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The European Leagues & Competitions Thread V2

Started by CHOULO19,

16,491 posts in this topic

I JUve dont win the title I can see them getting pep in....something tells me he has had enough of epl.

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20 minutes ago, Alabama said:

Werner on the flanks...

Not really. It's more of an inside forward role, where he stays close to the central striker as opposed to working out wide like a winger. 

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26 minutes ago, Jason said:

Not really. It's more of an inside forward role, where he stays close to the central striker as opposed to working out wide like a winger. 

yes, they use their wingbacks for the wide roles

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Honigstein: Revenge, nepotism and stodgy football – why Jurgen Klinsmann lasted only 76 days at Hertha



Jurgen Klinsmann hails from Swabia, the conservative south-west of Germany. But the 55-year-old took to his job at Hertha Berlin in the radical manner of fellow Californian Mark Zuckerberg. Move fast and break things.

It’s the way he’s always operated. If there are people within a federation or a club that he doesn’t like or rate, they’re gone. Not tomorrow. Today.

After his appointment at Hertha ten weeks ago, his first prominent victim was goalkeeping coach Zsolt Petry. The 53-year-old was instantly replaced by German national team goalkeeping coach Andreas Kopke, on an interim basis. That decision marked an inauspicious start to Klinsmann’s 76-day tenure before it had even begun: it reeked of nepotism and personal revenge.

Two years ago, Petry had criticised Klinsmann’s son, Jonathan, a budding goalkeeper at Hertha for lacking charisma. Klinsmann junior, 22, has since moved on to play for St Gallen in Switzerland last summer but his father wanted to bring him back.

As Bild revealed, he raised the issue during failed negotiations for an extended coaching contract beyond the summer. The club president Werner Gegenbauer refused.

Kopke’s son Pascal, incidentally, also plays for Hertha. Klinsmann handed the 24-year-old, a striker on the fringes of the first team, his first two starts for the seniors last week. Hertha lost both games, in the cup away to Schalke and at home to Mainz.


Klinsmann made the controversial decision to dismiss Petry and bring in Kopke 


The former Bayern Munich and Germany manager, it should be said, was hardly the first man in football to look after his own. Previous Hertha coaches Pal Dardai and Ante Covic, too, had their sons playing for the club.

The Zolt-JK-junior-affair was indicative of Klinsmann’s sheer bloody-mindedness but a mere sideshow in comparison of the bigger conflict that lay at the heart of his abrupt departure on Tuesday morning.

Backed by London-based investor Lars Windhorst, who bought just under half the shares of the club’s subsidiary company that runs the football operations for €224 million last year, Klinsmann wanted to turn the mid-sized and rather dull Hertha into a glitzy European superpower as quickly as possible.

“Klinsmann doesn’t do any half measures, he’s travelling at a murderous pace and expects everyone to follow suit,” an official from one of Germany’s leading clubs tells The Athletic. “At a club like Hertha, where those in office have been there for years and are fairly comfortable with the status quo, it was all bound to blow up.”

Gegenbauer and general manager Michael Preetz pleaded patience, gradual progress and cooperation. In effort to ward off relegation, Klinsmann was allowed to spend €77 million on four new players in January, more than any manager in Europe. But the two parties never saw eye to eye about the best way of rendering Hertha, the self-styled “Old Dame”, sexy and successful.

Preetz, a former Hertha striker turned official who’s been in the job since 2009, even admitted to acting like “a handbrake” a few weeks ago. The 52-year-old was suspicious of the pace of change and of the amount of money invested into the squad.

Transfer fees and wages for the new quartet — Krzysztof Piatek (AC Milan), Lucas Tousart (loaned back to Lyon until June), Matheus Cunha (RB Leipzig), Santiago Ascacibar (VfB Stuttgart) — swallowed up a significant portion of the Windhorst funds in one go.

Klinsmann himself revealed that he wanted more, however. Everything, in fact: the power to control all aspects of first team affairs without internal oversight, with a commensurate salary that Hertha officials privately described as “astronomical”. The club rebuffed him.

Klinsmann denied that money was a factor for his abrupt departure on Tuesday morning in a Facebook video the next evening.“We couldn’t agree on the division of responsibilities,” he said. “I’m not used to general managers sitting on the bench, talking to referees and players. I’m used to the English model, where managers only report to the owner. I was very annoyed by that.”

