Every Manchester United fan has that fabulous night in Barcelona 11 years ago ingrained in their mind as the greatest football event of their life. After all it’s not every day that an incredible treble can be achieved, it was in all probability a once in a lifetime experience.
When Ole Gunnar Solskjær somehow managed to transform 90 minutes of torture into sheer ecstasy, the millions of United fans around the world erupted into an explosion of joy. To anyone who watched the drama unfold that night it must still seem like it was only yesterday.
Once all those celebrations had finally died down however a nagging thought started to be realised by some fans, a small question remained in a tiny corner of the mind. How can a club win The European Champions League when that same club was not a champion at all?
It’s interesting to note that including the remarkable 1999 season, six of the last eleven Champions League Winners were not champions but mere runners up or even worse. Manchester United 1999, Real Madrid 2000, AC Milan 2003, Liverpool 2005, AC Milan 2007 and Barcelona 2009 were NOT champions of their respective leagues during those years. Something simply did not compute!
What better example of this illogical thinking can be given than that of Liverpool? Champions League Winners in 2005, reached the final again two years later yet they had failed to win a single Championship in England since 1990! Does that make sense to anyone?
Remember that we are supposedly talking about a European Champions League here. Think about it, this competition is neither for Champions nor is it a League! It is one that’s based on the exact same formula as the World Cup Finals with eight groups of four competing for the top two spots in order to progress to the knock out stages.
The only difference is that unlike the World Cup, the group stages in the Champions League are played on a home and away rather than on a single game basis. Has anyone ever heard of the World Cup League? Of course not, it’s simply the FIFA World Cup because it is NOT and never has been a League.
Maybe all this is somewhat pedantic. It possibly matters very little to most fans, but for the sake of credibility something needs to be done to address a clear anomaly. After all, the problem can be corrected with very little effort from Uefa.
The European Champions League can either remain in the same format and simply be renamed The European Cup or failing that, go back to the original concept when ONLY national CHAMPIONS, true champions, are allowed to compete and call it The European Champions Cup.
We are talking about the most prestigious football competition in Europe and as such it not only deserves but must be given a title which describes its true value. Right at the moment The Champions League is NOT a Champions League at all!