Will English clubs dominate Europe again?
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