It’s hard to know whether the mid 90s Spurs striker truly believes that the Premier League is still the domain of autocratic rulers in the Ferguson-Wenger mould or why he thought that Preetz and Gegenbauer would simply move aside for his one-man-show, in a break with protocol in the Bundesliga.

Perhaps he simply overplayed his rather weak hand. Either way, he had no realistic chance of being anointed as the club’s full-time potentate while Hertha were still in the relegation battle and playing a stodgy, ultra-defensive game that made even well-disposed spectators’ eyes bleed.

Things could have conceivably changed if he had saved Hertha and brought about a marked improvement in the performances but there was also the danger, conversely, that Preetz would have fired him after a defeat against bottom-side Paderborn this Saturday.

Klinsmann simply walked out without any prior notice on Tuesday, put up a Facebook post soaked in crocodile tears (“It was an incredibly exciting time for me, with many new interesting insights. The club and the city have grown on me even more”) before anyone had a chance to react and left the whole club in a ditch, six points off the relegation play-off spot.

His exit was widely castigated as shameful and disrespectful by the German media, including journalists who had supported him steadfastly for decades.

Klinsmann had initially mooted the possibility of returning to his erstwhile role as an advisory board member on behalf Windhorst in a few weeks but by Wednesday afternoon, it was obvious that he had lost the financier’s support.

Klinsmann apologised to him and to supporters for the manner of his resignation and sheepishly blamed his impulsive nature. Windhorst’s verdict was damning, still.

“The way he left was unacceptable,” he said at a joint press conference with Gegenbauer and Preetz on Thursday morning. “I guess he blew a fuse. That can happen if you’re an adolescent but it shouldn’t happen in business, when serious agreements between adults are in place.”

Klinsmann’s departure, Windhorst added, had cost Hertha a sponsor. Then Preetz cooly twisted the knife. “There was a disagreement about the role of the head coach and its responsibilities,” he confirmed. “But there was never any talk about me sitting on the bench being a problem. I’m used to people addressing conflicts, talking them over and attempting to find a solution. You can’t do that by turning around and running away.”

There is no coming back for the Swabian from that; not in Germany, in any case. His former assistant Alexander Nouri will take over, for the time being.

The situation in the capital is bound to remain volatile, however, as the side’s league position and Windhorst’s “big city club” aspirations, are unlikely to align any time soon. It thus remains to be seen whether he’ll prove a calm and largely passive investor for “10 or 20 years,” as he promised on Thursday, or fall head over heels for the next Klinsmann to come along and whisper sweet promises of Champions League football into his ear.

The real battle for the heart of Hertha, one suspects, is yet to begin.

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Next Big Thing: What next for the Champions League? Guaranteed spots, more matches or solving ‘the Ajax problem’


champions league reform chelsea


When Chelsea beat Wolves to the First Division title in 1955 they were not just surpassing the reigning English champions, they were also getting one over on the self-styled “champions of the world”.

Wolves had just beaten Honved and their Marvellous Magyars 3-2 under Molineux’s new floodlights in a game broadcast live by the BBC.

While L’Equipe editor Gabriel Hanot was not buying the British bravado about Wolves being the best side on the planet, he had seen enough to know it was time for Europe to settle this properly. One of Hanot’s reporters, Jacques Ferran, had already been bending his ear about the South American Championship of Champions he had seen a few years before in Chile and, in the summer of 1955, they ganged up on UEFA to get a European version up and running.

The European Champion Clubs’ Cup started on September 4, but Chelsea were not on the starting grid. They had been blocked from accepting UEFA’s invitation by Football League secretary Alan Hardaker, who thought European football was a “distraction”.

Sixteen teams disagreed, with Hibernian flying the flag for Scotland, Rot-Weiss Essen representing Germany and Saarbrucken doing the honours for the Saar Protectorate. Europe was a very different place then, but some things have not changed at all: Real Madrid took the prize and held onto it for five years.

L’Equipe were right, though. Watching the best sides compete to be continental champions was fun and financially rewarding. And for the next 36 years, the European Cup provided the stage for superstars such as Alfredo Di Stefano, Eusebio, George Best, Johan Cruyff, Franz Beckenbauer, Kenny Dalglish and Marco van Basten.

