Miguel Delaney: Why the repeat Champions League is past the point of salvation

As Karim Benzema produced the finish he always does, even the Champions League ran out of major upsets. Liverpool inevitably went to Real Madrid for the third consecutive season, and it all felt a bit repetitive. Manchester City once again destroyed the German opposition in the last 16. Bayern Munich and Chelsea prevailed again.

That’s not quite the case throughout the competition, as Napoli have been the revelations of the season. Their breakthrough came as part of a wider resurgence for Serie A, with the two Milan clubs ensuring the league has three quarter-finals for the first time since 2005-06. It also makes Italy, somewhat surprisingly, the best-represented country in the final eight.

This has been widely and rightly hailed as a welcome development and a strong Serie A is obviously good for football, but it’s also worth thinking about what’s going on here.

As romantic as Napoli’s history is, these and the two Milan clubs are three of Italy’s most traditionally powerful clubs. The country itself is one of the richest in football, in terms of wealth but also history and culture.

If this level of Italy is to be seen as any sort of revelation or display of diversity, it is truly the most alarming display of “frog boiling” yet. Football’s financial gaps have become so vast that one of the sport’s biggest strongholds has in some ways been seen as an essential starting point. Italy. It is remarkable.

It is also generally so. The world of the Champions League now feels remarkably small, mostly with the same clubs, the same cities, the same places and the same faces. Most of them were concentrated in the same powers.

Even five to six years ago, Borussia Dortmund would have had an exciting and refreshing squad capable of taking on an ailing Chelsea. Instead, they ran out of steam, Emre Can squeezing into midfield alongside Jude Bellingham. In a few years’ time, it may feel absurd that there was a period when English players like the midfielder and Jadon Sancho went to Germany for development, given how well bolstered the Championship might even be by then.

It’s ironic that the Premier League has had a “bad season” and actually only has two quarter-finals, but that’s more down to the coincidences of Liverpool drawing in Madrid and Tottenham suffering such a strange season than anything else. consistency. It is a one-off when the long-term direction of travel is so clear.

Along the same lines, this was the third time in seven seasons that Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City have completely destroyed Bundesliga opposition in the last 16. The 7-0 win over Leipzig made it 22 goals in the last six such games. Such a points gap comes mainly from a financial gap and one that goes beyond City’s state ownership.

Erling Haaland tormented RB Leizpig with five goals

” height=”3709″ width=”5564″ layout=”responsive” class=”inline-gallery-btn i-amphtml-layout-responsive i-amphtml-layout-size-defined” on=”tap:inline-image-gallery,inline-image-carousel.goToSlide(index=1)” tabindex=”0″ role=”button” data-gallery-length=”4″ i-amphtml-layout=”responsive”>

Erling Haaland tormented RB Leipzig with five goals

(AP)

Even if many point to Red Bull’s ownership of Leipzig, this is not the case for Borussia M√∂nchengladbach or Schalke, and the company also operates a deliberately ascetic style in a league that rightly imposes appropriate financial controls. It’s just that such local financial controls become too restrictive in a globalized game, once again leaving Bayern Munich as Germany’s sole representative in the last eight.

The small size of this world becomes clearer as he wonders if this could be City’s season after all. It’s at this stage of the Champions League when the competition should be getting tougher, but instead it feels like it’s clearing up.

With some of the super clubs suffering bad seasons – with Liverpool being a prime example – there aren’t many left.

City, Madrid and Bayern are the obvious elite‚Ķ and that’s pretty much it. Napoli could be the big revelation, and it looks like their intense football will have most of Europe backing them in the way we saw with Ajax in 2018-19. But that is also the fear – that eventually they will suffer a crash like Ajax.

Napoli and Benfica could restore a spark to the quarter-finals

” height=”692″ width=”1024″ layout=”responsive” class=”inline-gallery-btn i-amphtml-layout-responsive i-amphtml-layout-size-defined” on=”tap:inline-image-gallery,inline-image-carousel.goToSlide(index=2)” tabindex=”0″ role=”button” data-gallery-length=”4″ i-amphtml-layout=”responsive”>

Napoli and Benfica could reignite a spark in the quarter-finals

(Getty Images)

The Dutch side, meanwhile, remains the classic example of this kind of start-up, but only because there are now so few of them. It says even more that a top Serie A club is being considered in this direction.

Simply put, it’s harder for any promising team to stick together for anything like proper progress because the Premier League is now so quick to snap up anything with talent. Deportivo La Coruna no longer exists, let alone Dynamo Kyiv of 1999.

Perhaps the most worrying example of this is the Porto-Inter draw. Two to three decades ago, it would have been a meeting between a side of truly world-class stars and a high-quality Porto who might have fancied their chances of a full European run – admittedly sacked by Mario Jardel. This season, it was as if they were both playing for their Champions League future there and then, knowing that this was an extremely rare opportunity to even reach the last eight.

That leaves Benfica as another potential surprise but also the side everyone wants.

The Champions League itself has played a major role in creating this, given the way its prize money has completely warped the landscape of European football and left the calcified elite wanting even more. It is a Super League of its own and will be even more similar to the changes after 2023-24.

Liverpool and Mohamed Salah were defeated by Real Madrid for the fourth time in six seasons

” height=”683″ width=”1024″ layout=”responsive” class=”inline-gallery-btn i-amphtml-layout-responsive i-amphtml-layout-size-defined” on=”tap:inline-image-gallery,inline-image-carousel.goToSlide(index=0)” tabindex=”0″ role=”button” data-gallery-length=”4″ i-amphtml-layout=”responsive”>

Liverpool and Mohamed Salah lose to Real Madrid for fourth time in six seasons

(Getty Images)

In contrast to that, at least it had all these dramatic returns, so many twists and turns, great stories and TV shows. This last-16 was mostly rather monotonous. Much of this will likely be due to the aftermath of the World Cup.

Some of this, however, is arguably due to a creeping inertia within the Champions League itself. Liverpool have undoubtedly seen enough of Real Madrid. Most teams have seen enough of each other.

It’s possible the quarterfinals will bring back some spark. A lot depends on the draw.

The twists may have the same effect, however, if you’ve seen them all before.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *