a genuine threat to the heavyweights next year. Let’s go out there and do it.