The format was deliciously simple: last year’s winners plus domestic champions from around Europe, playing home and away, in a straight knockout. Get it wrong in round one, as double-defending champions Liverpool did against English title winners Nottingham Forest in 1978 (no keeping domestic rivals apart back then, either), and you were out — with no Europa League safety net to catch you.

Get past four opponents, as Forest did, and you got to play the champions of Sweden — or even Greece, Scotland or Yugoslavia — in the final and become legends. Twice.

champions league reform forest european cup

Nottingham Forest captain John McGovern lifts European Cup in 1979.


But then the tinkering started. Under pressure from the richest clubs to give them more of this good thing, UEFA scrapped the quarter- and semi-finals and introduced a group stage in 1991, giving the top eight sides six guaranteed games instead of just two.

A year later, the European Cup became the Champions League, four years on it was the Champions (and runners-up) League and two years after that the big leagues got the best of the rest in, too.

Now, 65 years after that first tournament, European football is becoming a distraction again.

The bosses of the continental game are faced with a range of options for what happens after 2024, the last year of the current set of calendar and commercial agreements.

Dramatic change, tweak again or do nothing — whichever UEFA choose, not everyone will be happy.

Here, The Athletic outlines those options…

The Agnelli revolution

The first idea out of the gate was also by far the most radical. The cynics among you may be wondering if those two facts are not connected and we are being softened up to accept a “compromise” that will keep the big clubs sweet… but we are getting ahead of ourselves.

Andrea Agnelli is the chairman and owner of Juventus. His great-grandfather, Giovanni, founded Italian car company Fiat and there have been the Agnellis on board at Juventus for a century.

Andrea, however, is also the president of the European Club Association, the organisation that represents the interests of Europe’s leading clubs. So when it emerged last spring that Agnelli was proposing to change the Champions League’s group stage from eight groups of four to four groups of eight, with the top four from each group progressing to the current knockout format, eyebrows were raised. This proposal would increase the minimum number of Champions League games for those involved from six to 14.

The second part of Agnelli’s plan then became clear: there should be promotion and relegation between Europe’s three club competitions (the third-tier Europa Conference League is due to start in 2021) from one season to another, with the top 24 of the 32 sides in the Champions League retaining their places.

This, everyone agreed, was certainly something completely different. That was as far as the idea went, although it did achieve what many had considered very unlikely in that it united Europe’s “big five” domestic leagues — the Bundesliga, La Liga, Ligue 1, the Premier League and Serie A — in saying they absolutely hated it. Here’s why.

Winners: Juventus and several of the other elite continental clubs, who do not share anything like the £3 billion a year in broadcast revenue that the Premier League brings in for its members, are convinced the only way to earn that kind of money is to play each other more regularly.

UEFA’s total income has risen from about £500 million a year in 2003 to £2.75 billion now, with the vast majority of that coming from the Champions League. The governing body dish out two thirds of that to the clubs every year, via bonuses for those involved in its competitions and solidarity payments for the rest. Taken together these payments account for £1.77 billion, or 10 per cent of European club football’s total income.

Juventus, Barcelona, Real Madrid and co believe they earn this money and that they deserve more of it. They also think that giving the audience, particularly in the growing Asian and North American markets, more of what it seems to want will grow the pot so everyone can get a bigger slice. More for them and more for UEFA to dish out to those clubs and smaller leagues getting flattened by the big five.

This last point has been slightly lost in the ensuing bun fight.

Agnelli’s “Super League by the backdoor” is supported by a surprising coalition of smaller players on the European scene, including Legia Warsaw president Dariusz Mioduski and HJK Helsinki chief executive Aki Riihilahti, both ECA board members. For them, doing nothing is worse.

Losers: As mentioned, the speed of the reaction from the Premier League et al said it all. The top flights in France, Germany, Italy and Spain all put it to a vote and the results were a resounding defeat. The Premier League did not even bother with a show of hands. Why bother, when the status quo is so sweet?

But if you need to identify reasons why the big leagues hate Agnelli’s plan, you do not have to look far.

First, where do you find room in the already crowded calendar for eight more games? The leagues thought they knew where: weekends. And if UEFA is after our weekends, what is next? Twenty-team top flights? A second cup competition? Cup replays and two-leg semis? Everything. It would all be up for grabs.

But the extra dates are only half of the existential nightmare. The Premier League earns £3 billion a year in broadcast income because some of the world’s most famous teams take it very seriously, their fans usually prioritise it and the dramatic tension this creates is sustained throughout the season thanks to the race for the title, scrap to avoid relegation and the fight for the European prizes.

