European Super League comment: If this dirty dozen want to go, let them
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Europe's big clubs are planning their own breakaway league. The problem is, the commas around the word big could scarcely be more inverted.
Twelve clubs – six of them English, at least in terms of where their stadium is located – are working on proposals to create a European league they would be permanent members of.
AC Milan, the biggest club in the world, are one of the conspirators. The biggest team in the world in the late 1980s and early 1990s, that is. This season they were one of the 16 best teams in European club football's booby prize, the Europa League, but not good enough to make it to the quarter-finals. They are not looking likely to win Serie A either, for a 10th successive season. At least they are consistent.
That honour looks like to fall to Inter Milan, not good enough to make it out of this season's Champions League group stage this season, last won the trophy 11 years ago, four years after their city rivals.
Juventus won their second European Cup a quarter of a century ago.
Arsenal, who have never been European champions, are currently the ninth best team in England, albeit only by dint of having played more games than some of those below.
Atletico Madrid and Manchester City, top of their leagues, have never won “old big ears” either. Neither have Tottenham Hotspur, who were last English champions in 1961. They have a job on at the moment to qualify for next season's Europa League but hey, if they get lucky next weekend they will at least win the League Cup, their first trophy since they last picked it up in the glory days of Juande Ramos, 13 years ago.
Chelsea have been European champions once.
Bayern Munich – you know, the actual European champions – have risen above this classless proposal to ring-fence themselves in a “super” league. German clubs, thank goodness, are prepared to listen to the views of their fans, whereas Arsenal, Atletico, Manchester United and Real Madrid have stuck two fingers up at the open letter their supporters groups signed this week in direct and crystal clear opposition to this move.
Paris Saint Germain, you would think the epitome of the “new-money thinking” driving this power and money grab, are already in this season's Champions League semi-finals and in with a good chance of taking the title – which would be their first – after knocking Bayern out in midweek. They have also steered clear.
So who decided Milan, Inter, Juventus, Barcelona, Atletico, Real Madrid, Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Spurs were Europe's elite clubs? Well, they did.
They are not the most successful or even the richest.
Ah, but what about their history?
Well, it is less than a quarter of a century since Manchester City were losing to York City in League One, when they were a club with two domestic titles to their name, one more than Chelsea. Back then, when City were more laughed at than feared, Barcelona had only won the European Cup once, compared to two for Nottingham Forest.
City and Chelsea might be historic clubs, but they are not historically great clubs.
That is the beauty of football – greatness ebbs and flows.
Liverpool, so outstanding for the previous two seasons, are the Premier League's sixth best team this. They were magnificent in winning last season's English title, but it was their first for 30 years. Manchester United have won more English titles than anyone, but there was a 26-year gap between their seventh and eighth wins which featured a short stint in Division Two.
Increasingly, the clubs who regard themselves as Europe's biggest are trying to cement their positions, even though many are apparently oblivious to the fact that they either no longer have that status, or never have.
In looking after themselves, they will cut the rest adrift, hoarding more money for themselves. They will probably try to keep playing domestic football, but only with feeder teams which further discredit the competitions they have turned their back on. Those league's should tell them where they can stick that idea in the rudest possible terms.
Take away the opportunity for “big” clubs to fall flat on their faces whilst “little” clubs like Leicester City carry off league titles they have been trying for decades to win and you destroy the while concept of competitive sport, the essence of what makes it worth watching.
If these clubs are as big as they think they are, they should put themselves up for relegation. Deep down, they know they are not.
Elite teams come and go. If this very dirty dozen want to go, let them.