Will English clubs dominate Europe again?

September 16, 2008

The Champions League trophy gets packed awayBayern Munich chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge sounded a familiar note this week when he predicted that English clubs would once again dominate the Champions League (see here or here for the story).

I suspect most people would agree with him but here are some reasons why it might not be as simple as that:

1. Recent history shows that clubs from one country rarely maintain their dominance for very long.

In 2000, three Spanish clubs reached the semi-finals and Real Madrid went on to win an all-Spanish final against Valencia. Valencia reached the final again the following year, losing to Bayern Munich, and in 2002 Real Madrid won their ninth European Cup but since then Spain have had just one club in the final, with Barcelona winning it in 2006.

Similarly, the Italian domination many of us predicted after the all-Serie A final of 2003, when AC Milan beat Juventus, failed to materialise. Milan have reached the final twice since, winning it in 2007, but they did not even qualify for the tournament this time.

English clubs have won the Champions League twice in the last four years, and the Premier League provided three of the semi-finalists both this year and in 2007, but that’s no guarantee of success this time.

2. The rest of Europe has not just stood admiring the Premier League since last year’s final.

Barcelona have made a slow start but they’ve made improvements to a squad that completed the semi-final lineup last time. Real Madrid have spent less money but their pursuit of Cristiano Ronaldo may turn out to have had an effect on United (we’ll see) and they have signed at least one fine player in Rafael van der Vaart.

Bayern themselves, after a season out of the competition, return with a much better squad than the one that reached the quarter-finals in 2007, while I wouldn’t bet against Zenit St Petersburg going far, despite their difficult group, after watching their thrilling run to victory in the UEFA Cup last term.

3. The standard of football played in the Premier League is, let’s face it, not as good as it’s often made out to be.

This is probably the subject of a post all to its self but let’s not kid ourselves that English football is that good. Liverpool’s win over Manchester United was a victory for tenacity and teamwork rather than good football, so consider the following: if that workmanlike Liverpool team can stop United, why not Villarreal or Celtic, or later in the competition Inter Milan (Mourinho has done it before) or, yes, even Bayern Munich?

PHOTO: The UEFA Champions League trophy is packed away into a case for the journey back to Britain after Manchester United beat Chelsea in Moscow, May 22, 2008. REUTERS/Eddie Keogh


We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/

I wouldn’t read too much into form right now. My pick for semi-finals: Real Madrid, Manchester, Chelsea, Arsenal. Seriously, the Premier league clubs have this wrapped up for a long, long time.
Bayern Munich chances are zilch.

Posted by laudly | Report as abusive

Luck aside, which you most definitely need to win the Champions League, as with any compettion, I’m finding it hard to see past Chelsea as this season’s winner.
Plus you know Man Utd will get better as the season progresses, as will Arsenal and Liverpool are just a completely different team when it comes to Europe.
English team? Can’t help but feel Rummenigge has a point!

All this talk concerning the standard of play or improvement to one’s squad and not one discussian concerning the “fit and proper person” test being applied to the ownership of these teams is missing the point.Given that Roman Abramovich’s origins of wealth have been the subject of numerous lawsuits and investigations citing corruption and fraud as his principal methods of doing business, one would think that the EPL would not want these questionable resources being laundered through their league. More importantly, when you consider that Abramovich is considered Putin’s bagman, one also must question whether Abramovich is actually an instrument of Putin’s neo-authoritarian policies. Given that Abramovich has already admitted to corruption by way of payoffs and protection money, the EPL must realize that Abramovich will never be prosecuted by the government that he has paid off , and must as a result consider applying the “fit and proper” test to the origins of Abramovich’s wealth as that will be the easiest way to prove that he is neither fit nor proper!

Posted by Evgeny Borsuk USA | Report as abusive

The English clubs will absolutly dominate Europe, one has to see the amount of money being thrown onto it.

Posted by Lec Neli | Report as abusive

Why is liverpool not among your choice for Winners in your poll?

Posted by njau | Report as abusive

While I agree with Kevin on points 1 and 2, I have to disagree with point 3. The quality of football is not determined by just the individual skill of players, the first barometer is precisely the ability to translate teamwork and tenacity combined with talent into results. As United’s win over a more talented Barcelona side in last season’s semi-final showed in no uncertain terms. I think non-English clubs will once again find it hard to cope with the torrid pace and high tempo of the English game. While Dortmund and Schalke, for instance, provided a highly entertaining Ruhr derby and some spectacular goals, I can’t help feeling both United and L’pool would have torn apart either of them in a European clash. But no one can write off either Bayern or the Spanish and Italian quartets and it is by no means certain English clubs will dominate this season.