Take that away and you are not going to get Sky Sports and co queuing up to write you such big cheques every three years. The best teams might be able to replace that revenue with the extra cash from Europe but what about the rest?

OK, let’s leave it, then.

The weeks and months after Agnelli’s plan was leaked witnessed a dizzying round of extraordinary assemblies, off-the-record briefings and public promises to listen, talk some more and try again.

Many will say this is what should have happened in the first place, and there are some who think this is what Agnelli and UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin, the godfather to one of Agnelli’s children, intended all along.

But for the talking to work, you do need people to agree on a few core principles at the start — such as whether the Champions League really needs to change at all. Listening to the boss of the organisation that represents Europe’s domestic leagues, European Leagues’ Lars-Christer Olsson, that answer seems pretty clear: No, we don’t.

This cry for the status quo came across loud and clear at a European Leagues event, hosted by the Premier League, in London in October. Olsson repeated his earlier objections to the “dangerous” plans for a “closed league” that would damage the domestic game and Chelsea head coach Frank Lampard was called in to state the case for conservatism.

“If you ask me, ‘Can we play more European games?’, I personally don’t believe you can fit them in among our busy schedule,” said Lampard. “I would find it hard to keep the quality level and the freshness within the players. If you did do that, there would be a lot of discussion about how that would work practically. At the minute I think the level is about right. I like the format, personally.”

Winners: Anyone whose priority is maintaining the primacy of domestic league football will be perfectly happy if absolutely nothing changes after 2024.

The Premier League’s new chief executive, Richard Masters, was at that October meeting, too, although he was only an interim boss then. When asked by The Athletic if there was any possible change to the current Champions League format that he would be comfortable with, he said no, albeit with a smile on his face.

We asked him the same question last week and he said: “Let me answer your question with a question: Is it really going to add value to the Champions League product? If you look at how (the Champions League) is doing in the media markets in the UK and abroad, it is performing extremely well. There are no real complaints about it.”

Leaving things as they are means no threat to the Carabao Cup, the most vulnerable item on the chopping board, no need to upset the Football Association or English Football League by scrapping FA Cup replays and no extra burdens on managers and players.

Losers: Juventus, Barcelona, Real Madrid and the rest are not going to take the offer of “nothing” lightly. They want more games against each other. It really is that simple.

But you could also add UEFA to this list, as it has the difficult job of trying to keep the peace in Europe — which boils down to persuading the elite there is still power in the union and no need for them to go off to form a competition where they share all the money among themselves. It also needs to grow its own revenues to mitigate the worst effects of the polarisation it has helped create by growing the Champions League in the first place.

Having caved in to the rich clubs once, UEFA is fighting a rearguard action. That has been the story of the last 30 years of European football and it is a fight UEFA has fought pretty well, all things considered. But it knows it cannot throw up a rampart now and say “That’s your lot!”

Swiss models, French diplomacy and solving “the Ajax problem”

Compromise, tweak, rebrand, whatever you want to call it, this is where most sensible money thinks we are heading. But which compromise?

Having realised the public squabbling was not particularly edifying, Ceferin stepped in and assured everyone nothing would happen until all voices had been heard. The urgency and insurgency of last year was halted, and a consultation process of at least a year was started.

We are nearly six months into that now and, after a Christmas truce, the various sides in this row have resumed combat, albeit at a much lower level than before. And from this battle of ideas, two strong possible solutions have emerged.

The first, the one closest to Agnelli’s in terms of being a genuine departure from what we have now, is a plan to replace the group stage with a league of at least 32 teams. Sides would play, say, 10 group games — five at home, five away — but against 10 different opponents. This is known as a Swiss-system league and is the main format used in chess as it is a good way to rank a large number of competitors, without sending some home very early or having to play dozens of rounds.

Those backing this idea say it will give the top clubs the extra games they want — with four more looking like the maximum number the domestic leagues will tolerate — and provide UEFA with something genuinely fresh to sell to broadcasters and sponsors. Those alarmed at this idea argue it looks like the basis of a European Super League and is unnecessarily complicated.

Another idea, championed by the French Football Federation, is gaining ground: just add more teams. So, instead of 32 teams in eight groups of four, we could have 36 teams in six groups of six, giving everyone their four extra games.

This idea also has the benefit of solving something Agnelli and ECA wanted to fix: What about Ajax?

The Amsterdam club have perhaps suffered more acutely than any other from the (unintended?) consequences of Champions League reform and European football’s growing haves and have-nots divide.

Stuck in a small TV market, Ajax do not get handed millions every season for competing domestically in the Netherlands. This means they, and other Dutch teams, are at a disadvantage that is reflected in their league’s UEFA coefficient, the mark the governing body uses to decide which stage of the tournament each country’s champions should join in at and how many automatic places in the group stage a nation gets.


The Premier League, for example, gets the maximum number of four slots. The Eredivisie, on the other hand, sees its runner-up enter the second round of qualifying and its champions begin a round later, still four games away from the group stage.

Ajax have found themselves in this position many times and managed to successfully navigate a path through this season. But there are many in Europe who think a team that got within seconds of a place in the previous season’s final — a club that has won the European Cup four times, as well —  should not have to get past the Greek and Cypriot champions three months later just to reach the group stage.

The French plan to expand to 36 neatly solves that problem, and also probably spares Ligue 1’s fourth-best team the trouble of qualifying, too.

Winners: Ajax (naturally); Ligue 1; the sixth, seventh and eighth best leagues, too; fans of complicated new tournament formats (the 36-team tournament would probably require a second group stage); the big clubs who want more games; the big leagues who will probably realise they can live with finding room for four extra midweek games.

Losers: Those four slots will still have to come from somewhere, won’t they? And as Masters made clear last week, it is the Carabao Cup’s “trajectory” that looks most “challenged”. That is not likely to cause much concern in Madrid, Munich, Paris or Turin, though, as their countries have already done away with second cup competitions, and frankly cannot get their heads around why England’s needs two-leg semi-finals. But the Carabao Cup is one of the EFL’s prized assets and continuing to play in it was part of the bargain the top teams made in 1992 when they broke away to keep most of the English game’s income.

The same argument applies to the FA Cup and its replays in rounds three and four. The FA has already given up replays in the last four rounds, including the final, as a concession to the top clubs and a quid pro quo in the creation of a winter break. But those four extra games for England’s best teams will have knock-on effects at home, as Liverpool’s involvement in the Club World Cup this season demonstrated.

And that raises another potential loser and significant player in this debate that we have, so far, only briefly mentioned: FIFA. World football’s governing body has been greedily eyeing the riches of the Champions League for years, particularly when compared to the pittance it currently earns from every other tournament it runs apart from the World Cup.

Now led by a former UEFA man in Gianni Infantino, FIFA wants to turn its annual seven-team Club World Cup into a 24-team spectacular that takes place every fourth summer. Is there room for that, too? Good luck sorting that out, as well as the 48-team World Cups, expanded UEFA Nations League, potential new tournaments in other confederations and ever-growing desire for summer friendlies in new markets.

Non-stop football it is, then?

Nobody is saying this, of course. In fact, everyone seems to agree you can have too much of a good thing and we should perhaps start to think about what playing twice a week, with travel, is doing to the players and the planet.

But equally, nobody is giving any ground. So European football has a square to circle.

The richest clubs want to play what they call more meaningful games, more often. The domestic leagues are trying to convince them that those games can be found at home, as well as in Europe.

UEFA is trying to straddle both camps, while FIFA and several potential private partners flutter their eyes at the top clubs, too, adding to the sense they will get what they want, one way or another.

It seems almost inevitable the Champions League will grow again. That is the lesson from the past.

But it is also true that it cannot keep growing without rubbing up against existing competitions, here and abroad, the aspirations of other continents and the basic limits of the human body — both to play the sport and to watch it.



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Just now, 11Drogba said:

Ashley Young scored

Inter 1 - Nazio 0

smashed it into the ground but it made it impossible to deal with

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11 minutes ago, NikkiCFC said:

How many people mocked Conte for signing Young? 

I did,  lol. goes to show 3 things at least.


Conte is very good at identifying players who fit into his rigid system.

Serie A is the league best suited to older players.

Manure is a shit club that ruins or misuses most players now.


I hate Young because he was a real thug in his latter years at Manure.

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19 minutes ago, NikkiCFC said:

SMS 2:1

he has been in full beast mode all game, looks fully back to the WC level of 2 season ago

incredible player

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